When I wrestle with shame and insecurity, it’s never just one simple negative thought that goes away on its own. My mind starts spinning with the negative thoughts that I’m too much, too emotional, too needy, or not good enough. The voices echo in my head until I start to feel like I’ll never measure up to my own expectations or the expectations of those around me, and the shame is overwhelming.
In college this was a huge struggle for me and I had several panic attacks in my freshman and sophomore year when the insecurities got overwhelming. I felt trapped and hopeless to ever break free of the cycle. How could I turn off those negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones? How could I cling to the truths I knew were true about myself when the lies that I’m too much or not good enough were so much easier to believe?
Jon Acuff was one of my favorite bloggers back in the day, and when I came across his post entitled “Thinking You’re Naked,” I sat in my dorm room and cried. I came back to it over and over those next few months, crying even more each time as I read it.
After seeing his daughter experience shame for the first time over something silly, he jumps into the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and the fall, or the first time that humanity experienced the consequences of sin and shame. Acuff talks about that first heartbreaking moment when Adam and Eve have chosen pride and sin over God and God finds them hiding, trying to cover up the nakedness they are now painfully aware of. With hurt and deep sadness in His voice, God asks, “Who told you you were naked?”
In that moment, God isn’t concerned about the fact that they’re naked and vulnerable and human. What God sees in this moment is that the children He created are experiencing SHAME for that nakedness. For the first time, they are seeing their own needs and imperfections through the eyes of shame and judgment, instead of through the loving eyes of the One who created them to need and depend on others. And His heart breaks because he knows that shame like that doesn’t come from His deep heart that overflows with love and grace.
Questioning The Voices Of Insecurity
I don’t know that I could pinpoint a certain moment where I started to feel shame like Adam and Eve, where the insecurities that I wasn’t good enough or was too much started to creep in. But I know that from that moment early on until now, those negative thoughts come to mind from time to time. When I feel insecure, I’m learning to ask myself that question that God asked Adam and Eve, that simple but beautiful question that gets to the heart of the issue of insecurity and shame: Who told you you were naked?
Who told you that you’ll never be a good wife, that you will always wound your husband and make him feel like he’s not enough?
Who told you that you’ll never be a good enough friend, that you’re not as fun or outgoing or funny as everyone else?
Who told you that your dreams are silly, that your writing or your blog is small and insignificant and you’re wasting your time and your energy on this hobby?
Asking myself this question is essential for two reasons. First, it helps me to understand the root of the shame. For some of us, that shame might be the voice of a parent, friend, spouse, teacher, boss, or anyone who made us feel small. When we feel insecure, we’re actually hearing the voice of that person whose hurtful words shaped us many years before (or even just in the weeks and days before the shame sprang up).
Identifying how other people or scenarios play a role in our insecurities can help us to understand our own triggers and make decisions either to seek reconciliation in those hurtful relationships or to walk away. Either way, understanding how other people, both past and present, trigger our shame and insecurities can help us to proclaim those voices as lies and start to find healing.
But oftentimes, the voices of shame don’t have one source. That’s the second reason asking this question is so important. For me, the voices of shame often come from my worst critic: myself. I have such high expectations for myself in every area, from marriage and relationships to work and blogging. When I fail to live up to one of those expectations, my mind spins and spins and I feel hopeless to ever be the woman, wife, mom, creative, or human being that I want to be.
When I look for the real source of those voices of shame, I’m able to identify those thoughts as lies and try to replace them with the truths that I am known, loved, and deeply valued (you can read this post on how I’m finding freedom from shame to find out more about that process of replacing the lies with truths).
Finding Freedom From Insecurity
So my friends, the next time you start to feel the cycle of insecurity and shame, I hope you’ll join me in asking that same question that God asks his beloved son and daughter in the garden when they first cover themselves in shame: Who told you you were ________?
Who told you that you’ll never be a good mom, wife, daughter, or friend?
Who told you that you’ll never do anything meaningful, that your dead end job or lack of job is it for you and your life will never amount to anything?
Who told you that you aren’t lovable enough, that you’ll never get married or have kids or have the dream life you envisioned because there’s something wrong with you?
Who told you you’re too skinny, too fat, not pretty enough?
Who told you that your dream isn’t worth pursuing and you’ll never be able to accomplish it?
Who told you that you aren’t good enough?
Who told you you were naked?
My sweet friends, the voices of shame and insecurity are WRONG. In God and His deep, deep love for you, you are enough. You matter, your dreams matter, your heart matters. No matter how broken, insecure, and ashamed you feel, I’m here to state over and over again with God (and Jon Acuff):
Your shame does not define you and it never will.
May we always question the voices of shame and cling to the truths that in Him, we are loved, valued, and enough.
Please go check out this post by Jon Acuff. I have referred back to it over and over throughout the years and give him all the credit for opening my eyes to this beautiful idea.
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