I sometimes hear these voices in my head.

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I sometimes hear these voices in my head, telling me that I am not good enough and never will be, will always fall short, and a failure.

Here are six realizations I’ve discovered about these voices:

1. They are mostly voices of my childhood and youth. One of them is my older brother who protected himself from his own shame by abusing his power to mentally and emotionally abuse me. His way of making himself feel big was putting me down.

2. For me, instead of striving for power, my pattern for dealing with my shame is to strive for perfection. As a child I worked out in my head that if I could be perfect, I would no longer be so vulnerable to shame and would be good. This is one reason why I am attached to the Superman metaphor.

3. Unfortunately, the kind of perfection I strive for is impossible to maintain. So now as an adult, when I see myself falling short of my high standards, I plunge right back into the shame I wanted to escape, and feel worthless, not good enough and a failure.

4. As a perfectionist, I have never developed an internal sense of how much is good enough. When I was young, love and acceptance were conditional on how I performed. With an alcoholic mother and absent father, I was left to myself and only had external things to measure myself by, and thus the seeds of perfectionism were sown into me.

5. I have come a long way but I still have some shame process that is implicit, unconscious and hidden in my subconscious memory. The work I am doing is slowly reversing this process. I have been determined to address my shame and I have more insight into it, such as identifying the original sources of my internalized shame pattern. I think the next big push for me will really result in my coming into my own and developing an inner strength that will serve me well.

6. I have not done this work on my own. My daily relationship with Heather is a source of unconditional love and acceptance, and I am able to share my shame and receive her understanding, validation and support. I am currently working with someone on a weekly basis to unpack the dynamics of my shame. I also have a couple close friends who have walked with me on my journey the last several years who are a profound source of love, encouragement, acceptance, empathy and wisdom.

I share this in hopes that there might be something encouraging in it for others who are facing their own lives.

Latest Comments

  1. Kate says:

    Thank you.

  2. Cheryl Stone says:

    I identify with this on many levels. It is so important, as painful as it is, to find the source of your shame, and to have the support of someone you love, and to have a person who can help you identify and unpack those shames. I have done it, and am continuing to do so (does it ever stop?) and I could not have done it without Larry (my husband) in my corner, championing me, validating me, and encouraging me, but mostly, loving me for who I am. I went through a couple of therapists before finding one I clicked with, one who pushed me when I needed it, and knew when to back off when I couldn’t do the work that particular day, week, month. He became a dear friend, and is a solid support for me.

    As I said, it’s hard work. It’s painful. It’s frightening. But then comes the morning, and the shame dims, and one day it is gone, and light enters in and you don’t live in darkness anymore. Totally worth it – every bit of pain, all the tears, all the heart-wrenching, agonizing, wrecking-ball tears shed – was SO worth living in the light.

  3. Naomi says:

    Jim I too went through the perfectionism road to try to earn approval from family, friends, employers and clients. It took a total emotional breakdown to identify the lies I had believed about myself. Years of prayer ministry and some counselling have taught me at the heart level not the brain level how much I was accepted by god just as I am, no need to earn his approval, the nature of unconditional love. From this together with Jesus and father god we rebuilt my identity and self image.

    It is an ongoing process day by day to remind myself of this truth.

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