Quiz: how well do you love yourself? (and why self-love isn’t selfish)

It’s half way through 2022 and what better time than this to take stock of where we’re at in terms of shame and self-love. I’ve devised a magazine-style quiz to help us do just that.

I don’t know about you but I used to love the quiz pages in girls’ magazines when I was a teenager. I used to take turns with my friends and compare notes. It sometimes surprised me when I got a score that was different to the one I expected – but of course magazine quizzes don’t ever lie do they?!

I hope that this quiz/mid-year review can be a light-hearted way of discovering more about ourselves and our journeys to get free from shame.

Defining self-love

I see self-love and shame as being on opposite ends of the same spectrum, which means that as people who live with shame and self-rejection, our ability to love ourselves is impaired. Shame also affects our ability to give and receive love in relationship with others, and when we don’t love ourselves it’s so much harder to love others – which is why I think it’s critical that we learn to love ourselves.

But I want to just address something that I’ve heard way too many times in the last few years from many different sources. It’s the idea that self-love equates to selfishness or self-indulgence or pride.

I suspect that perhaps the people who say those types of things don’t have a particularly healthy view of love (or maybe they do and they just have another reason for dismissing self-love). I think that if our definition of love is faulty in the first place then when we apply that definition to self-love that’s going to look pretty different to real self-love.

For example, people sometimes say that people ‘love themselves too much’ when they really mean that they’re proud. But in the same way that putting someone else on a pedestal isn’t the same as loving them, putting yourself on a pedestal isn’t the same as loving yourself either. Instead, let’s call it what it really is – pride. (And in fact, as I mentioned in my previous post, pride can often be a symptom of shame, which is the exact opposite of self-love anyway).

Some other unhealthy definitions of love that can spill over into our view of self-love include:

  • Obsession with the other person (or self-obsession when it relates to self-love)
  • Indulging the other person, spoiling them and always giving them everything they want (or self-indulgence when it comes to self-love)
  • Putting the other person on a pedestal (or pride when it comes to self-love)
  • Allowing the other person to have their own way all the time and get away with anything (or having no boundaries with yourself when it comes to self-love)

So what is love then? We need a healthy view of love that can be applied to both our relationships with others and our relationships with ourselves. Thankfully, there’s a definition of love that applies beautifully to both, and it can even help us recognise typical shame-based behaviours too. Plus it’s a definition that’s stood the test of time – it’s nearly 2,000 years old!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIVUK

When you apply that definition of love to self-love, it doesn’t look at all like selfishness, self-obsession, pride or self-indulgence. And I honestly don’t think that we can ever say that someone loves themselves “too much” when we’re using that definition of love. Instead we can see negative behaviour for what it really is and call it pride or selfishness or whatever.

Self-love quiz: rules and scoring

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at scoring. Here’s how it can work…

We look at a set period of time in our pasts, say three or five years ago. Don’t worry if you can’t remember back that far, it doesn’t have to be super accurate. Then we go through each question in turn and either write down how we are now in that area compared to how we were back then, or we give ourselves a numeric score, or both.

For example, for the first question about how patient you are with yourself, you might say: ‘five years ago I used to be hard on myself for several days when I lost my temper; nowadays it’s still a big battle but I’m only hard on myself for max. two days now.’ Something like that. You get to pick specific examples that are meaningful for you.

The scoring goes from 0 to 2:

  • 0= you do this less than you used to, even if only a tiny bit;
  • 1= you don’t do this any less or more than before;
  • 2= you do this more than you used to, even if only a tiny bit.

The above example about being patient with yourself would score a 2 because the person is showing themselves more patience than before, even though perhaps they aren’t quite where they want to be yet.

Then you take your score for the first section (self-love) and subtract your score for the second section (shame-based behaviours).

If you’re like me, for each question you’ve probably got examples that show both an increase and a decrease in the same behaviour – for example you’re more patient with yourself now in some areas of your life and less patient with yourself in others – leaving your answers a bit vague and difficult to pin down.

Don’t worry, we’re not going for super accuracy here. If you can, try and think in overall terms (e.g. in general do you think that your patience with yourself has increased or decreased). If that’s too confusing, just go with the first example that comes to mind (for example I’m more patient with myself when I make a mistake at work than I used to be).

It’s never going to be perfect and it’s really hard to be statistically accurate when we’re dealing with such subjective topics so feel free to ditch the scoring and just go with your heart if you’re finding it too frustrating.

If you’re someone who battles with severe perfectionism or who just can’t seem to hold back on being hard on yourself then it may not help you to give yourself a numeric score when you do this quiz. For anyone else, scoring is optional – please only do it if you can do so in a kind and loving way towards yourself.

Self-love quiz: the questions

Ok, now that we’ve covered rules and scoring, it’s time for the questions.

Confession time: I’ve just stolen the questions from the bible verses that I mentioned above and turned them into a quiz. I know that’s cheating. Thankfully, they’re out of copyright by about 1,900 years so I think I should be safe from any lawsuits.

It might help to read on for my personal examples first before doing the quiz so that you can understand the questions in context (and if I’ve made it confusing, I’m sorry, please ask any questions in the comments section).

Questions about how we love ourselves

Remember: 0= you do this less than you used to, even if only a tiny bit; 1= you don’t do this any less or more than before; 2= you do this more than you used to, even if only a tiny bit.

  1. How patient are you with yourself now compared to before? …/2
  2. How kind are you towards yourself now compared to before? …/2
  3. How forgiving are you towards yourself now compared to before (keep no record of wrongs)? …/2
  4. How protective are you of yourself now compared to before? …/2
  5. How much do you believe in yourself and your abilities now compared to before?…/2
  6. How much do you trust yourself now compared to before?…/2
  7. How much do you look for the best in yourself now compared to before?…/2
  8. How much do you persevere in loving yourself now compared to before? (unconditional self-love)…/2

Self-love score – …/16

Questions about our shame-based behaviours (and how we love others)

Remember: 0= you do this less than you used to, even if only a tiny bit; 1= you don’t do this any less or more than before; 2= you do this more than you used to, even if only a tiny bit.

  1. How envious are you now compared to before? …/2
  2. How boastful are you now compared to before? …/2
  3. How proud are you now compared to before? …/2
  4. How much do you dishonour others now compared to before? …/2
  5. How self-seeking are you now compared to before? …/2
  6. How angry are you now compared to before? …/2
  7. How much do you delight in evil (i.e. behaviours that harm yourself and others) now compared to before?…/2
  8. How much do you hide the truth from others now compared to before? …/2

Shame-based behaviours score – …/16 (Now subtract your score for this section from your score for the previous section to get your total score).

Total score (self-love minus shame-based behaviours)= …/16

The results

If you scored below zero

If you scored below zero, or if you scored less than you hoped, then you need to know that this does not mean that you’re a bad person or that you’re doing badly at life. It just means that you’re living with a lot of shame right now and that’s likely not your fault.

Instead of beating yourself up for going backwards, can you ask yourself why and do so without judgement? You probably have a genuine reason for having more shame now than you did back then. Did something happen to you? Did you make a big mistake? Are you going through a really difficult time? There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling shame.

What are the areas you struggle with the most? I’ve included some resources in my answers towards the end of this blog post that may be helpful for you as you look for ways to heal. You may find it helpful to speak to a professional counsellor.

Lastly, please know that you’re not alone. My heart aches for you. I’ve been there, I know how it feels. You’re loved and you’re worthy of love, no matter how much you may think that you’re not. I’m praying for you and love you even though we’ve never met.

If you scored zero

You’re doing ok but not necessarily seeing big progress at the moment. Just by looking at this blog post, you’re taking baby steps to get free from shame so keep going.

One thing that may help is to look back through your answers and see what areas you’re struggling with the most and then look through some of the helpful links that I’ve included in my answers below. You can also look through previous Love Not Shame blog posts to find information to help you on your healing journey.

You’re not alone on your journey and everyone has to start somewhere.

If you scored above zero

You’re going in the right direction – keep going!

My answers and some helpful resources

Had I done this quiz five years ago, I would’ve scored minus 16 without a doubt. I’d hit rock bottom and my shame was overwhelming. But when you hit rock bottom the only way is up and I’ve seen huge improvements in my shame, even though I’m not yet where I want to be, thanks to my new-found Christian faith and learning to see myself the way God sees me.

Questions about how we love ourselves

1. How patient are you with yourself now compared to before? (i.e. patience when you mess up and patience with slow progress) 2/2

There’s a sentence that I’ve banned myself from saying in the last few years: ‘I should be better than this by now.’ I used to think it would help me to buck my ideas up and get over it already. I’ve since learnt that the opposite is true and that saying that sentence (or similar things like ‘Why am I still struggling with this?’) actually keeps me stuck.

I know that progress is so slow when you’re overcoming shame – I’ve lived it every day for the past 5 ½ years – but that doesn’t mean that shaming ourselves for not healing more quickly can ever help.

Some things that have helped me to become more patient with myself include:

  • this video about focusing on the actions you take rather than the outcome and celebrating small wins (I also alluded to this practice in my blog post, Shame VS Abundant Life);
  • praying a prayer of examen every evening and specifically asking myself what victories I can celebrate today, however small;
  • periodically looking back, not to shame myself but to see how far I’ve come over the past few years (this quiz/review is a great way of doing that);
  • stopping saying things like ‘I should be past this by now’ etc.

The second way I define patience with myself is accepting myself even when I make mistakes, and there’s another thing that I’ve banned myself from doing – being hard on myself when I mess up. One question that helps is: ‘Would I treat a friend this way if they did the same thing?’ This is definitely an area where I have a long way to go yet but I’m definitely making some progress. The thing that helps me most in this area is just noticing with curiosity when I do something wrong (see my blog post on learning to notice without judgement)

Both of these areas of becoming more patient with myself are works in progress and I’m not yet where I want to be but as I’ve seen some change in this area then I’ll score myself 2 points.

2. How kind are you towards yourself now compared to before? 2/2

I used to be brutal towards myself, calling myself names like ‘stupid’ and ‘ugly’. I also treated myself disrespectfully when I imagined what others thought of me and I criticised myself every time I messed up, as I mentionned above. I was such a bully towards myself but I would never have said any of those things to another person.

Another thing I would do was invalidate my own suffering and gaslight myself. I would tell myself things like: ‘it’s really not that bad,’ ‘other people have it worse,’ ‘just get over it.’ I never once showed myself kindness or compassion because I thought it was self pity and self-indulgence.

I once saw a video where several people were asked to describe how they spoke to themselves. All of them spoke so negatively to themselves and criticised their perceived flaws and failures. Then the interviewer held up a picture of each of the interviewees when they were children and asked if they would say the same words to the child in the photo. All of them cried (as did I) and said that they would never say such hurtful things to a child.

I’ve learnt the hard way that the words we speak to ourselves have huge amounts of power over us and that when we speak negative things over ourselves it’s like we’re cursing ourselves. I know from experience that the more I’m hard on myself, the harder it is to overcome the very behaviours that I’m hard on myself for.

A few years ago I took on the challenge of not saying or thinking a single negative thing about myself but only encouraging myself. The remarkable changes that I experienced in the way I saw myself made me realise that I don’t actually need to be hard on myself – it serves no purpose. I thought it would make me change my behaviour through the ‘stick’ effect, but the thing that really helped me was the ‘carrot’ of self-motivation, love, empowerment and encouragement.

I challenge you to the same thing today – why not try it for a month and see what happens?

(You can also include self-care actions in this section and whether you practice self-care – things like healthy eating, getting enough sleep, exercising and meditating – more or less than before. I haven’t included this in my response because I intend to write a whole blog post on this subject in the future).

3. How forgiving are you towards yourself now compared to before (keep no record of wrongs)? 2/2

I don’t know about you but I’ve got a whole book’s worth of things in my past that just make me cringe. I used to keep a mental catalogue of my mistakes and failures and dredge up those memories to beat myself up with whenever I felt worthless.

Some of the things that I was most ashamed of were things that I didn’t choose to do at all but was coerced into doing by my abusive ex boyfriend. I chose to call myself a twisted pervert and a weirdo for wanting to do things like horrible sexual acts and taking drugs, but in truth I never wanted to do any of those things. I hated them and certainly would never have chosen them of my own accord (see my blog post on coercion for more information about coercion and how to spot it but please be aware that it comes with a trigger warning).

Letting go of these past failures and forgiving and accepting myself has been a long journey. I still sometimes dwell on my past mistakes but it’s now rare that I do so and I don’t allow myself to do it for long.

So what things have helped me to forgive myself for my past failures? Here are some things that I can think of off the top of my head:

  • stopping calling myself names has probably been the biggest thing that I’ve changed;
  • realising that memories from the past sometimes have something to tell me, perhaps an area where Istill need to heal or am holding a grudge or believing a lie (though this isn’t the case with every memory that comes up);
  • recognising the signs of coercion (I’ve written about my experience of coercion), accepting that I hadn’t consented, processing my emotions and ultimately forgiving my abuser;
  • learning that I’m forgiven by God and that all my sins and failures have been taken away and are remembered no more – it took me a long time to truly understand this and I still have so much more to learn;
  • saying a prayer of forgiveness for myself – actually declaring out loud ‘I choose to forgive myself for… and let go of any judgement that I’m holding against myself’;
  • confessing and, in certain cases where appropriate and safe, making amends for the things I did;
  • reminding myself that I can’t go back and change the past and that it can’t affect me now, and that thinking about the past is like watching a video of someone else’s life because I’m just not the same person anymore;
  • learning to embrace my failures and mistakes, learn from them and see them as making me a stronger person (this podcast episode really helped with this);
  • recognising where I was imagining what others thought of me for making the mistakes that I made, and choosing not to do so;
  • reminding myself that as a Christian I’m a new creation and that the old me is dead.

Here’s an article with more information on self-forgiveness .

4. How protective are you of yourself now compared to before? 2/2

One aspect of protecting myself that I’ve been learning to do in the last few years is to guard my heart. That means being careful of what I read, watch and listen to and avoiding anything that will retraumatise me, such as the horror movies I used to love so much in my teens and twenties. I realise now that the things I take in do have a big effect on my brain and emotions and I need to protect myself against certain things.

On the same theme, another thing that I’m mindful of these days is being careful around especially triggering content such as articles about child abuse or anything related to what I’ve been through. That doesn’t mean that I just avoid everything and stick my head in the sand but it does mean that I’m far more aware that if I’m having a bad day and something has a trigger warning on it then I need to be careful around it. I’ve even walked out of the room in the past when the conversation was triggering for me.

One thing I’ve done to protect my mental health is actually take the drastic step of quitting all social media and making sure that I focus my mind on healthy things like nature and family – things I love. I’ve cut down on reading the news too.

I certainly care a lot more about personal safety these days compared to my youth but I don’t see any change in how I protect myself in this area in the last five years.

Protecting myself online is perhaps one of the biggest changes I’ve made in the last few years and I’m now very careful about which companies I trust with my personal data and make sure that none of my personal details are online. This is partly because I don’t want someone from my past to find out where I live, and partly just that I’m more conscious of protecting myself in this space.

5. How much do you believe in yourself and your abilities now compared to before? 2/2

I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of impostor syndrome over the years and doubted myself at every step. Nowadays I’m far happier to put myself out there and do things that use my skills and abilities more than before. I think a big part of this has been starting to overcome my fear of failure and my perfectionism. I also deliberately choose to look for the good in myself instead of the negative, and that includes my abilities too.

This has been a gradual change for me over the last four or so years.

The mantra, ‘My best is good enough’ has hugely helped me in this. I received a print-out of those words on a picture of a beautiful sunset, which made me cry when I rediscovered it three years ago. It was the permission that I so desperately needed to give to myself to just rest and stop putting pressure on myself. Saying those words again and again have really helped me to lift off that burden from my shoulders.

I’ve seen the results of this in practice with this blog. When I worked as a freelance writer five years ago, I used to spend most of my writing time on editing my work – going through it with a fine-tooth comb again and again and again. I was more concerned about what was wrong with my work rather than what was right with it and totally missed the point about what was the most important thing. Nowadays with my blog, I’m a lot more laissez-faire about typos and grammatical errors and I spend far less of my time editing and find that my words just flow so much better now than they used to.

I think that a huge part of what’s helped me is knowing that God is the one who’s given me those abilities and that he is using them for good, and that his power is made perfect in my weaknesses. That’s really helped me to accept my flaws and failures and instead see them as areas that God can use to help others. And I’ve seen this in my own life time and time again. Knowing that all my worth and value and identity come from how he’s made me to be and not from my achievements has helped me immensely (I will write more about this in a future blog post).

This short podcast episode on self confidence also helped me a lot and I hope that it will help you too.

6. How much do you trust yourself and your gut instincts now compared to before? 2/2

Writing this quiz actually helped me to realise that the ability to trust myself and my gut instincts was taken from me in childhood, but that recently I’ve been making the choice to trust myself again. My abusers may have betrayed my trust and deceived me but that doesn’t mean that I can never trust in my gut instincts again – my gut instincts are still trying to protect me.

Almost four years ago I had a panic attack after I suddenly thought that there was a chance I may have been sexually abused and all the symptoms added up. It was like a lightbulb moment but I just saw it as a big fat lie. Practically every day since then I had the words rape and abuse going round in my head but I still refused to believe. Whether that was God or one of the parts of my personality speaking to me I don’t know, but I know that every time I shut it down. The evidence just kept stacking up and I just kept not believing myself. It wasn’t necessarily because I was in denial, just because had so much shame and thought that my gut instincts weren’t to be trusted and that I would be exposed as a total fraud and a liar if I told someone I was abused and turned out to be wrong.

When I finally accepted the truth in October last year, it was mainly because the evidence was impossible to deny any more rather that that I’d suddenly started trusting myself.

Fast forward to 30th May this year, I realised that I’d been triggered by thoughts about my friend’s dad, and I’d also been triggered by seeing my friend two weeks before. (I wrote about it in my blog post about vulnerability). Instead of pretend that there was nothing wrong and shaming myself for making things up for attention, this time I chose to trust my instincts and my traumatised brain. The truth started to unravel and, even though I still don’t have all the facts of what happened, my brain was proven right. The information I’ve learnt recently about my brain and how it deals with trauma triggers helped me to see that I could trust my instincts and that my triggers aren’t just a nuisance but they’re trying to tell me something about what happened to help me to heal.

No longer will I shut my gut instincts down in shame when they try to tell me something. This time I’m listening, but of course with discernment.

The resources that helped me to see that I could trust my triggers came from carolynspring.com, especially her brilliant blog post called Trauma and the Bears: a Fable. (I’ve also read and highly recommend her book Unshame and have two of her online courses which I’m still working through).

7. How much do you look for the best in yourself now compared to before? 2/2

(The wording for this in the verses I listed near the beginning of this blog post was ‘always hopes’ but I found another translation that uses the words ‘always looks for the best.’ I thought that would be easier to use here.)

I never used to look for the good in myself at all. I just didn’t really think there was much about me that was good compared to other people. About four years ago, I listened to a meditation by the American singer Mandissa (it was partially based on the second part her song story for her song Unfinished but I can’t find the original meditation online). She talked about how we so often focus on what’s wrong with us rather than what’s right with us and suggested writing a list of our attributes to start focusing on the positives. I’d never even considered doing this but I started writing and found that once I started looking I was able to find more and more things that are good about me.

Caitlin Zick, in the book ‘Look at you girl’ (here it is on Goodreads) says something similar with regards to how we talk to ourselves in the mirror. She suggested putting something on your mirror(s), like a post-it note or similar, to remind yourself to be thankful for two things – one thing about your appearance and one thing about your inner-self (like your personality traits or talents) every time you look in the mirror.

I read the book at the beginning of this year and one area I thought this could help with was the way I spoke to myself on zoom calls. I use the phone app so can’t turn off self-view and whenever I looked at myself on the screen I would inwardly criticise everything from the way I looked to my posture to the way I smiled and nodded. So I changed my display name to ‘Thankful Helen’ earlier this year to remind myself to be thankful for who I am and how I look instead of criticising myself. It actually worked really well, especially the first few times. Now I’ve changed my name back to Helen but whenever I notice myself being self-critical I instantly know to be thankful for how God made me.

I find that once I make a deliberate choice to look for the good things about myself I eventually start doing it automatically too. I challenge you to start looking for the good in yourself, you’ll find way more than you expect.

8. How much do you persevere in loving yourself now compared to before? (unconditional self-love) 2/2

This is something that thankfully I haven’t had too many opportunities to put to the test in a big way in the past few years in terms of failing so badly that it’s hard to love myself. But I’ve definitely found that self-love is a day-to-day slog, and some days are definitely easier than others.

One example of where I find it hard to persevere in loving myself isn’t so much when I mess up (although that’s hard too) because I’m aware of it and can repent and know I’m forgiven. Instead it’s when I feel strong negative emotions like shame or anxiety and just feel a bit dirty inside and unloveable but don’t quite know why. Then I start digging around trying to figure out what’s wrong with me instead of showing myself the love and compassion I need. Of course I know in my head that emotions don’t make me unloveable, but when I feel bad I think I am bad, even though it’s just not true. I wrote about this in my very first post on this blog: Beauty in the Mess and I still battle with it regularly.

I still do it so often – even yesterday morning – but I’m learning and changing bit by bit and growing in unconditional self-love as a result. As I said, it’s definitely sometimes a hard slog. But even yesterday, after an hour or so of being hard on myself and looking for hidden faults, I remembered the truth that just because I feel bad doesn’t mean that I am bad and my feelings – even negative feelings – can be beautiful, just as I said in the Beauty in the Mess blog post. I reminded myself that I am still loveable even when I’m feeling terrible inside and meditated on some of my favourite verses about God’s love for me. I pictured God surrounding me with his unfailing love and looking at me with eyes of love – I so often find that if I can let God love me then it’s so much easier to love myself and that was also the case yesterday morning.

You’ve probably got other areas where you have to persevere in loving yourself but I know that it’s definitely worth the slog at the end of it.

Self-love score – 16/16

Perfect score so far! Remember that you don’t need to be perfect or completely free from shame in order to score top marks, you just need to be heading in the right direction, even if it’s tiny baby steps. For example, just reading this blog is a step in the right direction and shows that you want to get free from shame and start loving yourself more.

Questions about our shame-based behaviours (and how we love others)

9. How envious are you now compared to before? 0/2

For me the way in which envy has shown itself most in my life is through FOMO (fear of missing out), and I know that for me this is mostly rooted in shame. I remember five years ago, when I first moved back with my parents and my health had rapidly gone downhill, I regularly wondered what other people were doing and believed that they were all out having fun while I was stuck in bed – and that this made me somehow a less valuable person than them. I especially envied my ex-boyfriend, thinking that he was out having an amazing time now that we’d broken up.

I think the thing that I found especially hard wasn’t so much about everyone else having fun but the fact that I wasn’t able to go out to work and had to claim disability benefits. It seemed as though all my friends and ex-colleagues were doing important meaningful work and climbing the career ladder while I was spending my days resting in bed. I envied them and just generally thought that they were better than me.

The truth is, though, that difficult circumstances don’t make someone a less valuable person, and just because I was spending my weekends quietly indoors not doing much, I still had a lot of worth.

An area I still find quite hard is relationships and envying those who are married (seemingly happily). I think this again links to shame and the idea that I’m worth less than others because I’m single. Growing up I also used to envy the popular kids who seemed to have it all sussed out. It wasn’t so much because I wanted what they had but that I believed they were better than me and they fitted in and I didn’t.

I’ve had to unpack a lot of the lies that I believed about my worth and value and identity coming from the things that I do – things like my work, my relationships and my social life. It’s been a journey of discovering who I really am and where my worth really comes from. I will write about this in more detail in a future blog post but I thought I’d share an analogy on the subject that I found helpful. It’s from a course called Leap into Love. She demonstrated how our worth isn’t affected by things like our jobs or relationships or social lives (or whatever thing you have FOMO about) by holding up a banknote and asking what it was worth. Of course it was worth the value that was printed on the note. Then she asked what it would be worth if she damaged the note – perhaps by screwing it up or tearing it or treading on it. The correct answer was that it had the exact same value as if it were an undamaged, perfect banknote. Because its value was never in how beautiful it looked or how well it performed. The same is true of us as humans. I think the analogy spoke to me so much because I just couldn’t get my head around my worth coming from within, and changing my thinking on this is what helped me to overcome the envy and FOMO.

10. How boastful are you now compared to before? 0/2

I’ve written a lot about this in my blog post, ‘Discovering the roots of my pride and learning to notice without judgement’ so I won’t go into much detail here. As you can read in the blog post, boasting used to be something I battled with a lot. But over recent years I’ve chosen to be more vulnerable and open with people and started to get free from a lot of the shame that was causing the boasting in the first place, in particular just noticing and accepting my shame-based thoughts like: ‘That person is doing better at life than me.’

11.How proud are you now compared to before? 0/2

Again this is a subject that I’ve written a lot about recently in my pride blog post so I won’t go into detail, but pride is definitely an area that I used to struggle with – particularly obsessively imagining what others thought of me, boasting, thinking that I’m better than others and regularly striving to prove myself to others. It’s also an area that I’ve huge improvements in just by showing myself compassion and noticing the shame-based thoughts and emotions behind my pride. Read the blog post to find out more.

12. How much do you dishonour others now compared to before? 0/2

There are so many ways in which shame and self-rejection can cause us to dishonour others. For example, some people who struggle with lust rooted in shame may objectify other people.

For me personally, I can think of two ways in which this manifested in my life: rejecting other people before they could reject me and judging other people.

Until a few years ago, I believed that everyone was rejecting me. It was only about three or four years ago that I came to the sudden realisation that I was the one who was doing all the rejecting. My shame told me that I wasn’t good enough for other people and that they would reject me if they knew the real me. I genuinely believed that I just didn’t fit in and that everyone hated me. It’s all a lie and I can see that now thankfully. I can think of numerous examples from my childhood, teenage years and well into adulthood where I would suddenly go cold on people – or never be warm with them to start with – because I just thought they didn’t want me in their lives. Or I would stand a little way off from a group, believing that I didn’t fit in there. Then, because I’d rejected them, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy because then I had few friends. And it was a form of confirmation bias: because I believed that I didn’t fit in and that everyone would reject me, my brain automatically looked for examples to prove me right and overlooked anything that didn’t fit my worldview. So even though so many people went out of their way to include me, I could only see myself as someone who everyone rejected.

This was particularly a problem in my university days where every time I made a friend on my course I would go cold on them or even pretend not to see them because I genuinely believed that I was a burden on them and they didn’t want me around. Of course they never said that and nothing in their behaviour implied it. It’s also stopped me from going out and making new friends throughout my adult years until very recently.

In the last few years I’ve learnt to give people the benefit of the doubt and trust that if they really don’t want me around they will make it clear. I’ve gone out of my comfort zone and deliberately sought out new friends because every time someone accepts me for who I am, that then teaches my brain that I’m acceptable and my confirmation bias goes in the other direction, with my brain now looking for evidence to prove that I am acceptable. It hasn’t been easy and it’s been tiny baby steps so far but I’m definitely on a new path with this. Just recognising the thought patterns and realising that it’s me who’s causing the rejection was a huge step in the right direction. I will write more on this topic in a future blog post.

The other area where I used to dishonour others a lot was in judging them. Again this has changed hugely just in the last few years. I discovered that I was so judgemental and critical of others because that was how I acted towards myself. As soon as I started being nice to myself (see my answer to question two for more details), I also stopped nitpicking others and being so critical. I do sometimes still do this but now that I have a lot less shame I also judge others far less. It’s like what I said at the beginning of this blog post: when we don’t love ourselves we find it so much harder to love others.

13. How self-seeking are you now compared to before? 0/2

It seems like a paradox that not loving yourself enough can lead to selfishness doesn’t it? But that’s what I’ve seen in my own life, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I know that it’s only when I started to love myself more that I no longer acted selfishly, but the thing I find hard is pinpointing exactly the role that shame played in my selfishness.

One way in which selfishness used to manifest itself in my life was through food. I always wanted a lot of food and had a sense of entitlement when I didn’t get what I wanted. I believed that I deserved to have big portions of everything because I was underweight and needed to gain weight. I remember five-and-a-half years ago eating a whole box of cheese straws that my then boyfriend had received in a Christmas hamper from work. When he asked me about it, I didn’t even apologise for eating them but just for forgetting to tell him that I’d done so. In my head I justified it by thinking about how hungry and weak I was feeling. As he was the one with the car and I was mostly house-bound I secretly blamed it on him for not getting me more food from the shops, even though I’d never asked him to do so and he didn’t know what I wanted.

Perhaps this example only partially links to shame – I certainly had a scarcity mentality growing up and that’s likely a big part of it. But when I look back to that time, all I can see is someone so steeped in shame that she can’t even face telling her boyfriend that she ate his cheese straws because she’s so convinced he’ll reject her and see her for the horrible person that she really is. And the thought of asking him to buy me more food at the supermarket so that I’d feel less dizzy was completely alien to me – shame told me I had to be the perfect girlfriend and certainly couldn’t express weakness or need.

Back then shame stopped me from thinking of others or empathising with them. I had no compassion for myself so how could I have compassion for others? It’s only now that I’m learning to love myself and receive love and love others that I’m starting to feel empathy for others and consider their needs of equal value to mine.

The strategies that I list in my answers to questions two and 12 can also help with overcoming selfishness too.

14. How angry are you now compared to before? 2/2

When I was looking up the connection between anger and shame, I found many articles about how people who experience shame often lash out defensively, often to prevent someone getting too close. Apparently this is pretty common for people who live with shame, and here are some tips on how to overcome this type of anger.

But this isn’t the case for me. I actually can’t think of any examples of this in my own life, in fact shame has prevented me from feeling or expressing any anger at all. I recently discovered that, because of the nature of the abuse that I experienced from a young age, shame actually protected me from aggravating the situation and being at risk of further abuse or harm. Shame is an inbuilt self-preservation strategy that got me internalising what was done to me rather than lashing out. I learnt this from Carolyn Spring – I can’t remember if it was in her book, Unshame, or on her website but she has a great article about shame preventing anger, and I’ve included a quote below.

“No wonder they had said what they’d said and done what they’d done. The fault wasn’t in them: it was in me. I was the bad one. I ought to incur their wrath, rather than them mine. I was lucky enough for them to call me their friend – how dare I protest at their treatment of me? Shame, shame, shame. I’m bad, I’m wrong, I don’t deserve better than this. Sink into myself. Look down, don’t look up. Go small. Shame, shame, shame. I will take the blame; I will subsume all the badness of the situation into myself. Please-and-appease. Apologise for their wrongdoing, just to keep the peace. Shame, shame, shame.

“Thus shame became the handbrake on my anger.”

Carolyn Spring, ‘Shame is the handbrake on anger

Of course at the time of abuse suppressing my anger served an important purpose, but now that I’m an adult and safe from my abusers it actually stops me from healing. So in order to get free from the shame that’s holding me back, I need to feel and process my anger as it comes up. It’s a long process and I’m not there yet by any means but I am making big progress and I’ve recently been allowing myself to feel tiny bits of anger towards my abusers for what they did to me. (I’m not deliberately looking for things to be angry about, just letting myself feel the anger as it comes up).

Just to be clear, when I’m talking about anger, I’m not talking about bitterness and simmering resentment for what they did. That just makes me feel bad and keeps me stuck in the past. Forgiveness has been my main weapon against this (as I mentionned in my article on coercion).

It seems a bit strange to mark myself with two points for this when I’m actually seeing progress but I’m going to just for consistency – you can make that decision for yourself if you find yourself in a similar situation.

15. How much do you delight in evil (i.e. behaviours that harm yourself and others) now compared to before? 0/2

I’ve gone with behaviours that harm yourself or others for this question because I couldn’t imaging many people actually choosing to delight in evil, but I may be wrong. It certainly isn’t the case for me anyway. And anyway, behaviours that harm ourselves and others – including compulsive behaviours and addictions – are so often rooted in shame and a lack of self-love so it fits better in this quiz. But feel free to put what you want here.

I have an article planned on this subject very soon so I won’t go into huge amounts of detail here or I’ll have nothing left to write.

This is an area that I’ve battled with and still often battle with now, though thankfully I’ve come a long way in the last few years. For me the battle has been things like: compulsive sexual thoughts and fantasies, masturbation, scratching/harming myself, constant distraction from reality, compulsive thought patterns like the ones I mentionned in my article on pride, even lying to protect my reputation which I’ll mention below.

The solution to these behaviours hasn’t been to put strict rules on myself and punish myself when I messed up. That just made things so much worse. Instead it was self-kindness, feeling my emotions, acknowledging my struggles and letting other people in to see the real me. I will write more on the specific things that have helped me with this in my upcoming blog post but for now just remember what I wrote in that pride blog post:

By shaming myself for behaviours that are rooted in shame, I’m actually making those behaviours much worse.

16. How much do you hide the truth from others now compared to before? 0/2

It’s a well-known fact that shame thrives in secrecy, darkness and hiddenness. And I’ve found time and time again that when I bring the things I’m ashamed of out into the light of truth, they lose their power over me. But unfortunately shame also tries to force us to stay hidden and to keep the truth of who we are and what we’ve done well away from the light.

I’ve found that in my life, this happens in two linked ways: deliberately lying to protect my reputation and not letting others in to see my true self. I did a lot more of the second one than the first one but I certainly did sometimes lie to protect my reputation.

One example of this was when I believed that I had a parasite infection (I now know that I didn’t but at the time I was paranoid) and thought that I’d given worms to those around me. I felt so much shame about it and believed that if anyone knew the truth I would be rejected and my life would be over. I literally believed that.

So I decided to not tell my ex-boyfriend that I thought I had worms and instead researched the side effects and drug interactions of the parasite tablets. And when I found that it wouldn’t harm him, I put one in his food (even though he didn’t actually have the worms and nor did I – like I said I was paranoid and filled with shame). What I did was so wrong and I really regret it. I was driven by lies and shame and never should have done it. Unfortunately, by the time I had a conscience about it and finally accepted that I’d done wrong, I had cut off all ties with him and had no way of making it up to him. Though perhaps it’s a good thing that he didn’t get a message from me out of the blue saying I’d put a parasite drug in his food!

That’s an extreme example of how shame drives us to lies and secrecy. I more commonly chose the more subtle option of hiding my true self from people and not being vulnerable with them. As you can see, that’s no longer an issue for me as I’ve just written my darkest secret on a public blog! But I’ve come a long way to get here.

I used to be the friend who listened to everyone else’s problems and supported them but never leaned on anyone else when I had a problem, and certainly never let anyone in to the deepest parts of me. That sounds nice – like I was selfless and supportive – but in reality a friendship needs to go two ways and it can only go deep if both parties are willing to be vulnerable.

A few years ago, God showed me that I was feeling lonely and I didn’t know how to fix that as I was mostly house-bound at the time. But God showed me that my loneliness wasn’t based on a lack of interactions with people as I’d thought, but a lack of deep interactions with people. At the same time he showed me that I had walls up and was deliberately keeping other people at a distance. I started with tiny steps – telling a close trusted friend how I was feeling about a situation – and intentionally went deeper and deeper. I now have one friend who I see each week and we are very intentional about opening up to each other about our inner hurts, struggles and victories on a weekly basis. It’s taken a huge amount of courage and strength to get to this point but it’s so worth it. I’m praying that you would have enough courage to open up to those around you too.

A couple of resources that you may find helpful with this are Brené Brown’s brilliant Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, and my blog post, Why I wasn’t vulnerable with my friends and what I’ve learnt from it.

Shame-based behaviours score – 2/16

Total quiz score (self-love score minus shame-based behaviours score) = 14/16

Thanks for following along with my quiz results. Did you do the quiz? What total score did you get? Was there an area in particular that you found difficult or an area you did really well in?

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T
2 years ago

Fabulous blog !
I was gripped to the end- identifying aspects that resonant with me as well as those that don’t.
I love this bit ……

‘when I feel strong negative emotions like shame or anxiety and just feel a bit dirty inside and unloveable but don’t quite know why. Then I start digging around trying to figure out what’s wrong with me instead of showing myself the love and compassion I need. Of course I know in my head that emotions don’t make me unloveable, but when I feel bad I think I am bad’

So true !