My biggest enemy is shame. Shame is the root of probably 97% of my problems. Addiction, anger, marriage issues, eating/weight issues, parenting struggles: shame. They are all shame -based. Honestly, I can’t pinpoint where it all started, but as most emotional damage goes- I’m sure it was somewhere in early childhood.
Figuring out where it came from is helpful, but I’m really more interested in moving forward. Moving forward for me looks like tackling this big bastard and limiting it’s hold on my life.
Yesterday I went to see my therapist (who I have already blogged about because he is awesome) and we were talking about a few things that have happened recently that all had roots in shame. We discussed my reaction when I feel shame and the cycle that comes after that (which is just more and more shame).
But for your benefit, here is how shame plays out in my life: I feel shame because of imperfection. (Because perfection has been my response to try to rid myself of shame. “If I am perfect, I will not feel ashamed”.) Anyway, whether I am imperfect or someone in my life is imperfect- shame comes. Then with shame, comes a bad reaction to the person or persons involved. We’ll keep it close here and talk about my immediate family:
So Vaughn screws up. I want him to be perfect like me (ha.ha.), so I freak out over a small incident. Small incident becomes big incident, big incident becomes rage, rage makes me feel ashamed. Or this: imperfection on my part, imperfection makes me feel shame, shame makes me lash out, lashing out hurts people’s feelings, hurting people’s feelings makes me feel shame. Now, after this nasty cycle, I turn ALL THAT SHIT inwards hate myself and then hate everyone else because none of us is perfect. Shame wins (<—–NOT my next tattoo).
Chris said I’m like a Suicide Shame Bomber. I feel shame, rage on everyone, blow it all up-we all die. I can’t stop picturing it: my whole family sitting in the living room quietly and me running in with a vest full of dynamite. I open the vest ,scream a war cry and blow us all up with shame. (BTW: do yourself a favor and don’t google images for suicide bomber to try to find an appropriate picture for this post.)
The beauty of all of this shame shit is that just like the addiction cycle, I am free to stop it at anytime. Whether it is at phase 1 (“I feel shame”) or right after the bomb explodes. I can stop the whole thing and turn it around.
The new root is grace. Grace when I feel shame. Grace when I blow up. Grace when one of my kids screws up. I can show myself grace. I can show my family grace. I can show the clerk at Wal Mart grace. I am NEVER going to be perfect. Never. And neither are my kids. And neither is Andy. It seems silly to even write that out, because of course. But it’s not silly to me.
My standard has been perfection and that perfection is actually shame. So today…today I’m forgiving myself. I’m forgiving Eloise for not refilling the water dish. I’m forgiving the dog for crapping downstairs. Today I’m aware. I woke up late because I went to bed with a headache. Usually- shame would be my alarm clock and the whole entire day would go in the crapper. Today- grace. I got up to the tune of grace. Instead of flying around the house like a witch on her broom, I said, “Kids. We might be late and that is my fault. I’m sorry. I am not going to yell at you this morning, but I need you to do what I say quickly so we can try to not be late.” Teamwork. Grace.
My new mantra is this: Reasonable Best. I am going to do my reasonable best everyday. Reasonable best. Not perfect, not throw it all away because I can’t achieve perfection: reasonable best. For example, I am trying to change my eating habits and yesterday with my headache, I ate well all day, but needed a Coke: reasonable best. My reasonable best yesterday was one Coke. It wasn’t one coke and a tub of ice cream, though one day, that may be my reasonable best. Not perfection- reasonable best.
Love wins. Forgiveness wins. Grace wins.