You know the show MythBusters? (OK so I’ve never watched it either, but I’ve heard of it too.) Well, I like playing a game that’s my own version of myth-busting. It has to do with shame-busting. Bust the shame, and you bust the myth about who you are.
The game goes like this:
What I don’t want you to know about me……
And then you fill in the blank with some deep, dark, shaming secret.
And by that I mean, the ‘blank’ makes you want to crawl into a hole and die, or melt into the floor like the Wicked Witch of the East, or you think that if and when others find out about this secret, they will laugh at you, spit on you, or go ‘Eek! I’ve bumped into the thing!’.
The point is to uncover the part of yourself that you ‘just know’ will make everyone run the other way…. including yourself.
And then you win by sharing it. Once it’s not a secret anymore, it loses its power. And you find out that you’re still a worthy human being, with or without the secret.
This game is always a challenge for me. The first time I played, my response was, ‘I don’t have anything I don’t want you to know about me. I’m an open book. Ask me anything, I’ll tell you.’
But the point isn’t for other people to get inquisitive. The point is that for you to get curious and search your soul long and hard enough to uncover some gems that sometimes are hidden even from yourself.
The bombshell for me the first time was this: What I don’t want you to know about me is that I will only fill in the blank with things that I have already come to terms with, and so they no longer feel vulnerable, and no longer really count as shame. What I don’t want you to know about me is that I am so well protected against vulnerability that I don’t even know how to show you my shame.
Wow. I had instinctively found a way to beat the game. Except it meant that I lost out. I missed out on the chance for me to practice shame-busting at it’s finest.
This week I got to play this game again, and while some of my answers were admittedly pre-meditated, I asked myself to go a bit further.
And while this answer didn’t come up for me in the moment, my subconscious was obviously working at it all week.
What I don’t want you to know about me is this:
I want to be ‘somebody’.
I have a prideful ego the size of this room. Possibly, my house. Heck, it’s the size of Wales.
I want to be in the spotlight, take center stage. I want the world’s accolades to flood over me like a silky balm.
What I don’t want you to know about me is that I read this and makes me feel physically sick. Like vomit sick. It is an ugly side of me that has always been wrapped in brown paper packaging tied up with string, rubber stamped with words like motivated, high-achiever, and going somewhere.
But if I am honest with myself and you, a lot of that ambition is being driven by pride.
That is a ginormous pill to swallow.
I’ve acknowledged my shame before, but never really knew where it came from.
Perhaps it comes from pride.
When I have pride… and not the kind of pride that google defines as a healthy dose of self-esteem…
…but the kind of pride that is driving, striving, pushing, because it feeds off of achievements in order for it to stay alive. The kind of pride that holds the reigns to my self worth.
…the kind of pride that shouts from the back seat of the car when your dad gets pulled over in podunk upstate NY to tell the police officer that his daughter goes to Cornell, and therefore should be exempt from getting a ticket.
(True Story. In what world does where you go to school put you above the law? In my f-d up prideful world where I was clutching at straws to make me feel special. Roll out the red carpet. Here she comes, the prom-queen has morphed into the pride-queen.)
When I have that kind of pride, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for shame.
- It’s clearly ridden with judgement (I am better than you.)
- It’s clearly a false sense of security. The reality is never going to meet the expectation, and so the falling short part is an ideal spot for shame to show up.
- The recognition of the prideful thoughts, whether conscious or not, feels like crap. Another dose of shame.
I’ve never really thought that I brought my bulimia upon myself. I’ve chalked it up to an accumulation of nature and nurture; a combination of ingredients that when mixed together produced a very sour dough.
Perhaps I did have a part to play though. At least my pride did.
The part of me that was willing to sacrifice love for myself and others in order to get what it wanted. The achievements, the approval, the acceptance.
Funny how, the feeling that I now have when recognizing my own pride, I call vomit-inducing.
My epiphanic ‘what I don’t want you to know about me’ moment this week came as I was flicking through Brene Brown’s instagram account and saw a cartoon drawing that summarizes her career. It starts with this:
‘My TED talk was an accident.’
That stopped me in my tracks.
Brene Brown is someone that I admire and whose work has deeply touched me. And what I don’t want you to know about me, is that when I was preparing for an Ignite talk last year, my pride was trying to studiously craft and engineer a talk that would go just as viral as her TED talks have.
But an accident? No. I wasn’t ready for an accident.
Because an accident happens when you lay down your pride, your ego, your desired outcomes, and you humbly take each step for one reason, and one reason only: because you can’t not do it. Because it’s your calling, your passion. Because it’s in the name of love.
That’s my version of ‘an accident’ anyway.
I can’t ignore that this revelation has come to me right around Easter-time. A holiday while famous for it’s abundance of chocolate, egg hunts, and funny hats, has much deeper roots.
I grew up in a Christian house and culture, and for years have considered myself to be ‘a Christian’ (even though I really don’t like labels), but it’s only been recently that I’ve actually been asking the question, ‘Who is this Jesus dude anyway?’
And then I realized this: Jesus wasn’t famous until he was dead. (And then got back up again.)
His ‘TED talk was an accident’, too.
I highly doubt he sat there one day chillin under the olive groves with his fishing buddies and thought to himself, ‘How can I be the most well-known person in the course of history? Oh, I know. I’ll claim to be God, die on a cross, and then rise from the dead! Yes! That’s gonna do it!’
Yeah, not so much.
In my opinion, he just saw every breath of his as an opportunity for love. He did what he couldn’t not do. He followed the Love. And it led him to his death.
The ultimate act of Love.
And then he got up again; because Love Never Fails.
And so as I think about the Easter story in this way for the first time ever, and think about how my own pride has gotten in the way of my embracing and expressing love, I ask myself, what within me can die this week? What can I lay down? Put to rest? Surrender? Give up?
How can every breath of mine be an act of love?