I have not posted an article in a couple of weeks as I was preparing for then took a ten day vacation. I am back, feeling recharged, and inspired to write. I recently reviewed some articles I wrote last year and found a few that are worthy of a second posting, with minor revisions. This below, is one of those articles.
Last year while reading the transcript of a radio interview with Brene’ Brown my thoughts became snagged on the following paragraph:
“…I had…put a theory together about what shame is and how it worked that I thought, oh, man, I have all this data and I’ve interviewed so many people who are just…like me and they’re like a lot of the people I know…they struggle, they’re trying their best, but their lives seem so different than mine. They really seem to engage with the world from this place of worthiness. You know, they say, yeah, I’m screwing things up and I’m imperfect and I’m afraid, but I’m still worthy of love and belonging, like their love and belonging wasn’t on the table, it wasn’t negotiable…”
It is common for some who have a mental health diagnosis to lack a consistent felt sense of belonging and love. Although there is more attention given to mental health these days, the stigma that continues to linger can compound feelings of shame. I hear if often while working at the hospital, “I messed up, and I am not worthy of love.” Do you believe this to be true for you too? Do you believe that because you have a mental health diagnosis you are unworthy of love and belonging?
How many people mess things up, are imperfect, and try their best in life in spite of the challenges they face? I believe we all do. I know there are times I do. Sometimes we may inadvertently step in it and sink up to our knees. If this is done consistently it might be time to develop a deeper understanding of and heal the defense mechanisms and core beliefs that drive the behaviors.
Let me add some clarification here between who we are (sense of self) and what we do (our behavior). I appreciate Brene’ Brown’s work because it highlights shame and how it manifests. Shame is focused on our sense of self, who we are. For example when we “mess up” shame is turned inward and says, “I am bad, I am a loser, I am an idiot.”
Brene’ Brown says, “When there is an absence of love and belonging there is always shame.” Having a sense of love and belonging are non-negotiable needs for each individual.
Say this sentence quietly to yourself three times, “I am perfectly imperfect. Therefore, I am worthy of love and belonging—it is non-negotiable.”
As you said those words to yourself did they ring true? Did you hesitate over them? Do you lack a felt sense of confidence while saying them? Did you add a “yes, but…” ?
How often do you live your life as if love and belonging were non-negotiable?
If you were to live your life as if love and belonging were non-negotiable what would that look like? How would it manifest? Would you make different choices? How would your self-talk sound?
What would it feel like to know with 100% certainty that you are worthy of ______?
When you hold these questions in mind what do you feel in your body? Is there a hiccup, a momentary tensing in your gut? Do you feel a flutter or a heaviness in your heart? Or are you able to embrace it and know it is true for you? If not, this is where your attention and focus can be placed to unearth the reasons it doesn’t ring true for you.
The explorer roots of shame reach far and wide within us. Janina Fisher, Ph.D says shame prevents a full appreciation of life. For example, when someone becomes happy, successful, or visible shame is triggered and the, “I don’t deserve…” tape begins to play. Sometimes sabotaging all the work that led to the happiness or success, etc.
Are you ready to change those tapes, to rewrite the script of shame and how it manifests in your life? If not now, when?
The Buddha reminds us, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love, affection, [and belonging.]”
© 2015 Liisa Gavlick, MA, LMFTA All Rights Reserved