Imagine: You’re sitting in a room with 20 strangers and someone hands you a blank name tag. You’re instructed to write down the deepest negative belief you have about yourself…(yeah we’re getting real, REAL fast). The one that always seems to sneak in when you’re least prepared for it. You know the one.
Palms sweating, heart rate increasing, eyes darting around the room to see how other people are reacting. You quickly scribble something down and cover your paper with your hand, praying for dear life that everyone will magically forget your existence.
Everyone is then asked to put on their name tag, get up and introduce themselves to each other. But, plot twist… you have to introduce yourself as what you wrote on your name tag. Anxiety immediately courses through your veins as you look around in expectation for them to tell you it’s all just a joke. People hesitantly start to rise and slowly begin the exercise. The discomfort is palpable. Finally, someone speaks:
“Hey, I’m never going to be good enough.”
“Hi, I’m a fraud.”
“Hi, I’m an inadequate failure.”
“Hey, I’m a horrible parent.”
“Hi, I’m broken.”
And my personal belief: “Hi, I’m unlovable.”
Again and again and again.
My body is tensed up just thinking about it. Every inch of me wants to stop writing this and pick a different topic because this is just too cringeworthy. But, I’m starting to discover that this is exactly the kind of topic that needs to be spoken (or in my case, written). If you had told me 6 months ago that I would start a blog about shame, I would have laughed in your face. Oh how the tables turn.
If you can believe it, I have actually done this exercise not once, but twice. The second time only 4 days ago. And I’m still standing, can you believe it? Neither can I.
This group was HARD. And doing it a second time didn’t make it any easier. There was lots of awkward laughter, lots of avoided eye contact and weak handshakes. Plenty of fake smiles of discomfort plastered on faces to do anything to make the awkwardness even a little less painful. For me, each new introduction was another punch in the gut, more in reaction to hearing the shaming beliefs of others than voicing my own.
Every single time, I wanted to grab the other person by the shoulders and desperately plead with them not to speak to themselves like that. “You are worthy of love! I promise!” and, “You are enough exactly as you are!” Of course those things are true, why can’t they see that? Why can’t they understand how incredible and special and valued they are?
Yet, I can’t seem to give the same treatment to myself. When it comes to my own shame: being unlovable, being unworthy, never being enough, I stop listening. I tell myself that I don’t deserve validation, affirmation or affection. Any compliment is quickly shrugged off as “Oh they’re just being nice” or “They have to say that because they’re my family/friends” or “They’re just trying to make me feel better” and so on… And I’m sure a similar narrative goes on in your head as well.
So how do we change? How do I actually believe that I am loved and important and enough? Time and time again, my only answer is this: Jesus. Nothing we ever do or say will save us from our shame more than Christ’s blood on the cross. Our fears, our addictions, our idols, hurtful words, doubts, insecurities, gossip, resentment, jealousy… all of it is wiped away. Even the darkest, most sinful corners of our hearts are made new. He left nothing behind.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5
In all of your mess and wonder, you are enough. In all of my doubt and fear, I am enough. Write it on your mirror, set a reminder on your phone, repeat it over and over in your mind until it sinks in. Hell, you could even get it tattooed on your wrist… (that’s what I did).
As I’m writing, I can already hear those negative thoughts creeping back up. I gotta hand it to em, those things are nothing if not persistent. However, they are not the truth. Our shame does not have the final say.
Christ gives us a new name tag: chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, special possession. Amen to that.