“I Thought It Was Just Me”

Hi everyone! I know I haven’t posted on here in a while but I have several updates in the works that I’ll start sharing next week (I’m currently in the middle of final examinations and haven’t had as much time to write).

I just thought I would pop in to quickly share an activity I did today at my support group, thanks to Brené Brown – “the Vulnerability Queen”. Here’s her website if you would like to know more about her work, personally I find her words incredibly reassuring.

This simple activity focuses on recognizing shame, exploring our triggers and vulnerabilities, and examining the ways we tend to disconnect in order to recognize the benefits of connection and how we can work towards getting there.

I understand that this activity is meant to accompany her book “I thought it was just me. (But it Isn’t) Making the Journey from “What will people think?” to “I am Enough” but even having worked through this on my own it has been helpful and I’m sure you can consult her other online resources as you please while looking through.

Here is the link to the downloadable worksheet but I will also put a text-copy below. (All other references are on the paper and I have linked to the original version).

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW . . . . .

Recognizing Shame

The first element of shame resilience is recognizing shame and understanding our triggers. Men and women who are resilient to shame have this capacity. This enables them to respond to shame with awareness and understanding.

When we can’t recognize shame and understand our triggers, shame blindsides us. It washes over us, and we want to slink away and hide.

In contrast, if we recognize our shame triggers, we can make mindful, thoughtful decisions about how we’re going to respond to shame – before we do something that might make things worse.

Shame has physical symptoms. These might include your mouth getting dry, time seeming to slow down, your heart racing, twitching, looking down, and tunnel vision. These symptoms are different from one person to the next. So if you learn your physical symptoms, you can recognize shame and get back on your feet faster.

I physically feel shame in/on my ____________________________________________ .

My shame symptoms include: ____________________________________________

I know I’m in shame when I feel____________________________________________

If I could taste shame, it would taste like ____________________________________________

If I could smell shame it would smell like ____________________________________________

If I could touch shame it would feel like ____________________________________________.

Exploring Triggers and Vulnerabilities

Our unwanted identities dictate our behavior every day. It’s worth it to figure them out and get real about them. Often, you’ll see that the perceptions you want to have and want to avoid are totally unrealistic.

To get at shame triggers, figure out how you want to be perceived around a specific identity. So for example, with regards to motherhood, one might want to be perceived as calm, knowledgeable, educated and not perceived as overwhelmed, stressed out, too ambitious, or unable to balance career and mothering. When we write these down and look at them, we understand the perceptions that make us vulnerable to shame. In the process, we learn a lot about ourselves.

To start, pick a shame category:

  • appearance and body image
  • money and work
  • motherhood/fatherhood
  • family
  • parenting
  • mental and physical health
  • addiction
  • sex
  • aging
  • religion
  • surviving trauma
  • being stereotyped or labeled

Then, answer the following questions.

3 -5 Ideal Identities – I want to be perceived as: 

1. ____________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________

3-5 Unwanted Identities – I do NOT want to be perceived as:

1. ____________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________

Looking at your list of unwanted identities, answer the following questions:

Unwanted Identity 1: ________________________.

01. What does this perception mean to me?

02. Why is it so unwanted?

03. Where did the messages that fuel this identity come from?

[Repeat for unwanted identities 2 through 5].

Looking at your list of unwanted identities, complete the following sentence:

“If you label me and reduce me to this list of unwanted identities, you will miss the opportunity to know that I’m complex and that I have many strengths, including”:

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________
  2. ____________________________________________________________________________
  3. ____________________________________________________________________________

Strategies of Disconnection

We have learned to move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves and secret-keeping.

We have also learned the strategy of moving toward. This can be seen when we attempt to earn connection by appeasing and pleasing.

We have developed ways to move against. These include trying to gain power over others, and using shame to fight shame and aggression.

Reference: Hartling, L., Rosen, W., Walker, M., and Jordan, J. (2000) Shame and humiliation: From isolation to relational transformation (Work in Progress No. 88). Wellesley, MA: The Stone Center, Wellesley College.

I use the strategy of “moving away” when: ____________________________________________

I’m most likely to “move away” with: ____________________________________________

I use the strategy of “moving toward” when: ____________________________________________

I’m most likely to “move toward” with: ____________________________________________

I use the strategy of “moving against” when: ____________________________________________

I’m most likely to “move against” with: ____________________________________________


We are wired for connection. It’s in our biology. As infants, our need for connection is about survival. As we grow older, connection means thriving – emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. Connection is critical because we all have the basic need to feel accepted and to believe that we belong and are valued for who we are.

As you work through I Thought It Was Just Me, remember to reach out and stay connected. I recommend reading the book with a trusted friend or family member.

As you make this journey, I’ll leave you with this affirmation. It’s something that I try to remember as I travel my path.

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3 thoughts on ““I Thought It Was Just Me”

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