Years ago I was at Santa Barbara City College to witness my friend’s graduation as an X-ray Technician. The campus was teaming with people that day for there were many students getting various degrees and licenses in their particular fields. The event was outside and I sat down on the cold metal chair and then realized I had a while to wait so ventured off across campus to find the restrooms.
I wore a long skirt that day. After using the restroom hurriedly, I started the long walk back to my chair. The whole way there people were staring at me weird.
Some had smirks on their faces and some looked away in disgust. I couldn’t figure out what their problem was and one time I even shot a dirty look back at some guy, like he had a problem or something. I passed many people on the way back to my chair and they all looked away when I would smile at them.
When I finally sat down I felt intensely cold metal on my back side and glanced back. My skirt in the back was completely tucked inside my underwear and my entire back side was exposed to all the ‘millions’ of people that I passed on the way back. No one had the nerve to tell me!
Just shoot me now!
I find it very funny now. Add it to my list of escapades that have provided many chuckles in my story telling on myself.
But back then I wasn’t as healthy, and had not dealt with much of my denial and secrets of years past born out of being a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I sat there the whole event cloaked in shame and embarrassment. I felt exposed and uncovered the whole day and I felt like a child inside with no self esteem who just wanted to run.
Shame is an emotion in which the self is perceived as defective, unacceptable, or fundamentally damaged. Shame is often confused with guilt, which is a related but distinct emotion in which a specific behavior is viewed as unacceptable or wrong, rather than the entire self.
Brene Brown says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Shame is darkness to our soul. We need to learn to recognize it and then let it go into the light of His presence in us.
People who experience traumatic events, mostly in childhood, are prone to shame, particularly if they blame themselves for the event.
Shame gives you a desire to hide, disappear, or even die.
Have you ever done anything you’re not proud of, like feigning a headache to get out of a dinner or snapping at your partner in a heated moment? You mess up, like we all do, and when it happens, you probably feel guilty and convicted to make it right.
Guilt is a normal emotion that people experience when they believe they have caused harm or actually done something wrong. We all make mistakes and those mistakes often affect other people, therefore we feel guilt.
Or there is unfounded guilt, the worst kind. We could come from a family that used guilt to manipulate us all of our lives. Such as, “Okay go the movies son, but if I am dead in my chair when you get back, just bury me out back.”
Now that evokes guilt. Any dutiful son would cancel his plans so that he won’t be responsible for causing Dad to die. The motivation is guilt. But that son will carry anger in his heart, and left undealt with, will be with him through adulthood.
Or how about going to see an elderly parent. The first thing they say to you is “Where have you been? Why haven’t you come to see me?” More guilt, instead of rejoicing that you are there now. The guilt can be so horrible it makes you not want to visit them at all.
But, If your feelings of guilt cause daily anxiety or are out of proportion to the actual mistakes you have made, you might be suffering from an even more toxic emotion:
Shame is what I felt that day I was exposed to the world.
Shame is commonly confused with guilt. People who experience shame often feel bad for every little error they make, and are in a constant state of fear of making more. For this reason, they feel fear around authority figures, judge themselves harshly, and have a low sense of self esteem.
Guilt says I have done something wrong.
Shame says I AM something wrong.
Shame is toxic.
Shame can strip away the joy and freedom that you deserve to experience in your walk.
Shame most often stems from a wounded part of you that was convinced in childhood that you weren’t enough. Though this is not the truth, it may feel that way, as beliefs that you carry for decades become your reality.
Shame can play a very powerful and negative role in your life, but it doesn’t have to. God can heal your feelings of shame and you can start living a happier and more empowered life.
One of the most powerful techniques to healing shame is to practice self compassion. We need to love ourselves. How do we do that?
We begin to treat ourselves and talk to ourselves with the same kindness, caring and compassion we would show a good friend or a beloved child. We find out what God says about us as His precious children and begin to confess that over ourselves in spite of what we feel. We will eventually begin to believe it. It will sink into your mind and renew your mind to truth rather than what you have believed all of your life.
When we practice this, it helps us to feel less isolated and alienated from others. The more shame we feel, the more deficient we feel and in turn, the more separate we feel from others.
Now say those words out loud to yourself. Take a deep breath and really take in those words. How does hearing yourself say those words out loud make you feel? Can you feel your faith grow in your own value in the Kingdom of God.
The more you practice this the more you will believe it. Oh, there will be triggers, (like my skirt incident), that will bring back those old familiar feelings, but pay them no attention…pull out those scriptures and start saying them over yourself again. Sing them over yourself if you feel inclined. Get them into your spirit and renew your mind!
You deserve to be free to allow God to lead you into a life of freedom you truly love and to feel worthy of having it.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.” NLT(Psalm 139:13-15).
For help with shame issues I would be honored to coach you into freedom. You can contact me on this web site from the home page.