For so many people, there is a weight of shame attached to growing up in a broken home and with broken family relationships. The shame of not knowing your biological parent(s). The shame of not being close as a family. The shame of dysfunction, addictions, secrets, abuse, incarceration, depression, etc. We feel like there is a red stain on us that says, “I’m not worthy. I only know brokenness. I’m ashamed of my family so I’m ashamed of myself…” I deeply understand this feeling. I too felt embarrassed and shameful. I overcame this by understanding this…
I don’t need to feel ashamed for other peoples choices. That’s first. My parents are who they choose to be because of them, not because I’m not worthy of love, not because I’m not enough, not because I did something wrong. As children, the response to internalize our parents behavior is natural, but as adults we can release the “it’s because of me” story and understand their choices aren’t about us, it’s about them and how they perceive life. I can’t control, change, or fix my family. So I stopped making myself believe that somehow who they were (or were not) was my fault. I stopped over-explaining my family life and just accepted it for what it was through a objective lens.
Secondly, no matter how dysfunctional or broken I felt my family was, I learned there was someone who had it worst. Don’t get me wrong, all things are relative but truthfully I couldn’t image going through what I’ve seen others experience. Also, ALL families have their challenges. The people you think have the most perfect situation have their struggles too. You don’t have to feel ashamed that your family is less than perfect, everybody’s family is!
Third, I got honest with myself about how I felt. Instead of covering and projecting my emotions with shame, I looked at what I was feeling underneath – disappointment, anger, resentment, sadness, confusion. Addressing what I felt beneath the shame gave me the space to heal from the root and authentically discuss my experiences. No one could “step on my toes” or get under my skin about my family life, I wasn’t sensitive about it anymore because I finally accepted my truth. However, I also stopped opening up to everyone about my experiences too. Whether it was friendships, chit chat with co-workers or dating, I would use discernment when sharing my upbringing. Some people just don’t get it. So I made sure to guard my heart and only spoke to people who I trusted to support me while I worked through this.
Lastly, because a part of my shame was wrapped in resentment, I had to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness comes through perspective for me so I took the perspective that 1) they did the best they could with what they knew – they could only give the love they had stored in their hearts and 2) that before parents are parents, they are imperfect men and women a life journey just like me.
You don’t have to carry this weight. If you are still struggling with understanding how to release shame please feel free to email me!
Light and Love,