How to Relate Differently to Shame

emotions religious programming shame Mar 01, 2023

Part of the process of healing from a high-demand religion that taught you to disconnect from yourself is learning how to view your emotions with a new lens. 

While it might have been ingrained in you to resist, fight, and push down certain emotions (like fear, anger, etc), building self trust begins when you recognize that your emotions are simply messengers that you can use to gain information. 

It's important to take this frame of mind when dealing with shame, a very common and persistent emotion felt by every religious good girl. What we know about the message that shame brings is that it says:

  • THERE IS A VALUE THAT HAS BEEN BROKEN (we experience this message as, "OH NO! I did something bad")
  • SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE MADE RIGHT (this is the feeling you have when you go against your values and lie, for example, and feel compelled to apologize to the person you wronged)

Where it gets tricky as the religious good girl is that you've built your life around everyone else's values (and no shame there, of course you would! You were looking for safety by doing this!). So because you're constantly trying to conform to the values of everyone around you at all times, it would be normal to feel shame often because chances are you're breaking some (un)spoken rules they have made for you! Part of your recovery process is learning what is important to you now. 

Next time you feel shame, pause and ask yourself: 

  1. What is the rule (spoken or unspoken) that I just broke?
  2. Is this a rule I even want to keep and live by anymore?

These 2 questions will help you stay connected to YOUR values as you continue to question and pull away from old beliefs. Be sure to check out these 5 questions if you are looking to work through any big emotion. They are invaluable! 

As you distance yourself from old beliefs and values, expect shame to be a constant friend and ally on the journey. Every time it pops up, image that it is handing you a message written on pretty paper, reminding you that you might be getting sucked into someone else's value system and it's time to realign within!

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