The Battle of the Shame Angel versus the Self-Love Angel begins.
I’ve come to see my feelings of shame and my slowly growing self love as the good and bad angels sitting on each shoulder. Unfortunately, the Shame Angel is much, much stronger then my Self-Love Angel.
This was never more apparent to me then last night. I’ve been doing work exchange at my yoga studio. I work 1 night each week, and in exchange I get free unlimited yoga and other perks, the most important of which is the ability to spend more time around positive, self loving individuals. I work with a young girl (I say young because she is 1/2 my age, but she is extremely polished, professional and mature), and she and I were talking to the new assistant manager. The assistant manager told us that she is a certified yoga instructor. From that, we started talking about the merits of various types of exercise, like cross-fit, personal trainers, running, etc. During that train of thought I told them that I had taught aerobics at a Bali Fitness in the 80’s, not something I’ve told many people.
My older readers will remember aerobics in the 80’s, the age of Jane Fonda. As an instructor we wore a headset and skimpy work out clothes, and we did the work-out with the class, standing (or jumping around, more accurately) on a small stage in front of the class. There was no mingling, adjusting, or modifications, just a lot of coordination, enthusiasm and encouragement. The assistant manager said “Oh, I bet you were really good at that”. As soon as she said it, my Shame Angel jumped into action. She shouted in my ear “she’s saying you’re hyper, bossy, and out of control”. I kid you not; that it what I thought.
My Self-Love Angel sat quietly, watching this exchange, then whispered “I bet she doesn’t mean that at all. I bet she means you’re energetic and bubbly. Maybe you should ask her?”. My Shame Angel then told my Self-Love Angel “stop being an idiot, she can’t ask that woman what she meant, because she would then have to stutter around, searching for a way to positively frame what was clearly meant as an insult”. Whew. It’s exhausting keeping up with those two! No wonder I’m a walking ball of anxiety!
Later that night, someone was trying to sign her boyfriend up for a workshop, and she wanted to pay for him. This is a fairly straight forward process on the system the studio uses, and the girl I work with is clearly much more tech savvy then I am, so I was surprised when she asked if I could do it because she hadn’t yet done that with a workshop, only with regular classes. Bless her heart, because for a moment I actually believed her. My Shame Angel automatically answered “well I’ll try but I doubt I’ll be able to do it” and my work partner said “you need to stop saying that. You can do all of this really well and you shouldn’t put yourself down that way”. As it turned out, I could do it and, as my Self-Love Angel smirked at my Shame Angel, it dawned on me that my co-worker had most likely set the situation up to give me the opportunity to succeed. One of the many things I love about Yogi’s.
I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I now see how powerful and relentless my Shame Angel is. She was born during my childhood, during which I never felt good enough, but as I became independent, completed college, my Master’s degree and lots of therapy, she was starting to take a back seat to my Self-Love Angel. I think I was almost on the verge of silencing her when my ex entered my life. As is the process with a narcissist, after the love bombing was over, the systematic destruction of my Self-Love Angel began. Over the past 25 years, hearing repeatedly that I was crazy, hysterical, frigid, demeaning, talent less, cheap, and in desperate need of therapy, my Self-Love Angel disappeared. Completely. I’ve been living with the Shame Angel only, the one interpreting every situation as one in which I’m being criticized or have failed, the one who denies my every talent or ability, the one continually chides me for being sick and needy.
It wasn’t until last night that it became clear to me how powerful she is, because last night I realized this: My Shame Angel is freaking crazy! She’s the one who, whenever someone compliments me on something I’ve made says “she’s a fraud, she copies other people, she’s never had an original idea in her life”. She’s the one who, when a yoga teacher says “of course you can do that pose” tells me “she’s paid to say that, she doesn’t mean it”. She’s the one who, when I want to go to an event or outing says “you’re not really wanted there. You’ll be awkward and out of place, and you’ll make everyone else feel awkward”. She’s the one who says “of course you’re alone, who would want to be with you? And, if someone does want to be with you, they must be really screwed up”. Gotta love her, huh?
My Self-Love Angel, though, is starting to stand up for me. I recently made a really awesome yoga mat bag, piecing together different patterns I found on the internet to create the exact bag I wanted, and my Self-Love Angel, when I’m complimented on it and told I should make them to sell says “see…..maybe you really are creative”. She is the one who, when I’m told I can tackle a pose I thought was out of my reach (like Birds of Paradise) says “try it. With some help I bet you can do it”, and I did! She’s the one who says to me “your boys aren’t being good to you because they feel sorry for you, they’re good to you because they love you and enjoy spending time with you”. And I think she’s right! I think I might really be creative, strong, loving and fun. I think if I can get rid of that damn Shame Angel I might find peace and happiness.
I know it’s a big If, but if I can feed my Self-Love Angel, she just might knock that damn Shame Angel off my shoulder. Fingers crossed.