My truth, my self, my heart, my humanity is unworthy of being shared with others. What you tell me you see, feel, think of me is not who I am. I did not say, I “feel” or “think” or “believe” what you tell me you see, feel or think of me is not who I am. I know absolutely I am not the powerful, smart, handsome, strong, brave, courageous and worthy person you think I am.
And this is the power of shame.
There are no doubts or confusion about this absolute knowledge. Lack of worthiness is the one area people living with shame know with certainty while all other truths, perceptions, needs and wants are clouded by doubt. It is my only unshakable, unbreakable faith.
Shame is my jealous, vain and wrathful god and enabler.
Shame is fundamental to my identity. It is my religion and I am an apostle. Like all evangelicals, with zeal I’m willing to gaslight reality, you, and my life, to prove I’m unworthy. Out of misplaced ideology I am willing to ignore, demonize and distort all reason, counter-experience, rationality, decency, science, math and history to prove I am unworthy.
It it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is my internal theocracy. It is my cult.
Success and acts of kindness are are met with a rising crescendo of taunts, sneers, derision and mockery. Voices of culturally anointed, venerated and hollowed coaches, parents, teachers, Drill Instructors, frenemies and exes yell, shout, ridicule and demean my humanity, my worth. Overlapping stories of failures and failings endlessly looped for reminders of how I am unworthy. These venerated Saints of Shame tirelessly make self-respect and self-worth seem selfish and undeserved.
What you tell me you see, feel, think of me is not who I am – unless it is hurtful, destructive, vindictive and mean. Then the Saints of Shame harrumph their approval and add the mantra to their Star Chamber of Shame’s jukebox of one hit wonders.
The dogma is simple: I am unworthy of companionship, compassion, consideration, counsel and kindness. I am unworthy of love and friendship. I am unworthy of success or recognition.
This is the power of shame: I am unworthy of all the wonderful qualities of humanity. I am a weed in humanity’s garden to be uprooted and supplemented. I take up space offering nothing worth harvesting. I provide no bounty.
Living with shame isn’t like living in darkness. It’s staring into the sun; forever corrupting our ability to accurately perceive our significance and contributions to the world around us.
Without detached, patient, logical and consistent efforts to maintain a self-awareness, we willing become one of Shame’s Four Horseman. Riding into the world, creating the reality of a destructive, dangerous unworthiness.
On a bad day it still will.