In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to explore shame, its origins and impact; who told you to be ashamed of yourself?
First a quick update:
Societal Expectations Of Women And Shame
Of course, women have greater choice, more power, better education and independence than ever before, but the societal expectations of women are so unachievable that the result is shame. Look at what is expected of women today: “Do it all, do it perfectly, and never let them see you struggle.”
What’s Wrong With You?
The one core issue that everyone has! Do you know what it is? Watch the video where I reveal the issue everyone has, and the 4 subconscious beliefs that support that issue.
Now, let’s talk about shame, its origins and impact; who told you to be ashamed of yourself?
Do you know the difference between shame and guilt?
Guilt is the emotion that results from believing, “I did something bad; I did something wrong.”
Shame, on the other hand is very, very different.
Shame is the emotion that results from believing, “I am something bad; I am something wrong.”
Notice the difference: guilt refers to an action; shame refers to a state of being. Guilt refers to temporariness; shame refers to permanence. Guilt stems from a past action; shame stems from an ongoing, fixed state of being.
As I will explain, these two emotions also create vastly different responses.
“Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.” Anais Nin
What do you do when you are ashamed? You hide; you cover yourself; you create a false image of yourself.
Think of the story of Adam and Eve. Whether you take this story literally or simply view it as a parable, it still contains symbolic meaning.
Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden and the scriptures say that they felt no shame at their nakedness. However, once they ate from the tree of the forbidden fruit, they felt ashamed of their nakedness: “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.” Genesis 3:7
Note here that the sense of shame is created by the knowledge of something that is actually a natural and unchangeable state, something they were born with i.e. nakedness – the human body. They can cover their nakedness but this only serves to try to hide the self-loathing they experience over their natural bodies.
Theologians will argue that the shame of nakedness was the result of disobeying God. Nonetheless, Adam and Eve did not feel guilty for being disobedient; they felt ashamed at being naked.
Next, what action did they take once they felt the shame?
They became ashamed of their bodies and thus, they tried to cover themselves; they tried to hide their nakedness and bodies.
This is the same way we all respond to shame; we try to cover and hide the shame. As noted earlier, shame refers to our state of being: “I am ashamed of myself”; not “I am ashamed of what I have done.”
Thus, we respond to the shame by trying to cover and hide our entire self – all of us, particularly our emotional nakedness: we don’t want anyone to see who we really are beneath the coverings.
What did Adam and Eve do next?
They hid from the presence of God.
We do the same when we believe that we are shameful; we hide from the presence of others; we isolate and disconnect from other people.
Our natural human state is attachment; there is an attachment system or circuit in our brains. We are wired to connect and build bonds with other people.
Next, the Bible says that God aided them in their sense of shame. He did not free them of their shame. Instead, he helped them hide their
bodies by making clothing for them.
Do we not do the same by allowing others to partake in our shame and self-loathing when we agree to hide and cover ourselves or when we accept their condemnation?
Next, the Bible says that God punished Adam and Eve and drove them out of Paradise, out of the Garden of Eden to a life of toil, pain and suffering.
We do the same when we choose to carry and sustain our shame; we cast ourselves out of Paradise (a state of happiness, freedom, inner peace and love and connection) and into a life of toil, pain and suffering as we continue to hide ourselves and punish ourselves by disconnecting from other people and choosing to keep ourselves down, believing we are not worthy.
Although, there are various theological interpretations about why Adam and Eve felt the shame of nakedness after eating the forbidden fruit, there is no doubt that God wielded the ultimate power over their shame. God could have removed the shame or convince Adam and Eve that they did not need to be ashamed of themselves, of their bodies; God could have told Adam and Eve that they could feel guilty for the disobedience and betrayal, and that they did not need to feel ashamed of their God-given existence.
Who told you to be ashamed of yourself?
Who told you that there is something innately wrong with you?
Who told you that you are wrong for being born or for the way you are?
Often shame originated or was leveled at us when we were children. Something that a parent or adult said, or did, or did not do, resulted in a false interpretation by the child: I am completely flawed, not enough, unworthy, and unlovable, and therefore I am wrong and bad.
Remember, this is an interpretation, nothing more. It does not represent truth. It is the fabrication of a child’s mind and perception of life. It is a story that the child made up about him/herself based on the treatment he/she received and the form or lack of love received. The child blamed him/herself for the parents’ actions. It is a lie because it is not the truth and it is an extremely limited understanding of who you really are.
Look at the accompanying image to this article of the baby; that was once you; does a baby or child truly deserve to be ashamed of him/herself?
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist