To deal with shame and the lies it is telling us, learn the 4 ways that shame makes us feel. This is post 5 in a series on shame.
Shame. It’s an uncomfortable feeling we try to avoid.
Remember: Shame doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a human being.
Don’t feel bad if you have felt shame. It just means you have misinterpreted events or words and tied them to your identity. Which means you can untie yourself from these lies.
Shame can come and go and be triggered by certain events or words. Or it can seem like we are stuck in it.
Often our current shame has ties to old and past shame that follows us around like lint on our black pants. We don’t notice it’s there until we glance down and happen to see it. And then we wonder how long we have been going around with white lint dotting the side of our pants.
Shame is NOT something we want to dwell on. Often even think about.
Hey, I’m with you there. I’d rather be thinking positive thoughts or laughing with a friend.
But ignoring something never makes it go away. It keeps lurking in the background. Waiting for us to look down and notice it.
Which means we need to do the hard work of facing some not so pleasant emotions and experiences and get our hands dirty with some healing work. Some picking off of lint from our black pants.
Because we were created to walk in freedom.
I thought shame was a problem that others had. Boy was I wrong.
I didn’t think I had a problem with shame. Felt pretty shame free.
And then I started thinking about shame. Writing a post about shame (which turned into a series on shame). Processing a past event from 25 years ago with my counselor.
And I realized that shame was used as a motivator in my childhood. Still is a strong self-motivator. The fear of not wanting to experience the feelings of shame, can be a trigger point and causes me to still do all sorts of things.
- Like not ask for what I want or need. (I was raised to meet everyone else’s needs before my own.)
- Give up my needs for the needs of others, or the good of the group (I was raised to not be selfish. Not want much. Not ask, or you are nagging.)
- Keep my mouth shut. Not say what I think if it will rock the boat or not fit in with what others believe. (I was raised to believe conflict is bad.)
- Think something is wrong with me if I do something wrong. (Cultish religion helped cement this fact.)
- Find worth in what I do, or accomplish, instead of who I am. (I was praised more for what I did, than who I was.)
- Please others to my detriment. (Better to give than receive.)
- Expect very little (With 5 siblings I was always giving up what I wanted for the greater good).
- Hide my true self so people would like me. (I didn’t want to be like those difficult people my mom mentioned in her lectures.)
- Think something is wrong with me when I don’t fit in or mesh with others (like being a night owl among early birds). (I was raised not to know myself, but to know what others needed and wanted.)
So yes, I’m believing some of the lies of shame about my identity and who I am.
Maybe you can relate.
Maybe shame, or trying to avoid shame from the lies it whispers about who you are, is a motivator in your life.
Maybe the old lies of shame learned years ago are still influencing your actions and choices today. Maybe your identity was shaped by the lies of shame.
And maybe it’s because you were raised in an environment that promoted shame. Like I was.
We are not here to blame and shame those from our past. Or ourselves.
Like I said last week. Our job is not to blame or shame those who may have raised us with shame, or those who have shamed us in the past. Many of them were doing the best they could with the tools they had.
But we do need to be honest. And realize where some of these lies of shame came from that we are carrying around.
Shame can be direct of indirect.
Shame attacks our identity. Shame develops when we mistakenly process the feelings of shame we feel, from either an event or words someone said to us, into a lie about our identity. A lie about who we are.
Shame is very random. What can cause shame to one person, may roll off another person and not even bother them.
As children we have neither the perspective or tools to interpret things correctly. To make judgement and common-sense calls. To always know what is true or a lie.
Many of the lies that we believe today about ourselves, others, and the world, were formed when we were growing up. Before we had the maturity to evaluate and be able to tell a lie from a truth.
How can something we have thought was truth and we have believed for years not be a part of us and our current way of thinking?
So, give yourself grace. Have compassion on yourself. Forgive yourself.
You were also doing the best you could.
And you are not alone. None of us get to adulthood without adopting some lies of shame as our own truth. It’s just a part of natural and normal life.
You are not alone in experiencing and having shame. No, you are like the other billions of humans on this earth.
What does shame feel like?
There is nothing wrong with the emotional feelings. They may feel icky, like fear does, but feeling shame is not wrong or bad. It is just a feeling trying to communicate something to you.
Shame is felt on a continuum of intensity. From mild to high. (Just like other emotions, like anger (anxious to terrified) or happiness (mellow to elated).) (See this chart.)
Mild feelings of shame include feeling ridiculous, uncomfortable and silly.
Medium feelings of shame would include feeling unworthy, embarrassed, and apologetic.
High feelings of shame include worthless, disgraced, mortified, and defamed.
If we can identify how the emotions of shame make us feel, we can deal with them quicker and not allow the shame to grow and develop.
Symptoms of shame; ways the emotion of shame makes us feel or act:
1. Wanting to hide. To disappear and pull away and bury our heads. We do not want to deal with the situation or the person, but want to run from it and hide.
When we really don’t want to call our mother, talk to our boss about our failed project, or see our friend who made us feel uncomfortable, we are probably feeling some emotions of shame.
2. Negative self-talk and self-blaming. When we start blaming our self and heaping shame on our self, we are often feeling the emotions of shame. We are blaming our self for what is going on.
If our mother criticizes our choice of snacks we offer the kids, and we start beating ourselves up with our self-talk and think, “I am a bad mother, I can’t even feed my children good food,” then we are probably experiencing the emotion of shame.
3. Reacting in anger. Experiencing the feelings of shame can cause us to react in anger. Blaming and yelling at others keeps us from examining the feelings of shame we are feeling. This also deflects the responsibility from us.
If we respond in anger and accusations to our boss saying our presentation needs more work, we are probably feeling the emotion of shame.
4. Seeking relief in addictions. When we look to any substance: food, alcohol, movies, sleep, or something else to relieve our uncomfortable emotions, we may be experiencing the emotion of shame. Indulging too much, often causes a cycle of shame, because then we feel bad for our addictions.
When we keep scrolling through Instagram and watching Netflix instead of dealing with our emotions we are experiencing from our blow-up with our husband, we probably are experiencing the emotions of shame.
It is easy to for feelings of shame to cause us to jump to conclusions about ourselves.
Remember: Feeling the emotions of shame is perfectly normal. The emotions are just trying to communicate something to us and keep us safe.
Where we get in trouble is when the emotions are also triggering lies about our identity that we believe, (or often don’t even know we believe.
If we show up to the work party in casual clothes and everyone is dress in animal costumes, we may feel awkward or mortified. And that is natural and normal. We are self-aware enough to realize we are not keeping the social rules of the party.
Will everyone feel shame about being in the wrong clothes? Of course not. One person may blow it off and laugh at it. Another person may internalize the feelings and think it reveals a flaw within them. That’s when shame develops. And we believe a lie about our self.
Where we get in trouble is when we misinterpret those feelings to say something about our identity and not belonging. Or the feelings trigger past times we didn’t belong and fit in and we instantly jump to the conclusion that once again we are not part of the group and don’t belong.
Sure, we may not be dressed in the attire as everyone else, but that doesn’t diminish our worth as a human being. Or mean we don’t fit in.
Shame causes us to think we are defective. It’s our fault. There is something wrong with us. And it diminishes our identity.
Now that we know what the emotions of shame feel like and how it instinctively causes us to act, we can be more aware.
But don’t judge yourself for feeling the emotions of shame. Feeling are neither good or bad. They just are trying to tell us something.
Remember: the emotions of shame are trying to tell us to deal with something, or that something is wrong. They are like stop signs or caution signs. They are communicating that something is wrong, or needs dealt with. We need to examine why we are feeling this way and see what they are trying to communicate to us.
Shame does not come from the feelings we are experiencing, or the event, but from owning and believing the lies of shame we adopt as truth about our identity. (The event is just the impetus.) The lies that we are unworthy. Not enough. We don’t belong. Etc.
When we feel ourselves feeling the emotions of shame, we can try and identify the lie about our identity we are trying to believe.
Remember God wants us walking in freedom.
Not tied to lies about our identity.
He wants our identity grounded in his truth. Grounded in himself.
There is a cure for shame. It is the truth.
The truth will set us free and reshape our identity.
Homework: 1. Be aware of when you feel the emotions of shame. 2. Try and identify the lie that shame is trying to tie to your identity. 3. Now identify the truth that defeats the lie. 4. Give yourself grace. This is a process and takes time. 5. Lean on God. He has enough grace and truth to conquer all our lies.
Next week: 12 reasons we believe the lies of shame.
Check out this resource that covers everything you need to know about shame, including frequently asked questions.
Or take the Shame Quiz and begin to identify how shame is distorting your identity and worth. Once we know the lies that shame is wanting us to believe, we can more easily crush them with the truth.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.
Download a free guided exercise to help you heal from shame
Download a free PDF freebie, “What to Do When You Are Feeling Shame: A Guided Exercise.” It will walk you through some practical exercises to deal with shame. Ending with how to avoid feeling shame in the future. My passion is to see you living shame-free; in glorious freedom. “What to Do When You Are Feeling Shame: A Guided Exercise” can help you step towards that freedom by breaking the lies of shame you believe and replacing those lies with the truth.
From Shame to Grace: How to Erase Shame From our Identities, a 12-part series. — Other posts in this series on shame include:
Join the Discussion: Please list any other symptoms of shame you have experienced.
May link up at Kelly Balarie (#purposeful faith), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Maree Dee (#Grace & Truth), Anita Ojeda (#inspirememonday), InstaEncouagements ((IE Link-Up), and Mary Geison (#tellhisstory).