Expectations surrounding gender may be the greatest source of shame in our culture. For women, the primary shame trigger is being perceived as imperfect or not enough. Women feel they have to be everything to everyone. They feel it is expected that they remain calm, cool, and collected in the midst of chaos. Women feel voiceless to communicate their stress and failures in the various roles and responsibilities they hold. Shame does not have to exist in this space anymore, but until women learn to identify the shame and use language to demythologize it, it will fester and keep them from vulnerability and connection.
For men, the greatest shame trigger is being seen as emotionally weak or a failure at work. These triggers sound like outdated stereotypes, yet they persist. After Brown delivered a talk at TEDx Houston, she was approached by a man who, with tears in his eyes, told her how sick he was of women begging him to be emotionally vulnerable only to find his emotions unappealing once he brought them to the surface. He said that the women in his life would rather see him die on the horse before they watched him fall off it. This story illustrates the great need that men have to be vulnerable. We need to create a safe place for the entire spectrum of emotions to be communicated.