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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shame and Worthiness

Today I am absolutely exhausted. I don't think I've been in bed before 1:30am once in the last week and a half. My body is definitely trying to send me a message. I'll be lucky if I can stay awake through USGA today.

Anyway, I wanted to write a bit really quickly (no worries; it won't be as long or convoluted as yesterday's post) about some thoughts I had today.

As I have continued reading the "Gay Mormons?" book I have had many thoughts go through my head, including the concept of coming out. In addition to this book, my therapist has been talking about having me go to a group therapy session in addition to our individual sessions. That means that I would be in front of a group of fellow BYU students (not straight this time) claiming my attractions and orientation and divulging the life I've had to hide for so long. That's mildly frightening. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad thing. The APA laws of confidentiality apply to that setting, so I wouldn't risk exposure at all. But still...

Anyway, as I thought about coming out, in small ways or in general, I felt the familiar tinge of fear that usually accompanies it.

These emotions were going about my head pretty chaotically until I read a bit in Brene Brown's "Gifts of Imperfection" later this afternoon. I randomly jumped to the middle of the book to a place where she is describing the concept of shame. She defines that as the "intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." It is the fear of rejection, of being hated or despised for who we are inside, and segregates us from those around us. As we feel that fear, the threat of shame, we distance ourselves from others, and effectively isolate ourselves emotionally. Dr. Brown makes the point that every addiction, regardless of what it is, has some root in shame.

As I read through these ideas, I realized that much of the reason I still feel isolated and uncomfortable at church, the reason I fear to be completely honest with my BYU peers, and the reason I still battle over this issue in my head is because I still have quite a bit of shame about this part of my life. Of course, my parents' reactions to all this hasn't helped. But I can't blame all my problems on them. Just because they played the shame game when they forced me out of the closet doesn't mean that everyone will.

Dr. Brown makes a point earlier in the book that the only difference between those people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and those who do not is this: those with a strong sense of love and belonging believe that they're worthy of it.

Shame destroys that belief of worthiness. Really, that term is not meant in the same way we abuse it in Mormon culture. It means believing that we as the individuals we are are worth love and belonging.

Having realized this, I hope to allow myself to love myself a little more, and get rid of the shame. Because as Ru Paul says, "if you can't love yourself how the hell  are you going to love somebody else? Can I get an amen in here?!"


Enduring said...

Thanks for the honesty. "Coming out" doesn't always have to be a public declaration. There is a difference between keeping a secret and keeping something private. I've come out in public fora, but that was not necessary for me to release the shame of being gay and Mormon. All I can say is I'm happier now and love myself more.

mohoguy said...

Ty, your post is very insightful. I also really appreciate Dr. Brown's work. Thank you for posting your thoughts. You are a great example to others.

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