Shame is a hot flow of lava. Sometimes it’s hard to stem the flow. How can we stop the destructive drip when it oozes from the source of the spring?
I first realized shame was liquid when I read Brene Brown’s description of it in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. She describes it as a hot wash.
I know this wash. I’ve felt its flow through my blood veins many times.
It rolled through me as a child when I displeased my mother. It flowed again as a teen when I feared being ousted as flawed and wanting. It seeped over me as a young preacher’s wife when someone would unexpectedly drop by our home to visit, always on days when cobwebs hung dusty in the corners.
Recently I was asked to host a table for a group of prospective high school seniors and their parents at a dinner. Near the conclusion of the evening, the university president came to our table to say hello. He indicated me with his hand and said to the guests, “Did she tell you about her book?”
And of course I hadn’t. I feel awkward to bring it up myself, as though I’ll sound pretentious or cocky.
A familiar wash of shame ran over me at his kindness.
Oh no…what if they ask me The Question: What is it about? (They did.)
What if they pull out their phones and look it up on Amazon? (They did.)
Is my book’s ranking favorable today? (It was.)
What if a snarky review is at the top and it makes me look bad? (It wasn’t.)
What if they are just being socially polite in asking me questions about my book and acting like they are interested in reading it?
Why did an inner voice scream for me to change the subject because these nice people didn’t really want to talk about my first novel?
I have wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember: a novel, not the subject matter textbook you’d more likely expect from a university business professor. And in 2016 I finally did. It was a long road fraught with tears and detour. Many aspire to do likewise. Fewer actually accomplish it. So it’s reasonable to think I might have earned the right to feel good about my achievement.
But the truth is, I almost always doubt my achievements. Sometimes I actually fear them, as though someone is waiting to pull a shiny curtain back and what seemed like a good result will turn to dust and worms. I certainly don’t feel that I have earned any kind of right to sit proudly on my laurels.
The book is flawed.
I am, too.
And all the same hurdles that had to be overcome for this book to be available on bookstore shelves (fear of vulnerability, rejection and failure) must be overcome again if I am to write and launch a second. Accomplishing one milestone is no automatic guarantee of the next.
Shame is a hot flow of lava. Yes! And sometimes it’s hard to stem the flow.
How can we stop the destructive drip when it oozes from the source of the spring? The only counter I know is to remember that it’s not about me; it’s about the One who lives in me…and He is much more powerful than lava.
Leanne W. Smith is the author of Leaving Independence, an inspirational historical fiction novel released by Waterfall Press in June 2016. She’s also a professor of management for Lipscomb University’s College of Business in Nashville, Tennesee. Visit her website to learn more about her, or to find inspiration for pursuing dreams and sharpening job search skills.