Beyond Shame

After what feels like weeks of constant motion, I’m delighted to be sitting still this morning. I know there is work to be done today (I’ll get to it), but to be still and in total silence for this moment is delightful. It’s a cherished moment. It’s a reminder that I need this every week—a moment of sabbath. Exhale . . . 

I discovered a major truth about myself last week—I’m moving beyond shame! This may not be a big deal to others, but it’s a huge moment in my life. I’ve struggled with feelings of shame for many, many years. I’ve wrestled with this in therapy, I’ve battled it in silence in my alone time. I’ve fussed with God about it. I thought I’d never conquer it. In my mind, I thought it may have been the thorn in my flesh, but I’m thankful to know the courageous work I’ve done is finally paying off.

What’s shame?

Well, Brene Brown (aka one of my favorite authors) says, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” According to her, guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort. On the other hand, shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. That’s deep! Guilt is good, but shame is bad, real bad. Shame means something is inherently wrong with me, as a result I’m a failure at many things.

I know shame all too well. For a long time, shame was my first and middle name (perhaps my last name too). It is extremely hard to live with. In some ways, I wish it was an official diagnosis and there was a medication one could take to make it go away. I mean, it’s not depression, it’s not PTSD, but it’s a real thing. One has to struggle, wrestle, and fight with shame to overcome its grip. It’s a hidden thing that outsiders looking in probably cannot understand, but it’s real.

Shame has been a beast in my life! For many years, it has caused me to distance myself from my extended family and isolate in social settings. It has also caused me to make some poor decisions. The good news is, I’ve made great progress! Often we don’t even realize the progress we’ve made until we encounter an experience that would throw us back into our old behaviors. That’s where I was a week ago. Something happened that usually would’ve thrown me into the “woe is me” narrative. For a hot second, I felt shame, but I quickly snapped out of it. I evaluated the situation and realized, I had absolutely no reason to feel shame. Yes, I was guilty of a thing or two, but the shame narrative that tried to creep in had to go! In response to shame, I declared I am enough and I am worthy!

I believe moving beyond shame will give me the courage to open so many incredible doors in my life that have been present for some time. It frees me to live and love. It frees me to be me without feeling like I’m undeserving or unworthy. It frees me to live out my dreams without thinking they’re too big or too crazy for me. While I know, I’ll have to actively fight shame for all of my days, I’m thankful that my past experiences and feelings do not have to determine my present or future life. I can move beyond shame!

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