If we can master this one thing—liking ourselves—it will work wonders in helping us to overcome a shame-based nature.
Did you know that you and I have to learn to deal with our do separately from our who? The fact is, I don’t do everything right all the time, but that doesn’t affect who I am. I know I’m loved and that I’m still a good person. I’ve made mistakes in my life—and I’m sure I’ll make mistakes in the future—but I still like myself.
If you like yourself—even though others may not—you’ll make it. When you start to like yourself, other people begin to like you too. Liking yourself doesn’t mean you’re full of pride; it simply means you accept yourself as the person God created you to be. We all need changes in our behavior, but accepting ourselves as God’s creation is vital to our progress in becoming an emotionally healthy person. If we can master this one thing—liking ourselves—it will work wonders in helping us to overcome a shame-based nature. Let me explain what I mean.
Many people live under what I call the curse of failure. They can never do anything they set out to do. They’re always failing, always messing up, always getting disappointed, discouraged and depressed. They don’t like who they are because they’ve adopted a shame-based nature.
For a long time I didn’t like my personality, and since my personality is who I am, I didn’t like me. I didn’t want to be as bold and straightforward as I am. I didn’t want to be so direct and blunt. I wanted to be like one of my friends. She had a gift of being sweet, kind and gentle. What I didn’t realize is that she was just born that way—and I wasn’t. Because I didn’t like my personality and who I was, I tried to change myself. I wanted to be more like my friend. I tried to be the perfect woman, the ideal wife and mother who grew her own tomatoes and canned them, made jelly, sewed her family’s clothes, and on and on.
It didn’t work. It was the old story of trying to fit the round peg into the square hole. I was just trying to be something I wasn’t. Finally, I had to learn to accept myself the way I was and let go of the idea of being like someone else. I began to realize that, although I did need to change some areas of my life, who I am will never change.
When a person has a shame-based nature, as I did, it becomes the source or root of many complex inner problems like depression, loneliness, isolation and alienation. All kinds of compulsive disorders are rooted in shame: drug, alcohol and other chemical addictions; eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and obesity; money addictions like stinginess and gambling; sexual perversions of all kinds—the list is endless.
For example, workaholism is a very destructive disorder in our society today. There are people who are such workaholics that they can never enjoy life. Unless they’re working day and night, they feel irresponsible. In fact, some people are like I was—if they’re enjoying themselves, they feel guilty about it.
Another example of a destructive disorder is perfectionism. Some people are tormented by perfectionism because of abuse or some other negative situation in their past. They keep trying to be perfect in order to win the attention and affection they feel they were denied. People who live with workaholism and perfectionism set themselves up for failure. They set unreasonably high standards for themselves, and when they ultimately fail, they feel badly about themselves. They make impossible schedules and then make themselves—and everyone else around them—miserable because they’re constantly rushing around.
Workaholics and perfectionists are just two examples of the types of people who really haven’t learned to simply like who they are. Shame, because of something they may have done in their past, has caused them to dislike themselves. Remember, you must separate your do from your who. You’re a unique and special individual, with God-given talents and skills. And even though you may have made mistakes in the past, it’s time to move on and learn to like yourself!