Thursday, May 28, 2009

Julie's Journal

I had an opportunity last night that has never occurred as long as I have been doing this group. Only one person showed up for group. We had such a deep, honest and rich conversation about. . . shame. Imagine that! That word and what it implies comes up so often in private conversations with participants, in group meetings and even in Church.

If there was a word that was the opposite of "lasting lifestyle change", I believe it would be shame. I know you guys have heard this so often, but I think this is a topic we can not hear enough about. Shame is like a cancer that erodes our progress in lifestyle change. If we are not intentional about challenging the shame messages in our lives, then our behavior will reflect it. Nothing drives me to a good old eating frenzy like a good old shame message.

I think there are three steps to getting shame out of our healthy space. First, we cannot challenge what we do not know exists. We have to first identify that we have shame messages in order to challenge them and believe something else. Many of the messages come from our childhood, from trauma or from people currently in our lives. These shaming voices may be so ingrained that they are difficult to identify without honest reflection, support of safe people or even professional help. Folks, the best news of all, is that these shame messages are learned. You and I were not born full of shame feeling such contempt for ourselves! We learned that somewhere along the way, and boy did my unhealthy eating behaviors reflect it!

After we identify a shame message, then it becomes a choice. Do we choose to believe the shame or not. The second step in ridding shame from our lives is to actually choose not to believe the shame message, to challenge the racket. My unhealthy behaviors usually reflect that I have chosen to believe the racket of shame that is yelling in the background of my mind. Last night, the lone H.O.P.E. participant and I spent a good bit of time talking about the fact that it is a choice whether to believe it or not. I promise you that if we believe the shame, our behavior (unhealthy eating) will reflect our choice.

If we choose not to believe the shame message, then what will we believe? We have to believe something. Either the shame message or the truth message. We cannot just choose to not believe shame without consciously deciding what it is we will believe instead. Choosing to believe the truth is the third step in ridding the shame in our lives. For me, my "truth" message is found in the Word of the Living God. I am told that there is no condemnation(shame) in Christ and that I am free, free, free from shame. Yippee!! Free from shame? Is that even possible? I am here to tell you that it is not only possible, but it is the greatest freedom that in turn allows us to live out our lives in the way we choose to without fear of the shameful judgement of God, ourselves, or others. Now that is freedom!

Shame always attacks the core of who I am, my personhood, my self. Conviction is always about my behavior. If I behave in a way that I feel convicted about, then I can respond responsibly with no shame. What is your 'truth message"? Where do you get your "truth message" to refute the shame in your life. Do you believe it? Does your behavior reflect that you believe it? I would love to hear your thoughts on this cornerstone topic of lasting lifestyle change.

Until next week, healthy living to all!


Kimberly said...

What are shame messages? I dont think I know the difference in all of my negative internal messages. Does that sound crazy?

kindra said...

For me, my shame messages are definitely connected w/my unhealthy eating habits. Absolutely! I grew up and have continued until recently (as a result of HOPE)"blaming and shaming" myself for EVERYTHING that goes wrong. I have been quick to condemn myself for being human! I especially shame myself because of my weight--"look at you, you'll never lose weight and if you do, you won't keep it off." I've used food as a punishment for being a horrible person for a long time. It could be for something as simple as my house is a wreck to the more dramatic of raising my kids poorly. I never realized how DEEPLY ingrained shame was in me--the direct opposite of the grace,mercy,acceptance and unconditional love God gives me. Today, I still make mistakes, but I embrace my humanity and try to remember to walk in His image and recognize that there is an enemy who loves to see me accuse myself and turn to food for my release of guilt. No more! I've been crucified w/ Christ and if I condemn myself for every little thing, then why did He have to die?! I must hear the shame message-hit the delete button and replace it w/ His Truth about me. For some reason this keeps me taking healthy care of myself because I see myself as His treasure w/ no right to trash myself w/ shame messages or unhealthy eating!

Frances said...

Gotta' do regular checks. Have to separate the shame message from the good guidance of conscience. Is it my conscience or my shame that keeps me beating myself up? Where is the line? What is a question to ask myself that may help me to identify the shameful message versus good conscience?

I've learned in HOPE to ask myself how I would respond to a good friend with the same concern. God works his miracles through people. I can be a friend to myself and allow God to work for me, through me!

Janice said...

Great Blog, Julie! I have spent the past 16 or so years working on recognizing and battling SHAME messages in my life. It is a lifelong pursuit! We all make mistakes and we all "sin". Conviction about that is healthy. Conviciton says, "My behavior was wrong and I need to make amends and move forward." SHAME says, "I am a terrible person. I can't do it right. I will always fail. There is something inherantly wrong with me." Conviction is from God. Shame is from the enemy. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

Just this morning I received an email from a college friend who is coming to visit next week. She saw a recent picture of me and is embarrassed to see me because, according to her, my face doesn't have the wrinkles that her's does. She is joking, but this is the second time she's mentioned it so it must be bothering her a little. (If she could only see the wall of wrinkle creams I have bought lately to combat the lines I see when I look in the mirror) She told me in her letter that she mentioned this to another college friend who commented, "Well, you know, Janice was always glamourous, not in bad way of course!" What?!?! Me, glamourous? I thought to myself, I wish I could go back and tell that shame-filled, insecure college girl (me), that someone thought she was glamourous. But you know what? She wouldn't have believed it, anyway. She was so full of Shame, she thought she was ugly. She tried so hard (hot rollers twice a day--80's big hair--you remember?) because she thought she was ugly.

Maybe this sounds a little trite. We are working on ourselves from the "inside" out, so what does all this talk about glamour and feeling pretty have to do with it? For me, it is one more glaring sign post that reminds me, when I am full of Shame, my perspective is skewed. I can't receive compliments. I can't celebrate and love me. I can't feel pretty or lovable or worthy of anything. And I am embracing a lie.

I want to keep telling myself the truth and combat the lies. I want to practice healthy behavior, not just in eating, but in the way I treat myself and others. I want to own my mistakes, make amends with others and myself, and move on. No more shame. And if I am struggling with that today, I want to "act as if" there is no shame.

I think, more than anything, being healthy, for me, means I know WHO I am and I am totally comfortable with that. No apologies for Who I am, only for occasional behavior snafus (ie, sin) :) If I know Who I am (and Whose I am) and I embrace the truth about what that means, then it won't matter what others think of it good or bad.