It was hard to choose one thing to talk about from this week’s episode because it was just that good. After listening to Amber Malone’s story, though, my heart was most drawn to her experience with being a teen mom.
You see, when my grandmother was a poor, 16-year-old Colombian immigrant, she found out she was pregnant. Though her pregnancy and the years to come were filled with hardship, she says that her daughter was worth it all.
And 18 years later, when that daughter found herself unexpectedly pregnant, she battled through the toxic shame to make something better from her situation. It wasn’t easy, but she and my dad built a beautiful family together. Thirty-two years, six daughters, and 10 grandkids later, our family remains one of the strongest I’ve ever seen.
It was this strength and the supportive bonds we share that helped my sister when she too became pregnant at 18. No matter what kind of comments or disapproval she faced, she knew she had a safe space to go to. A place where people celebrated her and her baby. A community that joined together around her rather than turning their backs.
I share these stories not just because Amber reminded me of them, but because her experience revealed a few important things about life, hardship, and shame.
First, it reminded me that <tweet-link>toxic shame might fester within, but it’s planted by other people.<tweet-link> In a culture that demands rigid adherence to the rules (whether that be tradition or current trends), there isn’t a lot of room for compassion.
Rather than dismissing people who don’t meet your standards, ask yourself, “Is it my place to point these things out?” Like the people who stopped Amber on the street, there will always be those who go out of their way to make others feel less than. Making your own comments and looks will only confirm the shame they already feel. I guarantee they already know why they stand out. Reminding them only brings more pain.
Instead, try to find ways to support those in a tough spot. Don’t gossip about the divorce, mental health crisis, or wayward child. Ask if they need a meal, a ride to the store, or a chance to talk to someone who cares. Help them heal from the shame rather than making them feel more alone.
This episode also touched on the importance of sharing your story because you never know how it will help others. In that same vein:
don’t forget that you aren’t alone in your struggles, no matter what they may be.
Podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs…the internet is filled with the stories of people who went through impossible situations and emerged victorious. Sharing these experiences was part of their healing process, but it can also be part of yours.
Especially if it’s a hurt that you don’t know how to share with the people you trust.
These stories can be the support you need when you don’t know who to turn to. Bringing others on your journey can help you understand your story and give you the courage to dive into the darker chapters. It can help you feel heard, seen, and validated.
And the more you learn, the bigger the impact will be. Hearing Amber’s story might help you work past the stigma you’ve experienced from your own mental health. Or it might give you the right language and mindset to help someone else through a crisis.
Additionally, when you expose yourself to more experiences, you give yourself more time to benefit others with what you’ve learned.
I laughed a bit when Amber lamented how long it had taken her to learn about toxic shame because I’d had a similar conversation with my counselor a few days before. As great as it feels to have these revelations, you might wonder why it’s taken you so long.
But, like Darryl and my counselor said, yes, it took that much time, but it could’ve taken longer or never happened at all. Sharing our stories and engaging with others gives us the chance to be more whole as we move forward. We can skip “learning the hard way” and enjoy the wisdom offered by those who had to trudge through it.
In doing so, we honor their experiences and gain compassion for the people we encounter and the stories that are being written around us every day.
Get the full story here to learn the meaning of ease and flow, discover why Amber is so passionate about destigmatizing mental health, and hear what it means to fail excellently.
You can connect with Amber on her website, where she is offering a special gift for our listeners! Give this week’s episode a listen to hear how you can access this resource!