One of Satan’s greatest tools is shame. Shame is much different than guilt. Shame is a feeling of despair that tells you that you are flawed at your core. It’s unbearable and insurmountable. It’s like looking directly at the sun. It hurts so we hide from it. Guilt is a healthy emotion that reminds you that you did something against your values. Guilt says “you did something wrong”, shame says “you are wrong” “you are unworthy of God’s love”. Shame messages or “faulty core beliefs” are lies that we believe about ourselves.
Coping with and killing shame is important to live a healthy life that is addiction free. If we have shame we do our best to hide it, bury it, and avoid facing it in any way possible. Our attempts to avoid shame also perpetuate more shame. Some common ways that we protect ourselves against shame are:
2. Disconnection. Keeping others at an arm’s length protects us from them finding out who we “really” are. Putting up walls and creating distractions with anger, humor, isolation, and depression are common ways to stay disconnected.
3. Perfectionism. This is an attempt to earn approval and acceptance. Perfectionists believe they are what they accomplish. This distracts from who they really are and distracts from the faulty beliefs about who they are. As much as a person tries to sooth themself by striving for perfection it is ultimately unattainable. This is a continual set-up for shame and failure.
4. Numbing. When we feel bad we want to medicate. Food, drugs, alcohol, sex, spending, and work, are common shame anesthetics. The more we go after this short term “feel good”, the more we need those things for survival. As this pattern goes on lives become unmanageable. As a result the person who is numbing has even more to numb because of the consequences of addiction. If we numb shame we also numb joy, if we numb hurt we numb happiness. We cannot selectively numb our emotions.
Killing shame is difficult because it sits so deeply in a person’s core. However, shame can be overcome. These are the keys to fighting shame and reversing our faulty beliefs about ourselves:
2. Love yourself. Take care of yourself. Show yourself you’re worth it. Take time to exercise, read, hobbies, and relaxation. Remind yourself daily of who you really are. If your shame says “you can’t do hard things” then look yourself in the mirror everyday and say “I can do hard things”. Remind yourself daily through affirmations of who you really are.
3. Connect to healthy people. Someone to reflect back the truth about who you really are helps challenge those faulty core beliefs. Shame may say “your flawed” a good friend or family member can remind you that “you’re wonderful”. You may think “I’m not worthy of love” a good friend will let you know that you are loved. Also connecting to others is a way of acting against your shame and proving to yourself that you are worth someone’s time and love.
Finding peace is about being grateful for what we have on the inside and outside. Often times we get stuck striving to be enough. I’m not ________ enough. Fill in the blank for you. Common answers include smart, good, talented, patient, skinny, ect. Now answer, what is enough? The truth is no one is "enough" without the power of the atonement. We must do the best that we can and rely on faith and mercy rather than strive to prove to ourselves that we are okay. God love’s all of us more than we can comprehend. Then why is it so difficult to love ourselves? Acting against our shame, self-love and compassion, and connecting to others will nurture gratitude and help us be content in our imperfection. We will always be "enough" in His eyes.
About the Author: Brannon Patrick LCSW, specializes in treating pornography/sexual addiction and working with family members and couples. He is the clinical director of LDS Hope And Recovery , and LifeStar of Northeastern Utah. He is the father of two, and husband to the most wonderful Mormon Mommy. You can learn more about Brannon on his personal website BrannonPatrick.com