Feeling shame is an intensely painful feeling.
I have felt it and I have seen my clients feel it, in particular my LBGTQ clients.
I felt it when my son came out. Admitting this still brings me some shame - shame that I felt shame - I'm always a work in progress!😳
Shame can be felt for a number of reasons - but it is always caused by our thoughts.
Feeling of shame comes from a false belief that you are flawed, or that you are doing it wrong, or something has gone wrong.
My shame was caused by the false belief that our family was now flawed and we couldn't be a good LDS family. I worried about what others would think and how we would fit into our community. These thoughts were causing me to feel shame but I also felt shame because I felt like I had failed as a parent and I had disappointed God.
These painful thoughts I was thinking were not thoughts that were from God and they weren't true or useful. The problem with feeling shame is that it is an emotion that never comes from God. Satan is always the author of shame.
Shame is never a useful emotion. It leads us to live smaller lives and leads us to want to shrink or hide or disappear. Shame is Satan's tactic trying to convince you that you are not enough. God knows we are enough, He created us.
If you stay in shame you are saying to yourself to stop trying and you are believing that this is as good as it gets. Once again, Satan tactics...you believe that it doesn't get better than this - so you lose hope.
If I had stayed in shame I could not have achieved the amazing relationship I have with my son today. Feeling shame is normal but not working on combating thoughts that breed shame can be a destroyer of important relationships with others -and yourself.
Once you realize how destructive shame can be in your life you will want to combat it quickly out of your life.
How to Combat Shame
1. Recognize Shame is Universal- The first step is to acknowledge that you are human and shame is universal, Don't layer your shame with another shame layer! God didn't create you to be perfect. Not all of our reactions are going to be the perfect words and thoughts, that is the natural man in us. Make sure you allowing the shame to be there. It can’t hurt you, but exploring the physical sensations in your body makes it easier to start letting it go.
Next, get curious about the thought(s) that is creating the shame. Once you are aware of it, consciously remind your brain that it is a thought, not a fact.
2. Question Your Expectations/Beliefs - Second step is to be aware when you feel shame that it is caused by your beliefs and what you are thinking. Just because we think something doesn't make it truth. Sometimes we have beliefs about our lives that really don't serve us. God never wants you to stay in shame when your version of your ideal life doesn't match up with the reality of your life. He wants you to learn from the less ideal and to bring him along on with you on that journey.
Once you process the shame, then, question that thought(s)/beliefs with these questions:
How do you feel when you believe this thought?
What result in your life do you get when you think of this?
Is this thought creating useful thoughts?
Could you be wrong about this thought?
Can you find evidence for the opposite of this thought?
What else could you believe?
Take some time to allow your brain to examine the shame thought and decide if it is really where you want to place your energy. If not, remember there are many other thoughts available for you to practice thinking.
Once I started really examining my thoughts about my son being gay I realized that a lot of my thoughts were completely incorrect and were causing my unnecessary pain.
3. Connection - Shame hates connection and honesty. Reach out and be proud of your story. Being vulnerable about your story is when you get a true connection. Combat shame by connecting with others and sharing your life experiences. Remember nobody has a perfect life and everybody on the planet is dealing with something.
When I started connecting with other LBGTQ LDS families I realized that there was an amazing community of families that could teach and help me with this journey. This community has taught me so how to love better and has helped me realized how lucky I am to be called as the mother of an LBGTQ child.
4. Courage to be YOU - Shame wants you to hide and to pretend. Pretend that nothing is wrong. Shame hates when you have the courage to be exactly who you are. The more you work on loving you (and that includes ALL YOUR CRAZY) the less you will feel shame. Remember God created the mountains, galaxies, and YOU. The world needs you. Once you do the work of loving ALL of you, you will stop caring so much about people's judgments of you and this will cause you to feel a lot less shame.
The more I tell my story about having an LBGTQ child, including the mistakes I made, the more love and connection I feel for my son, others, and myself. Learning to love my imperfect journey has helped me combat the shame I felt. Combating the shame of not doing it perfectly has helped me realize how this has been the perfect journey for me.
One of my goals is to help other LDS families to lose any shame that they have of having an LBGTQ family member. Allison Dayton from Lift+Love Lift and Love and myself are hosting an evening of Embracing the Calling open discussion on October 1, 8pm Mountain time.
We are creating a community for family members who want to support their LBGTQ family members while living the gospel of Jesus Christ. We want to create a safe place where there is no shame, where we can ask any question and have discussions so that we can share and help each other walk this path and create a place for our family members at church. It's going to be an amazing place to be - full of love and support.