“Soul, if you want to learn secrets,
your heart must forget about
shame and dignity.
You are God’s lover,
yet you worry
are saying.” – Rumi
I have written before about shame and the power that it has in my life, of how concerns about what others think of me and how I respond to that has led to spiralling depression and self loathing. Of how because I always want to be getting “it” right , whatever “it” is, this has made me really good at putting on an external mask. Like many people who battle shame and depression I can hide behind a smile and an outward show of coping, and while I am coping, I am also crumbling inside.
Life puts many demands upon us, as a Christian Minister I am sometimes held to ridiculous standards of who and how I should be, now some of those standards might be what and how I feel I should be, and maybe that is something that I need to acknowledge and own, but I have been asked questions about my lifestyle, my family, been questioned about the fact that I am divorced ( lots of us are), about why I would choose to talk about my sexuality, and why it is that I choose ( currently) to be single. Now mostly I don’t mind answering those questions, I feel that being open and honest is a better way to be, and it certainly stops me from holding any illusion of my own perfection, despite the masks, before myself or anyone else.
Over recent days however I have begun to awaken to the fact that I have slowly but surely walked into the fog of a deepening depression without really realising it, the signs of it have all been there, bad eating and sleeping patterns, old coping mechanisms creeping in, lack of attention to the things that bring me life… But I am good at not noticing them and also good at brushing them aside, getting up and getting on with things. So I am calling a halt on myself, staging a personal intervention and working with myself to turn things around. That might sound a bit self-indulgent, but right now I believe that it is something that I need to do, and something that I won’t be doing alone, I will go to see my GP, and make an appointment with my Spiritual Accompanist, but I acknowledge my need to pause and take stock.
A wise friend offered me these words as I left a retreat centre following a few days away this week “you have to start with you, the Bible tells us to love God, and love others as you love yourself, so you have to start with you, if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others, if you don’t love others then you can’t say that you are loving God, so start with yourself, learn to love yourself!”
I am going to repeat those words again, in some ways because I am letting them sink into my soul, and maybe because they might just help others too, as it might just be me, but I know the me that I want people to notice and love is not the actual me, but the projected me. To love myself means learning to love the actual me:
“you have to start with you, the Bible tells us to love God, and love others as you love yourself, so you have to start with you, if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others, if you don’t love others then you can’t say that you are loving God, so start with yourself, learn to love yourself!”
Brenee Brown says:
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
To become someone who responds with empathy and understanding we must begin from a point of love, from a centered self who dare to love themselves and not to hide in shame behind a fragile and brittle mask worrying about what people are saying, whether I am who people want me to be, and when the world will call be out as a fraud because the way I live and the way that I want to live are not one and the same, because I have allowed shame to drag me down…
So I have done a couple of things, first I have ditched Social media for Advent, so apart from my blog posts which automatically post to Twitter I will not be sharing or responding because I am giving myself a break ( and probably others a break) from what can be a highly pressured and somewhat false environment. Second I am committing to learn to love myself with all of my faults and flaws and not just a projected self. I suspect that the latter is going to be rather hard work, but shadow work is important if we are to learn to love ourselves, freeing ourselves to love others and so to love God, it begins with God of course…
No fear exists where his love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love. We love because God loved us first. 1 John 4: 18-19
I end with this, from “The Little Prince” because I think it explains so well how we often deal with shame, and how ridiculous that is:
“Why are you drinking? demanded the little prince.
“So that I may forget,” replied the tippler.
“Forget what?” inquired the little prince, who was already sorry for him.
“Forget that I am ashamed,” the tippler confessed, hanging his head.
“Ashamed of what?” insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.
“Ashamed of drinking!”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,