For years, I believed that the source of most of my problems was rooted in self-hatred and self-pity. I fully believed that the reason I struggled with self-destructive habits and beliefs was due to an innate abandonment of self.
It has been revealed to me, however, that my core issue is shame. All the self-hatred, pity, and perfectionism that I have wrought come from the same source: shame.
As I became aware that my self-destructive habits resulted from shame, I became increasingly aware of the moments I experience it. A few examples are:
- Stepping onto a scale or seeing an unflattering photo
- Eating a food that I (or culture) has deemed “bad” and fattening
- Meeting an attractive man or going on a date
- Comparing myself to other women on social media
This is a very small, curated list. Because I am an intuitive, introverted person, I am highly self-aware. This self-awareness has led me to discover that I experience and live through shame on a daily basis. Shame has kept me from pursuing relationships, my dream career, and having peace with God. Shame speaks to me every day, and this is what it often says:
- “You’re so gross/ugly/chubby/unattractive. You’d be more valuable if you were prettier.”
- “You’re a terrible writer and you’re not creative. Who the hell do you think you are? People judge you and dislike you, so you should share as little of yourself as possible.”
- “You are too old and ugly to ever find a man who will love you. Nearly all your friends are married! This proves something is wrong with you.”
- “You’ve wasted your life. You haven’t done anything important and now you’re in your late twenties and it’s too late. It’s your fault.”
Shame says some terribly wicked things, doesn’t it?
If I wanted to face shame in a fight for my honour, I’d have to grab a mirror, because shame is most often from myself. It isn’t a separate entity that I can destroy. It is a wounded and frightened part of me. Shame insists on perfection, and anything less is a disgrace and should be abused roundly.
This evening I listened to a few TED talks, and one in particular struck me so intensely that I burst into tears. One line in particular drew some fast tears: “Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” I have included an audio download of Brene’s TED talk below, and I urge you to consider her words. It brought some clarity to the cloudy musings of the past year, giving shape and meaning to them.
I share this deeply vulnerable post not because I want others to pity me; I share because I want others to know that they’re not alone in their shame. I am sick to death of hating myself, of wishing I had a perfect body and perfect soul, of reaching a place of heaven on a very broken earth. Shame may try to destroy me, but it can also lead me to greater vulnerability, which Brene claims is the “…birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”