Shame can be a powerful force in our life. It is the trademark of dysfunctional families.
Authentic, legitimate guilt is the feeling or thought that what we did is not okay. It indicates that our behavior needs to be corrected or altered, or an amend needs to be made.
Shame is an overwhelming negative sense that who we are isn’t okay. Shame is a no-win situation. We can change our behaviors, but we can’t change who we are. Shame can propel us deeper into self-defeating and sometimes self-destructive behaviors.
What are the things that can cause us to feel shame? We may feel ashamed when we have a problem or someone we love has a problem. We may feel ashamed for making mistakes or for succeeding. We may feel ashamed about certain feelings or thoughts. We may feel ashamed when we have fun, feel good, or are vulnerable enough to show ourselves to others. Some of us feel ashamed just for being.
Shame is a spell others put on us to control us, to keep us playing our part in dysfunctional systems. It is a spell many of us have learned to put on ourselves.
Learning to reject shame can change the quality of our life. It’s okay to be who we are. We are good enough. Our feelings are okay. Our past is okay. It’s okay to have problems, make mistakes, and struggle to find our path. It’s okay to be human and cherish our humanness.
Accepting ourselves is the first step toward recovery. Letting go of shame about who we are is the next important step.
Today, I will watch for signs that I have fallen into shame’s trap. If I get hooked into shame, I will get myself out by accepting myself and affirming that it’s okay to be who I am.
From The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie ©1990, Hazelden Foundation. All rights reserved.