The “shame bully” started to raise her voice around the time I was blending smoothies and called the girls for breakfast.
My to-do list seemed to grow exponentially by the day: doctors and specialist appointments, contractors and house projects, kids’ activities, and all that accompanies parenthood and one gearing up for another geographical move this summer. With the more pressing charge of schlepping my girls out the door and off to school, it made for really lousy timing for the limiting voice to fill my mind.
The words of the “shame bully” typically sound something like this:
I’m not talented enough, or
No one gets me, or
I’ll never write in the way I dream about writing, or
He’ll get bored and leave me one of these days, or
I can't hack this mom gig.
I could go on and on about the various onslaughts happening in my inner world on a semi-regular basis. Some days, the “shame bully” wags her finger faster—her words are more brash and pointed; other days, her presence is more discreet with whispered tones.
I checked in with my body in to gauge where her words were landing physically. (The more I learn about and marvel at how intricately woven and connected we humans are—the physical impacting the mental, emotional, spiritual, and vice versa—the more I want to lean into the entire experience, even if it feels "uncomfortable").
In those moments when “shame bully” was flexing her muscles and casting frowns, my chest was heavy, my gut churned, and my mind swirled.
With my eyes closed, I took a deep inhale and prayed.
God, love me through this, please.
I visualized His love, light, and peace coursing throughout my heart, mind, and body.
It was all I had time to do in that moment before we rushed out the door.
Later that day, "shame bully's" voice returned, but so did someone else’s: Stuart Smalley.
Yes, Stuart Smalley as in the Saturday Night Live self-help character of the 1990s who would end his program with the affirming words: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."
While Stuart exhibited zero qualms about affirming himself, practicing "self-love" and "self-friendship" has felt foreign to me for the majority of my life thus far. Not only did I not practice showing love and friendship toward myself, but somewhere along the way, I latched onto some theologically incomplete views in my faith, in part contributing to what has been a lifelong battle with low self-esteem, co-dependent relationships, addiction, and an ever-continuous dialogue with the “shame bully."
As I presently sift through the myriad of layers to my limiting words and beliefs, I'm uncovering ways self-love and self-friendship can be nurtured and cultivated in my life. They aren't contingent upon my performance, appearance, circumstances, or decisions.
Growth won't happen through mustering up some elusive, puffed-up version of myself.
And they definitely aren't tied to the validation of external sources—expanding or waning, dependent upon the words of humans like myself.
Instead, it’s about listening to the internal voice of Love and allowing it to frame and mold my perception of self. As I let Love lead, a relationship more connected with Love — one rooted deeper and lasting — begins to fill me and spill out to the world around me.
While this is the picture of love and friendship with self God is birthing within me, you may hold a different view because of your uniqueness, individual experiences and distinct ways of processing. But no matter where your view of self currently resides, I believe God wants you to respect and cherish yourself, because of who God made us to be: ones made in His image, with Spirit indwelling us.
Unraveling the "shame bully's" debasing voice happens when I grasp the truth that I am made in the image of God, filled with Love, and made with the source of all Love: it's an abiding love implanted in the One who created love.
When you doubt, look at yourself in the mirror and say it out loud: "I am loved."
Ask the Spirit to give you fresh eyes to see yourself the way He sees you and a heart to absorb Love.
You are loved. You are loved, you are loved.