I still want to reach my goal. Why can’t I? What is really holding me back?”
I can’t tell you how many times these few sentences have sounded in my head specifically in this past year. Why is it so hard for me to try to do something I really wanted to do?
Shame. Shame is the answer to what’s holding me back from reaching my goal. Although I am sure this was not your first answer, it’s probably what is truly plaguing you as well.
Let me start by describing what is shame. “Shame is the fear of disconnection… Its the fear of something we have done or failed to do, an ideal we haven’t lived up to or goal that we’ve not accomplished that makes us unworthy of connection.” “Shame is the intensely painful feeling that or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” – Brene Brown in Daring Greatly.
Does that ring a bell for anyone. Maybe you’ve tried to lose weight and stopped for what ever reason. You want to hide under a rock because of the disappointment of yet another failed attempt. Maybe you’re struggling with eating “healthy” and it makes you feel like a failure. You hear the thought that “I failed again, I must be a failure. Why can’t I get it right. Why can’t I get anything right?”
These thoughts are causing you emotional pain in which you will naturally seek immediate relief. The typical responses to this “emotional shame pain” are: blaming something or someone, rationalizing our lapses or relapses, offering a disingenuous apology, or hiding (Brown). These are pretty awesome responses, aren’t they?…
It is not good practice to not reach a health goal and blame your spouse because they weren’t helpful. Or it’s not helpful to rationalize another reason to eat late at night when you don’t need to. It’s also not good to hide from people when you are not good enough to meet your goal. Unfortunately these responses causes a cognitive dissonance (separation of belief and action) for a Christian. Christians are not to blame others for their actions. Christians are not full of excuses and words with not actions. Christians are have nothing to hide from.
The positive thing is, if you are aware of cognitive dissonance, it inspires and motivates change. Hopefully you want to fix who you say you are to line up with your actions. Shame however, works against that ability to change. “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we can change and do better.” (Brown) Shame tells you “you can’t be better or do better because you are worthless.” The shame thoughts will build into a barrier box of worthlessness in which you feel like it is worthless to do anything. And that’s the real reason behind the failed attempts toward your goal.
So what about for me. My goal and ideal was to launch Fit Theology as a resource for Christians to learn how we can use God’s gift of the body to ultimately steward and glorify Him. I have pages and pages of notes and ideas, but shame and the deep desire to hide from the responsibility of Fit Theology has made me hide and even self sabotage. Many of you don’t see it or won’t see it, but it’s my shame that has stopped me from doing all that I hope to do with this blog thus far. The positive thing is, it’s not over and I can still make choices today to work through the setbacks.
So what can we do about this? Here are some steps:
- Be aware of shame talk. What are those things that make your thoughts spiral to worthlessness. This requires a level of self awareness that is honestly scary. Don’t be afraid, pray that the Holy Spirit would guide you through this process. He is not afraid of your mess or your thoughts, why should you be?
- Know the truth of your identity in Christ and how your desires fit with that. When we become a believer in Jesus Christ, we have inherited truths of Christ for our own identity. We are children of God, accepted, beloved, and so much more. Know and research what God has said about you. Also we are all being developed by the Holy Spirit to be more like Christ. We have all been made with specific dreams and desires, strengths and weakness all in order to benefit the body of believers. We all have a story that we are telling with our lives. In fact, the most important story is the story you are tell yourself about yourself. If you are telling yourself that your story is of failure and mess-ups, you will embody that. But if you tell yourself that your story is of opportunities to grow and embody a gracious Father, you will embody that. So invite God to be in the process of writing your story with you. This is another way of looking at God being the captain of your life as you navigate it together. Something that has helped me recently is writing out the story This reminds me of who I am in Christ and the things I am doing that day are for a specific purpose.
- Tell someone about the shame that plagues you. James 5:6 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” There’s something in our wiring as humans that needs community and accountability. When you open up to a trusted person about shame, a lot of it’s power goes away and the healing process can begin. Be sure this is someone who you trust to help you through the process of healing. Healing is important, you are worthy to be healed and made whole. God says so.
- Be aware and on the look out for shame to pop up. Unfortunately shame doesn’t completely go away, it is a shape shifter. So constantly being on the look out is important. The Holy Spirit will help you see it, if you ask and listen. Although it takes a lot of courage to ask and listen, it will be worth the freedom and accomplishment to wack the shame mole.
Hopefully this gives you some comfort in knowing why you’re not reaching your goal, or not even attempting to reach a goal that is important to you. Maybe this helps you to line up your beliefs of being whole and healthy with the actions that affirm your beliefs. I will pray for you. Please pray for me too.
As always, it is a pleasure to write to you all.
Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gotham Books, 2012.