Oh, the Shame . . .
By: Kathy
March 12, 2010

Feeling Shame and Guilt

Today I was once again reminded of how ugly shame is. This is not your average, ‘oh, I forgot to call my sister on her birthday’ shame, this is the ‘something is seriously wrong with me and it’s just a matter of time before everybody figures it out’ toxic brand of shame. I deal with it constantly in my counseling professionally, as well as in my own recovery, and I honestly believe it is at the root of most of the depression cases I see.

The Root

My shame personally came from two sources: 1) Watching my father re-marry and establish himself in a new family with new daughters. A little girl of 5/6/7 can only deduce that maybe the new daughters are better than she is and that’s why he moved away and left her behind. 2) Enter my stepfather who had horrible shame. His favorite method to cover up his own shame was to draw attention to the mistakes, failures and slight missteps of everyone else around him. It worked for him, but left a path of destruction in his wake.

Daily Decisions

Going through my formative years under the tutelage of my stepfather further inflamed my growing shame. He was very controlling and didn’t give me the freedom to make decisions on my own. When I became an adult and had to make decisions on my own, I wasn’t very good at it! Watching me struggle in this way was very humorous to him. He seemed to take great pleasure in the fact that I had difficulty functioning without him.

Feeling Dumb

To this day, allowing someone to believe that I am stupid, made a careless mistake, or that I have bad character can be very painful to me. When someone makes fun of my failures or weaknesses, I struggle not to react. I feel like I have been fighting my entire life trying to prove that I’m good enough. My recovery has taught me to have my own gauge about whether I’m okay or not. I’ve found my own compass that has its own definition of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and when I make a mistake, I try to give myself permission to not be perfect. Most days I do well, but every now and then, I get caught off guard. I comfort myself by saying, “Some days are better than others.” It seems to work and I have so much more peace!

We can relate

Do you struggle with shame? Where did your shame come from? Do you find you have a hair-trigger temper that even you can’t predict? Are you unable to wait until another person finishes talking because you are so eager to share your defense? Do you ruminate for hours after a negative interaction with someone? Or do you find that you just HAVE to tell someone else about it to get someone to agree that you are not wrong? Get into recovery now and start healing your shame. It’s a lifetime process and the earlier you start, the more years you’ll have of peaceful living!