I define SHAME as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. – Brene Brown
Shame is universal and whether we recognize it or not, we all experience it on a day to day basic.
Things, people, experiences and even our own thoughts can trigger shame and until we learn to recognize them and practice resilience – the ability to move through the shame in a healthy manner and learn from it– we will perpetually live in a cycle of shame and self condemnation.
According to Brene Brown (“I thought it was just me, but it isn’t”) , we experience shame in the following categories:
Appearance and Body Image
Money and Work
Mental and Physical Health including Addiction
Stereotyped and Labelled
I’m not sure about you, but I can check off nearly every box! In each category, there are identities and characteristics I want to be seen as. And most certainly, there are unwanted ones also.
I want to be seen as a naturally beautiful woman, who is self confident but not arrogant. A woman who works for passion and to make a difference, with a desire to use that money for good – to bless others. I want to be known as a mother who is joy-filled, grateful, wise and undistracted. A person who values family and leaves a legacy of deep, connected relationships. I want to be strong, resilient and a victorious overcomer. I want to be desired by my husband, free and playful in our marriage bed and be known as a voice for healthy relationships and sexuality. I want to be seen as a passionate and committed Christian; courageous in following Jesus. I want to known as brave and fearless; authentic even when it’s difficult. To be seen as self- aware, relatable and pointing others to hope and healing for the hurting. I want to be a contagious spirit – a breath of fresh air for many.
But even on my best days, my unwanted identities can paralyze me. They push me into a cycle of negative self talk, followed shortly by beating myself into submission.
I want to feel good about my body so I force another workout, or resist the food I know I need. I want to seem nice and forgiving, be liked and accepted; so I keep quite or withhold how I’m truly feeling. I want to be happy, so I pretend like everything’s fine. I want to feel capable and accomplished, so I continue to push until it’s done. I want to be normal and move past this, so I ignore my pain and trauma down below. I want to be everything and more – perfect – so I give everything to everyone else with nothing left for me or my family.
And while some of my wanted identities are achievable and nobel, parts of it are not. There are parts of my perception that is skewed and my expectations based on lies; truth’s that I’ve learnt from behaviours and beliefs I’ve adopted from others or media.
We need to evaluate where these message come from? Where these expectations and beliefs systems started? Are they good. Are they yours? Are they wanted and realistic? What’s the cost and will it matter in the end?
The truth is we can’t avoid shame, we can only move through it and it starts by taking the time to recognize and acknowledge how we’re feeling, rather than running, ignoring or pushing through. We need to let the fears have a voice, if only for a moment, then assure them and hug them with our truth.
So what is the truth- your truth? What will people miss out on – heck, what will you miss out on– if reduced to those unwanted identities?
Speak it! Dare to say it out loud and back to yourself…
If people reduce me to those labels I’m running from, they’ll miss out on the woman I once was and the woman I’m becoming. They’ll miss out on my story and that I’ve learn through hard and painful personal experience. That I fight passionately where there are few voices, in arenas that are uncomfortable and countercultural. They’ll miss how much I’ve grown and what I I’ve discovered through the process of becoming a mother. They’ll miss my transformation from a broken, to a healed woman. They’ll miss my commitment and my courage- bravery in trusting God for miracles. They’ll miss out on Jesus and his Freedom; on deep connection and friendship that is rare.
Because while I’m not perfect and I’ll always be a work in progress, I too am these beautiful things and this is my story.
Lord, I thank you that you make beauty from ashes; that you redeem the ugliest of messes. Thank you that you came to heal the broken hearted and to set the captives free. I pray that you would help us, help me, to speak truth in the face of lies – to shine light when it feels dark – to run to you in my hurt, rather than away from you or it. Help me to recognize shame when it’s heaped upon me and be brave enough to move through it. Give me everything I need to be and to own who you made me to be.