Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Antidote to Shame: Empathy September 24, 2012

I recently watched this TED talk by Brené Brown, who is a “vulnerability researcher.” She speaks on the topic of shame, something we’ve talked about many times here.

The talk is about 20 minutes long and worth watching. The part that struck me most comes right at the end, when she has this to say:

“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: Secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

This idea resonated with me so deeply and it felt like the crux of what this community is all about. So many of us feel shame because we can’t or didn’t or won’t have children. We stay quiet about it, working through our complex emotions alone and in silence, and feeling judged by a culture that prizes family and reveres motherhood. And our shame grows.

But find an empathetic ear­—someone who’s walked a mile in your shoes, who’s run the same emotional gauntlet, and who really understands what you’re going through—and that shame starts to wither. As Brown says in her talk:  “The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle are ‘Me too.’”

How many of you are living with feelings of shame? I encourage you to reach out to this community. Talking about your experience with others can help break your silence and secrecy, and I can promise that you’ll find empathy here.