It was in 1995 that I began to realize that I had been living a life based on my shame. Everything I said and did I carefully adjusted to make sure that I would not be disapproved of. My core shame created this belief in me that I was not enough, therefore I needed to perform, be perfect in all areas, and do it with such finesse that I would never be “found out” for fraud I was.
This was all very unconscious at the time, but as I began to embark on the journey of healing, I came face to face with my addictions. No, I was not addicted to drugs, alcohol, medications, sex, work or rage. I was addicted to approval. I was addicted to perfectionism (creating the façade that everything around me was “perfect”). I was addicted to being right. And I literally felt unsafe whenever I was wrong. These are the things I did to keep from being vulnerable; to keep from letting anyone know who I really was:
· I kept my house spotless. You could have eaten off of the floors at any time, even though Kayla and Ariel were just little kiddos. My. House. Was. Perfect. If it wasn’t, I would break into crazy mode, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Following the girls and Jami picking up crumbs, toys, socks…You get the picture (and it’s certainly not a pretty one).
· I was afraid of what people thought about me.
· I dissociated. I checked out emotionally, but not like you might think. I checked out by being busy; by constantly thinking about the next thing on my calendar. Not. Even. Close to present.
· I had a deep need for certainty. Translation: I was a control freak!
· I constantly compared myself to others, especially my body. I had a love-hate relationship with my body, but mostly it was hate. “Never pretty enough” plagued me.
· Exhaustion was my status symbol. I was a fantastic martyr.
· Productivity made me feel worthy, if but for a moment.
· Anxiety and chaos were a lifestyle choice for me. Sometimes mine, but mostly everybody else’s anxiety and chaos. I had completely lost myself because my shame kept saying to me that I was unworthy unless I was the best wife, the best mother, the best daughter, the best sister, the best friend, etc., etc.
· I was constantly “shoulding” on myself. “I should be thinner…I should be a better mom…I should have sex with my husband every day…I should never make a mistake…I should always look just right…I should always be in control…I should be more cool…” And on, and on, and on.
Can you relate to any of these statements? If so, you are also struggling with your core shame. (And for those of you who can’t relate at all, you may need to read the definition of “denial” because, from what Brené Brown’s research says, we ALL have shame at our core. Men, it may look a little differently for you. Something like “I should never be weak…I should always be strong…I should be a good provider…”) The cool, and hopeful, thing is that you can have healing and relief from this dangerous place. I have. I’m certainly not completely rid of my shame, but it continues to get better and better. I am more full of joy and peace today than anything else. For this I am grateful.