I did not have an imaginary friend when I was a little girl, but I had something else that followed me around for as far back as I can remember: shame.
Shame has been along for the ride for as long as I have had my shadow back there. Only in the last few years am I realizing it has never been a friend. I can remember as far as back as elementary school feeling ashamed of my alcoholic father. I loved my dad and was a total daddy’s girl, but I knew then my dad was different from other dads. Not knowing it was shame, of course, until now. Until looking back.
Then the shame from being the girl with the divorced parents, the girl whose mom had that embarrassing Ford Maverick with the orange and yellow crochet afghan covering ripped vinyl seats. I don’t feel so much shame for that now, knowing she did everything to give me and my brother what we needed.
Then came high school, and little did I know but shame went there with me as well. What a time in life—you are no longer a child but not yet an adult, and you’re going through all these changes. I was also adjusting to life in a three-person family. My father was no longer with us and I was angry about that.
The Heavy Weight of a Shadow Named Shame
Shame kept me down, never faltering on its only goal. Shame was there when I was raped by one of my best friends’ boyfriends, and when she didn’t believe me and when I didn’t tell my mom. Shame was there when I left high school because I just could not do it anymore.
Shame came with me when I met some older friends who enjoyed doing drugs. Shame was so excited that I found something new to do to destroy God’s plan for my life. It sat in the front row and clapped as I spun out of control for nearly a decade. Shame was so overjoyed to watch the destruction in my life that this caused. It clapped and kept whispering its lies into my mind any chance it could.
Shame is so sneaky it even stayed near me in my sobriety. I have been sober 20 years thinking I won. Little did I know shame.
Shame doesn’t give up that easily. Shame whispered in my ear that I wasn’t good enough, so I spent a couple decades proving my worth at every waking moment—a people pleasing perfectionist unaware this newfound pedestal was merely shame in disguise. So there I stood, tall and proud, patting myself on the back for the awards, acknowledgements, people that I had helped. Never knowing shame was snickering beneath me and whispering those lies. “You’re still not good enough.”
I spent two decades building a life with my husband. We found each other in our shame. And we have stuck beside each other through it. We will honor our vows and make it out of this shame together. By the grace of God, I am good enough. He is good enough. We are good enough. The mere knowledge of this sends shame running and hiding like a pouting child that did not get its way.
It’s Time to Say Good Riddance to Shame
A couple years ago I started realizing I was chasing a mirage. I realized that I was good enough and didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Between the many authors and a couple great therapists, I have realized that perfectionism is shame-based… Wait what was that? The shame that has been with me since the early days was still running the show. It’s sly, it’s sneaky, and before you know it, you are living your life behind it and not in front of it.
I was at church this morning standing next to my husband. As we were worshipping, I was taking in our daughter, our son, and our life that God has blessed us with. Then it dawned on me: I do not want to walk in shame any longer.
So shame and I are breaking up. At 45 years old, I will be walking near Jesus. I will be resting, praying, practicing gratitude, serving, reading and, for the first time in my life, I will walk in front of and not behind shame.
It is not a friend of ours. It is not imaginary. It is valid. It is OK to feel shame, but you do not have to live with it. You are saved.
I am the saved writer who has spent more time with shame than not, and yet here I am praising the Lord because there is another way. There is another plan and path for my life. I no longer need to feel shame for things I had no control over. And I can forgive myself for the mistakes I made on my own. So as the days surround me with cool mornings and beautiful sunsets, I will no longer have something following me around, and I cannot wait.
Ready to escape the trap of comparison and stop wondering when you’ll be good enough? We encourage you to listen to this podcast episode: Get Ready to Break Free of Self-Doubt and Shame – 220