I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough"
by: Brené Brown
Well, I finally forced myself to get on it and finish this book. It took me forever because it starts out with much of the same material I've already heard... Turns out I listened and read in the wrong order, sort of. You may remember that I wrote about my obsession with Brown's chatty Men, Women and Worthiness in January. What I wanted more than anything after that was a deeper dive. Turns out, she wrote one back in 2007, and here it is!
The big difference is that this research and book is centered completely on women, however, we now know that despite men and women having different shame causes, or despite them looking different on the outside, all shame is the same, so this book really does have good information for anyone willing to identify with the basics.
Brené Brown spent six years talking to women, back when men wouldn't admit that addiction, workaholism, rage, isolation, etc are all somewhat shame-based. They told us men didn't have the same issues with shame as women. We now know better (frankly women knew this all along,) but Brown wanted a valid study, so she talked to women. Once any gender overcomes the fear of admitting to shame, all of the information here is just as valid for men as it is for women as it is for someone who doesn't fall into the binary gender categories. The only difference is the examples.
Shame shows up everywhere from biggies like addiction and self-injury to perfectionism, anger, and blame. It affects everything from our physical health, self-image to our relationships and ability to feel a part of the community. Those relationships I mention include ones with people as well as money, work, friendships and everything else we relate to.
The best parts of this book promise to be the basic information that comforts the reader by giving us the data and a push to brave the fear of shame and let some sunshine in. Sunlight is the antidote to shame. We have to put aside the false bravado to become our truest selves and then, in a perverse twist, can we ultimately fit in.
Sadly, this book only illuminates the myriad ways our culture shames women with example after example. Honestly, there are too many examples. I could have done with half the examples. It begins to feel like filler after a while. I was also stunned to hear exactly the same words in the first few chapters and occasionally later in the book that I heard on Men, Women and Shame. It seems to me that even if she wanted to use the same examples, finding different wording would make the whole thing seem less redundant. The sad part is *this* is the better book, but it's completely gender-biased.
I truly hope that someone is working very hard on giving us examples and tips for men, especially because even mental health professionals refused to admit that shame could touch men until recently. That alone is just another shaming experience for men, and since we're all in the world together, it would be great if everyone was on the same page.
I truly think Brown has hit on a foundational experience for human beings with this groundbreaking shame research and the way she has permeated pop culture with this information. I'm not a massive fan of pop-psychology, but she does it well and keeps it based in the research. And when it comes down to it, her work in shame is the basis for all of the rest of her work in vulnerability, acceptance, and all the other things she's suddenly known for.