You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody. Maya Angelou
Guilt is a healthy emotional response that helps us to stay on track because we know we made a mistake and we want to behave differently in the future. Shame on the other hand is the belief that we are a mistake and the erroneous idea in our heads that we don’t measure up. Guilt reminds us that we did something bad,” while shame tells us that we are bad. It is that voice that says, “I’m not a good parent” or “I’m not a good enough teacher.” Shame wants us to feel like we are flawed, we don’t measure up, and are not good enough. But do we really know what others are thinking about us? The truth is that any thoughts or opinions we believe others have of us are imaginary. And even if someone does not like us, we have to remind ourselves that we can’t control what others say about us, but what is in our hands is the choice to see our beauty and to love ourselves! When we go to that place of shame we constantly question whether someone values us and whether we are worth loving.
In our current culture perfectionism has been turned into an intrinsic value. We watch shows on HGTV with houses that are flawlessly decorated, we open up magazines with air-brushed bodies, and we go on a friend’s facebook page and view pictures of a seemingly perfect marriage and vacation. While media and advertisers turn perfectionism into a commodity, the result of this is that we look at ourselves, our homes, and our families and decide that somehow we don’t measure up. Perfectionism intensifies our feelings of inadequacy because we falsely believe that if our bodies, homes, cars, marriages, vacations, and lives are perfect enough than we are worthy of love. Our pursuit of perfectionism actually intensifies our shame and leads to greater levels of anxiety and self-loathing. The truth about perfectionism that it is exhausting. We are constantly in the pursuit of pursuing our worth instead of realizing that we are enough, just as we are.
- What if instead of trying to make our marriages appear perfect on social media, we admitted that marriage is hard?
- What if in lieu of trying to have a perfect body, we saw how beautiful our bodies already are?
- What if our alternative to obsessing about whether a colleague likes us, is to think of the people who do have regard for us in our lives?
I invite you to do something that may feel a little out of your comfort zone. Go and find a mirror or simply use the camera on your phone and look at yourself and say out loud:
- I am enough
- I am beautiful
- I am worthy
Whenever you find yourself feeling shame, I encourage you to call a trusted friend who accepts you just as you are and admit to them the feelings of shame you have, and when you do this I bet you will find that they too have had their own struggles of feeling not good enough. Unless someone is a socio-path, shame is something that haunts all of us and it can really help to verbalize our shame to a friend. But if our friend doesn’t answer the phone, we also can combat our negative shame-filled thoughts by saying this mantra again to ourselves: “I am enough…I am beautiful…I am worthy.”
Let’s dismantle our shame by naming it and claiming our beauty and worth,