When we recognize that we have messed up, this does not mean that our mistake, our wrongdoing does not have consequences. Sometimes our misdeeds can have serious consequences. It is absolutely possibly that with our wrongdoings, our blunders, we will hurt ourselves and others. We each must learn how to work with, and live with the consequences of our mistakes.
This does not in any way preclude the possibility of recognizing that the error we have committed is not a fundamental flaw in the core of the essence of who we are. While it doesn’t necessarily feel good to experience guilt and remorse, it does not touch the heart of our core me-ness, our wholeness. We can deeply regret a mistaken action or choice, but our self-love, our self-acceptance need not be impacted. Recognizing we made a mistake is far different than believing we are a mistake.
Working with Shame
Believing we are a mistake is the fuel of shame. The shame voice inside of us says... I am inherently bad, or worthless, or unredeemable, or evil, or defective, or useless, or broken, or whatever words you internally apply to yourself. This voice may speak to you at times in a whisper, at times in a scream. You may not hear the voice of your shame directly; you may just feel it as a sense of dread or foreboding.
It is possible to begin to choose to not align with the message of “I am bad.” Even if a part of you continues to feel unworthy of acceptance and belonging, you can begin to learn how to hold even the experience of unworthiness and unacceptability in the container of your vulnerable compassion.
Attempting to reason with your shame, using logic or some kind of positive self-talk can be just another form of engaging in a battle with the feelings of shame. You can tell yourself, “I am not really bad,” when you are feeling shame, but if you are like me, you have tried that over and over. Someone else can even tell you, “you are not really bad,” and I bet you’ve tried that one, too. This is the approach of reasoning, of arguing. It can provide some temporary solace. That can be good and helpful. If it works, great. But if shame keeps coming back, it is actually asking for more from you. Let’s look at how you can get to the root of the shame mechanism.
Compassion and Self-Forgiveness
Finding compassion and self-forgiveness in the face of shame requires fully experiencing the shame. Yes, you really read that correctly. The fight you have had with shame is exactly what is keeping you from compassion. Letting go into self-compassion can be experienced as a leap of faith. It can feel as if you are standing on the edge of cliff and all of your instinctive protection is telling you to get out of there — to fight, to flee, to freeze. Vulnerability is required for the leap into compassion.