I recently had a scuffle with a friend that left me spinning. I felt consumed by it, it seemed every waking moment I was rehashing and replaying our conversation, trying to make sense of our argument. The more I tried to shake it, the more I found myself thinking about it. I became more and more anxious, unsure, and critical of myself. I felt a pull to smooth it over. Unconsciously, I went to an old, familiar story that my worth is dependent on whether people are pleased with me. My anxiety was oozing out of my shame exposed behind my likable, charming armor. In her research on vulnerability & shame, Brene Brown calls this reaction “The Shitty First Draft”. We all have a shitty first draft. It’s our knee-jerk, go-to story we tell ourselves when we feel vulnerable, shame, or fear. So how do we break the cycle?
1. Notice the hustle
My first indicator that I was spinning in my shitty first draft was that I was pulling on my well-practiced go-to’s: first to people please, and if that doesn’t work, get scrappy and defensive. I was tempted to hustle to win back my friend’s approval, not necessarily to repair the relationship (though of course that was part of it), but because my shame was so uncomfortable to deal with.
2. Identify the story I’m telling myself is…
Once I noticed I was hustling, I had to take a look at the story I was telling myself. Our shitty first draft normally reveals some negative core belief we have. Mine was a distorted thought thatI have to be perfect to be loved by others. I jumped from, “Oops, I really blew it there” to “Omg, I’m a terrible friend.”
3. Write a new draft
The best news about our shitty first drafts is that they are just that - first drafts. We have the power and the opportunity to re-write that draft into something more true & more constructive. Yes, I made some mistakes, yes I hurt my friend’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad friend or that if people are disappointed with me that I’m not loved. My worth & dignity as a person is not dependent on being perfect. Phew!
Even as a therapist with all the tools & training to manage conflict at my fingertips, I felt stuck & overwhelmed. Shitty first drafts can be swift, sneaky & take us out by the knees. We all have them, it’s how we notice them & rewrite that story that has profound results on how we show up for ourselves, for our relationships, and for our work.
Ready to do battle with your shitty first draft but feeling stuck in recurrent shame cycles? Reach out today, I’d be honored to walk through rewriting your story with you, one step at a time.