Brene Brown is considered an expert in her research on vulnerability and shame. What she teaches in her program, The Power of Vulnerability provides a powerful foundation to how we, as gay men and LGBTQ people, can use our difference to make a difference. Vulnerability helps us deal with our own gay shame, and in the process lead others in society on how to cleanse shame.

In this episode, I bring together Brown’s insights on vulnerability with one of the 14 gay male gifts – as taught in Raymond Rigoglioso in Gay Men And The New Way Forward – namely, how gay men are “models of authenticity and courage, and cleansers of shame.

What is Shame?

Shame encompasses the emotions about who you are and how you feel about yourself when you have done something wrong, e.g. that you’re not good enough, that you’re a bad person, or that you’re broken. You can make yourself feel shame, and others can shame you (if you let them), diminishing your self-worth.

Guilt Is Preferable to Shame.

When you feel guilt, it’s an awareness in relation to your choices or behaviours, and not about who you are. When you feel shame you feel bad about yourself. With guilt, you recognize you made a bad choice, which you can correct or apologize for, but it has nothing to do with your self-worth.

Empathy Is the Opposite of Shame.

Empathy is the ability to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”, to attempt to feel what they are feeling. And if you can’t do that exactly, you let them know that you don’t know what that feels like, but that you are here to listen and to help. Being open without trying to fix the person’s problem is vital to allowing them to work through their feelings of shame with love, respect, trust, and kindness.

Vulnerability Requires Trust Built Up Over Time.

Trust requires social support which is built up over time. The more you trust someone else, the more you feel free to be vulnerable with them. Trust also requires visibility, which is difficult when you are used to hiding your emotions, or if any part of who you are is still hidden in the closet.

The More Vulnerable You Are, the More You Experience Joy.

One of the best ways to experience more joy in your life is to practice “active gratitude”. Start a gratitude journal or simply write about what you are grateful for, at the start or the end of your day in your journal.

Resources

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