Continuing my posts about identity, here is an extract from some of the teaching notes from my ‘Finding the Freedom to Fully Live’ programme. This is part of a teaching on shame:
Few of us would like to admit to carrying shame, yet very many of us do, perhaps without even realising it. Firstly, let me explain what shame is and how it differs from guilt.
Shame is a belief (probably an unconscious one) that we are inherently flawed. It is a belief about our core identity. Guilt is about what I have done, but shame is about who I am.
Guilt believes ‘I have done wrong.’ Shame believes ‘I am wrong.’
Guilt believes ‘I made a mistake.’ Shame believes ‘I am a mistake.’
Guilt, because it normally involves a specific behaviour, is generally less painful and may lead to doing a specific action to put it right. Shame, however, involves self, your ‘being’ and is therefore deeply painful and difficult to ‘correct.’
Feelings and beliefs such as of being a victim or unwanted, unworthy, deficient etc are linked to shame. Such beliefs often arise out of abandonment or significant shaming or traumatic events in early life.
This inner belief about self is so painful that we will often hide our true self out of fear of being ‘found out.’ We will do our best to control situations to avoid exposing our shame. This can include many strategies. A person who believes, for example that they are inherently ‘bad’ may do everything they can to ‘be good’ to try to camouflage or compensate for their ‘badness.’ Another person with this same belief may ‘act out’ their ‘badness’ with unsocial or destructive behaviour.
Here are a few more examples of ‘protective’ behaviour stemming from shame (can you relate to any?):
Needing to be right
Let me give you a personal example. My parents wanted and were expecting a boy, so when I was born they were disappointed. Although, of course I have no conscious memory of this rejection, I recognise the effects of it throughout my childhood. I was a ‘tomboy’. I rarely played with dolls or did ‘girly’ things. I never wore dresses or make-up and my best friend in my pre-teen and early teen years was a boy. I was trying to ‘hide’ being a girl and was attempting instead to be the boy my parents wanted.
This external show, though, hid a deep feeling of inadequacy and an inner belief that I could never match up to what was expected of me. Of course not, I could never be something I wasn’t! (There have been many other ‘symptoms’ of this belief that I’ve identified and been dealing with along the way, ranging from defensiveness and self-protective anger- ‘keep away, don’t come too close,’ to people-pleasing and shyness.)
Freedom from this came through recognising the source of this feeling of inadequacy and having God speak into my true identity as a woman. (An example was ‘seeing’ God as a father shouting delightedly ‘it’s a girl!’ as I was born. The Creator of the universe planned and created me, and created me female!) I also know that part of my destiny is to help set other people free to become truly who they are created to be.
In my journey of inner healing I have recognised related false beliefs I held. Here’s one: ‘men are better than women’. I have wonderfully exchanged this for the truth of knowing that men and women are equal, with both beautifully reflecting different aspects of creation and Creator.
Now I love being a woman (Just think, men never get to experience the incredible privilege of carrying and birthing a new life! Sorry guys!) I should say that I do still like some, perhaps, ‘tomboyish’ things. I love adventure and given half a chance I’ll still climb a tree!
(Image photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash)