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Breaking Free From Shame

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

Do you ever struggle with the fear that you won't belong? Anxiety may hit before attending a social gathering, applying for a part-time job, or stepping into the halls of a new school. Maybe it's kept you from pursuing new friendships, seeking a leadership role, or trying out for a team. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone! Human beings are born with a deep need for love and belonging, which is why rejection is such a prevalent fear.

The fear that you are unworthy of love and belonging is called shame. Most of us come into contact with the voice of shame at an early age. When left unchallenged, it's accusations can shape our identity and define our worth. Shame can take hold when we fall into bad habits or make a decision we regret.

If someone has experienced physical or emotional abandonment, shame might persuade them that they are unlovable or unwanted. In moments of rejection, shame may convince an individual that they are unworthy of belonging and community. After instances of abuse, shame will often accuse the victim of being "damaged" and scare them into secrecy.

How do we break free from the voice of shame?

Go to a quiet space and work through these four steps. Record your answers in a journal.

1. Identify the moment

When have you felt overwhelming shame? Did it happen after a mistake, an instance of abuse, or words of ridicule? Several occurrences may come to your mind.

2. Pinpoint the lie

What lie or lies took root at that moment? They could be that you are "unworthy of belonging," "incapable of success," or "damaged beyond repair." How have these lies affected your life?

3. Rewrite the narrative

Many of us have allowed the voice of shame to dominate and define us for far too long. It's time to take back your identity! Courageously replace each of the lies you've believed with the truth.

Here are some examples:

Lie: I am unwanted

Truth: Although I’ve experienced rejection, I am wanted, needed, and loved by God. I am worthy of friendship, community, and belonging.

Lie: I am incapable of success

Truth: In spite of the disappointments I’ve faced, I was created for great things. Because of this, I can look to the future with beautiful expectations.

Lie: I am damaged beyond repair

Truth: My past does not define my future. Although what happened to me was wrong, who I am is not wrong! I am valuable, whole, and an ambassador of healing for others.

4. Let someone in

Shame is bread in secrecy. Although exposing our past requires courage, it also brings great freedom. Write down the name of a friend, parent, leader, or counselor with whom you can safely share your story.

"If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive." - Brené Brown

Shame doesn't get the final word in your narrative. Your worth is not fragile or up for debate. You are more valuable, capable, and precious than you have yet to know.

By Sarah DeLotelle