March 2015: Self-Talk
Since last month’s blog entry, I have been give opportunities to think about my own positive self-talk—or lack thereof. And specifically what gets in the way. From what I can gather, it all comes down to the concept of shame—which the dictionary defines as “a painful senses of having done something wrong, improper, or immodest.” Synonyms are disgrace and dishonor.
This describes healthy shame when we are actually guilty of wrong doing. But what of the deeper underlying sense of shame-the unhealthy kind—that writes us off as a person? This shame is not limited to a single “bad” or misguided behaviour. This shame is a painful sense of being something wrong, improper, or immodest—of being a disgrace not just behaving dishonourably or disgracefully.
We develop such a sense of shame early on—usually in childhood or adolescence—by the shaming action of another person. The child or youth comes to the conclusion: “There must be something wrong with me; I must be a bad person for this to happen to me.” I had such experiences and conclusions as a child and adolescent—even into young adulthood.
It can carry on indefinitely depending on one’s life circumstances. Shaming is perpetuated by parents toward adult children, spouses, siblings, peers, co-workers, supervisors, managers, teachers, professors, therapists, doctors, church leaders, in fact leaders of any kind. Relationships with a power differential of some sort are especially vulnerable to the practice of shaming.
So early on in my development I internalized that I must be a “bad person”: the only explanation my child-brain could come up with for life’s circumstances. And which was ingrained over the years by shaming messages from a variety of sources. So ingrained that I became expert at shaming myself. No other voice necessary but my own at times.
This healing journey I’ve been on has led me to examine the statement: “I am a good person.” At first, it didn’t fit right at all; but the more I tried it on, the better it felt each time. I was (am) changing the neuronal pathways of my brain. It still needs more wear to become a cozy fit, but I am slowly internalizing that I am good person. And I’m learning the most effective antidote for shaming is a healthy sense of self. Slowly the shaming voices in my head are being silenced.
For I am a good person—even though far from perfect—just like you.