No longer living with shame

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She was likeable. Beautiful. One of those women who commands attention when she enters a room. She said she needed counselling because she felt like a failure – as if she was reacting to life in a destructive way. She battled with emotional outbursts, anger, rage and shouting. She oscillated between immense feelings of guilt and shame.

She tried to live her life, kept herself busy, but couldn’t escape the anxiety, pain and discomfort. She felt disconnected from herself. She could hide her shame from others, but it was impossible to hide from herself.

I asked about her other relationships.

She was defensive. Lonely. Argumentative. She was filled with fear – afraid that people would see through her facade. That they might reject her once they pick up on the lies she felt she was hiding. It was easier to push people away than to have genuine conversations. She became critical. Interpersonal connections threatened her.

Shame is increasingly recognised as a powerful, painful and potentially dangerous emotion, especially for those who don’t understand its origins or know how to manage it. – Holly VanScoy

Life is filled with risk.

If you want to belong to a community, love someone, connect with people and be accepted, you run the risk of being rejected. You inadvertently open yourself up to loss.

We had a few counselling sessions and managed to trace her feelings of shame and guilt way back to her relationship with her mother. Her mother’s pregnancy was unexpected.

The nurturing bond with a mother is crucial to form a balanced acceptance of self. Her sense of worth, her self-image, was corrupted by the fact that she felt embarrassed and ashamed. She felt like an intruder, unwanted and unwelcome.

Early in life, individuals develop an internalized view of themselves as adequate or inadequate within the world. Children who are continually criticized, severely punished, neglected, abandoned, or in other ways abused or mistreated get the message that they do not ‘fit’ in the world – that they are inadequate, inferior or unworthy. This is the Genesis of low self-esteem. Marilyn J Sorensen

It is healthy to feel guilt when we do something wrong – something that we can atone for. Shame on the other hand, is a destructive emotion that leads to an eroded sense of self. This causes the individual to struggle with insecurity, anger and anxiety. Shame is often disguised so carefully that it’s impossible for others to recognise. It’s a private battle that pushes people to the outskirts of society.

But there is hope!

We can overcome shame with faith, self-awareness, forgiveness and hope. If we commit ourselves to form new perspectives, we can change our understanding of self through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Examine your own behaviour. Shame might be disguised as shyness or humility. God calls us to live a life of abundance, which means we have permission to unlock our true selves and serve each other and His Kingdom!

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