Facing The Shame of Self-Reflection

Everything feels uncomfortable right now. Right? On both a nationwide and personal level I’m experiencing fear and discomfort. I’ve been a bit scared to get back into writing and putting my thoughts out there. I don’t want to do it wrong or offend someone. I’m sitting in this chronic fear of possibly negatively impacting the way someone else sees me. Fear. Fear. Fear.

People-pleasing fear. Not-shaking-up-expectations fear. Scared-of-discomfort fear.

But then I paused and asked myself, Will I allow my fear prevent me from trying? Will I allow fear to win today? Will I allow fear to hold onto me so tight that I don’t try to move forward?

In a recent interview with Laverne Cox, Brene Brown asked her, “What’s the first thing you do when you are called to be brave?” Laverne responded, My prayer is God, give me permission to do this imperfectly and allow me to be of service. Then I take a breath, and I go. I can’t think of a better prayer in this moment.

“My prayer is God, give me permission to do this imperfectly and allow me to be of service.”

Laverne Cox

Is fear getting in the way of you doing the hard, honest, self-reflection work necessary for real change to happen not only within yourself but in the world we live in? Trust me, when I sat down to do my own self-reflection work, it was terrifying.

After listening to one of my favorite resources for learning about the experiences of Black people in America, For Your Discomfort, I sat down and did some reflecting. One of the men in the conversation last Friday, Mike Press, encouraged white people to journal and answer the question What do I think about Black people? Not just our Black friends, but ALL Black people. He wanted white people to be really honest with this because only when we have a cleaner slate on the inside will we be able to go out in the world and honestly help with the work of racial justice.

So I did just that. I sat down, began journaling, and was HONEST…brutally honest with all the ideas or thoughts I’ve had throughout my life about Black people.

No one is exempt from this work and from engaging in self-examination over and over again to continuously check ourselves and the systems we are compliant with. As a white person, I don’t have to do anything for white supremacy to continue and I can easily fall into the trap of assuming I’m always handling things correctly. That’s white supremacy’s impact on me – me believing I know it all and I know what’s best. There is no excuse and there is no threshold of self-reflection that I as a white person need to do regarding racism in America and in my life. This is constant work that must be taken.

I think I want to keep my self-discovery silent because some of the things I discovered filled me with SHAME. Oh so much shame for all the ways racism has infiltrated my mind and heart and affected how I have seen Black people throughout my life.

Brene Brown defines shame as “the feeling that washes over us and makes us feel so flawed that we question whether we’re worthy of love, belonging and connection.” I mean, YES! And knowing that this is 100% accurate of how I feel when I experience shame, why on earth would I want to engage in an exercise, even one as “simple” as journaling, about something that would induce this feeling in me?

Because if I as a white woman do not get honest with myself about my experiences / thoughts / implicit biases that white supremacy has put into my soul, then I will never get them out. Or, possibly even worse, I will move through this world with my outside actions never matching my internal beliefs. I will perform and not transform. And from the podcasts, Zoom calls, and other modes of listening to Black people I have engaged in the past month, Black people don’t need any more performing. This isn’t just a moment, this is a movement. And for it to be sustained, we must examine our insides and actually change.

In Untamed, Glennon Doyle says it this way:

The fact that the programmed poison of racism was pumped into us may not be our fault, but getting it out is sure as hell our responsibility.

Yes and amen. When the shame begins to rise as I reflect and do this internal work, I must remember what I am in control of now. I was not in control of how I was raised or what I was subconsciously taught to believe by those around me or by the media, but I am in control of making myself aware of those racist biases now and as Rachel Cargle says, unlearn them.

But I cannot unlearn what I do not know I believe. I must first become self-aware of my internalized racist beliefs before I can destroy them.

Brene also shares that the antidote to shame is empathy. My intention in sharing all this is to let you know that you are NOT ALONE if you are experiencing shame because of the transformative work going on in your heart. No matter what racist thoughts you’ve believed in the past, you are still worthy of love and belonging. Nothing will ever take that worthiness away. So many of us are going through this collective work of growth right now, so please please please lean on those you can depend on to support you and be there with you in this.

No matter what racist thoughts you’ve believed in the past, you are still worthy of love and belonging.

Our fear has so much more power when we keep it quiet. Don’t be afraid to do the self-examination work of your own racist beliefs in order to get them OUT. These beliefs have to be brought to the light if we ever want to actually change. Black people have been uncomfortable their whole lives living in a nation dominated by white supremacy. The least I can do is force myself into some discomfort by journaling and listening.

**My favorite resource for this type of work has been For Your Discomfort, a Zoom Call that is hosted every Monday & Friday at 12:30pmEST hosted by Bryce Michael Wood, where he has a conversation with other Black people, mostly other SoulCycle instructors, about anything and everything related to the experiences of Black people in America. More often than not I sit there and feel crazy uncomfortable with what they share, but I always walk away so grateful for what I heard. I’m linking the Instagram account where you can join the Zoom Call here as well as their podcast where they share the recording of the Zoom a few days after it airs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close