Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt is “I’ve done something bad”. Shame is “I am bad”.

Shame is an insidious result of abuse that lurks in the background of your mind, trying to convince you that you don’t have the right to feel what you feel.

Shame is full of paradoxes: it says you don’t deserve to be happy, but you don’t deserve to be sad, either. “Everything I do is wrong” is a common phrase I told myself for years, convincing myself that some critical flaw in my being caused all the suffering to happen. That I deserved the abuse. The things we tell ourselves sink deep within our minds and last.

Shame can not be rationalized. It’s rooted deeper than our conscious mind, down into the emotional brain, flowing through our nervous system and stored as chronic tension throughout the body. The conscious mind may think we are fine, even good, people who are doing the best we can. The conscious mind might understand that what happened to us wasn’t our fault and we didn’t deserve it. The conscious mind might know better, but shame is a stubborn beast that doesn’t care to listen. Shame remembers the voice of the abuser even when you don’t. You conscious mind might have deleted their ideas from your awareness. Shame keeps their messages on replay.

Shame says: you aren’t good enough to succeed. Your passions are stupid. You aren’t really as smart or talented as you pretend to be. Your friends don’t really love you. Your happiness won’t last. You don’t deserve to celebrate your accomplishments. You need to do more, more, more. You don’t deserve to relax.

Shame says: your grief isn’t valid. Why can’t you get over it? What are you so afraid of? It happened such a long time ago. Sure it was painful, but you brought it upon yourself. You let it happen. If you want to be angry at someone, obviously choose yourself. You did this. You don’t deserve to mourn.

Shame is filled with these lies and has no problem reminding you of them. Shame is fueled by you believing they’re true.

They’re not true.

You are allowed to feel however you feel. You have every right to mourn, rage, grieve, and even hate. Your pain is valid and what happened is real, even if you can hardly remember it. You have the right to be flawed, to be paranoid, to be healing. You have every right to celebrate your accomplishments. Making it this far is in itself a victory. You tell shame it has no business here when you embrace your joy and your right to exist. You are imperfect. You are wonderful. You are worthy. You have every right to love yourself, just as you are.


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