Have you ever shared something tender or touchy or shameful with someone only to get a response that makes you feel worse? You tell a ‘friend’ about a touchy mistake you made and that person says, ‘You think that’s bad? Let me tell you about bad!’ Or, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you did that! I would feel terrible if I did that.’ Well I did do that! And now I feel even a bit more terrible because of your response.
I’ve been sharing how to identify shame, the unhelpful things we do to avoid it, and how empathy and self compassion are keys to becoming shame resilient. Empathy is tricky though since it’s something you need to seek from someone else and not everyone is good at it. Like the example above, an unempathetic response can create more shame and bad feeling. So, it’s vitally important that you choose the right people to share your tender underbelly with.
How do you know who to trust? How do you know who has the ability to offer you empathy and not a ‘one up’ or ‘poor you’ response?
Brené Brown says ‘people have to earn the right to hear your story.’ Meaning, people need to show you that they can hold your tender emotional parts, will care what happens to you and how you feel, and will value your connection enough to keep things to themselves.
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené talks about Marble Jar friends. She tells a great story of her daughter’s teacher who kept a jar in the classroom and each time the class did something positive a marble went in the jar. Conversely, when the class veered into the land of negatives marbles were removed.
We can use the idea of the Marble Jar to help define who to trust and to what limits.
How do you determine when marbles go in and out of your Marble Jar? For me, marbles go in when a friend does things like follows through, shows up on time, invites me to occasions, shares deeper thoughts, and demonstrates care.
Recently my mom had a mild stroke and my Marble Jar friends came to the rescue. I knew exactly who to call, who to count on for support, and whose shoulder to bawl my little eyes out on. My Marble Jar friends kept in contact, asked about both my mom and dad, and did wonderful things like leaving soup so I didn’t have to cook when I returned home.
When do marbles come out of the jar? For me, it’s when someone gossips, lies, or doesn’t follow through. Marbles continue to come out when you say you want to get together with me, but always have an excuse not to, or disrespect my time by being late perpetually. Marbles come out in fistfuls when you always talk about yourself, and rarely ask about my world.
Rarely do I invest in connection with those people who show the above behaviors. When I meet someone new – the Marble Jar is empty – I’m looking to see how trustworthy that person is. That trust evolves over time; marbles go in and out and I’m watching to see what the ratio is. Sure, we can have instant connection and chemistry with others, but time often tells whether that chemistry is long lasting or a fleeting feel good moment. When I was younger and dating, I often let men get away with too many bad behaviors. I was too focused on how he would feel about me and not enough on how I felt about him. Longing for attention and validation, I tolerated way too many marbles leaving the jar and more often than not, he was the one to disconnect when I should have done it long before. Lessons learned. I valued more what he thought of me than what I thought of him.
Do you do that? You can’t have a trusting connection with someone when the Marble Jar is empty, or more marbles go out than in. And, sometimes we women do that. We want to trust someone and share our vulnerable parts with that person even when he or she has not proven themselves trustworthy.
Don’t share your touchy truth with those who add no marbles to the jar. And, remember that how you feel about others is, for you, of the utmost importance. We train people how to treat us, so trust only those who show you repeatedly that they are trustworthy.
Seek empathy. It’s important to heal from shame and it fosters connection. But, seek it from the right place. I tell my clients, you can’t walk into a bakery looking for a banana. You will be disappointed every time!
Who are your Marble Jar friends? How do marbles go in and out of the Marble Jar for you? How do you determine who to trust?