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Shame & Body Image by Brené Brown, PhD

page three

Building Resilience

As I explain in my interview with the MMO, the four elements of shame resilience are: 1) acknowledging personal vulnerability, 2) Practicing critical awareness, 3) reaching out to others; and 4) speaking shame. If we are going to confront the shame we feel about our bodies, it is imperative that we explore our vulnerabilities. What is important to us? We must look at each body part and explore our expectations and the sources of these expectations. While it often painful to acknowledge our secret goals and expectations, it is the first step to building shame resilience. We have to know and explicitly identify what’s important and why. I believe there is even power in writing it down.

Next, we need to develop critical awareness about these expectations and their importance to us. One way to do develop critical awareness is to run our expectations through a reality-check. I use this list of questions in my work:

  • Where do the expectations come from?
  • How realistic are my expectations?
  • Can I be all these things all of the time?
  • Can all of these characteristics exist in one person?
  • Do the expectations conflict with each other?
  • Am I describing who I want to be or who others want me to be?
  • What are my fears?

We must also find the courage to share our stories and experiences. We must reach out to others and speak our shame. If we feed shame the secrecy and silence it craves— if we keep the struggles with our bodies buried inside – the shame will fester and grow. We must learn to reach out to one another with empathy and understanding. If, in a diverse sample of women, over 90 percent of the women struggled with body image, it is clear that we are not alone. There is a tremendous amount of freedom that comes with identifying and naming common experiences and fears— this is the foundation of shame resilience. 

mmo : november 2004

More on Women & Shame:

MMO interview with Brené Brown on Women & Shame

Excerpts from Women & Shame (in .pdf):

Uncovering Shame

Appearance, Motherhood, Parenting and Family:
The Perilous Pursuit of Perfection

Related web sites:

Brené Brown’s Web site has more information about her book, Women & Shame, news articles, recommended resources and her speaking schedule.

In MMO Books:

The truth shall make us free
MMO review of Women & Shame

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