This post is about The Great Love Story and Healing Shame. It details how I traded in a harmful belief of the world (The Do Enough Myth) for a better story.
The Do Enough Myth is one of the most common causes of shame in our lives. This is not at all surprising when we understand what The Do Enough Myth teaches.
Here are the key ideas of this myth:
One: You are not born lovable, valuable, and worthy. You must prove your worth in order to be worthy of love.
Two: In order to prove you are lovable, valuable, and worthy, you must do enough. And society, your family and friends, advertisers, your church, patriarchy, your boss and teachers defines what is enough. Pretty much everyone but you defines it.
Three: If you try hard enough, you can please everyone; everyone will see how great and wonderful you are; and you will finally be worthy of love.
Four: If you do not do enough, you are a horrible person and should feel deeply ashamed all the time.
The Do Enough Myth is a myth perpetuated by systems of domination. These are systems, relationship patterns, or institutions that treat people primarily as an object or resource. They do this rather than treating people as valuable in themselves. People who realize they are valuable in themselves realize their primary vocation is to share their unique, beautiful self with the world.
You can read more about the Do Enough Myth and systems of domination here.
Feelings of shame and unworthiness from the Do Enough Myth are so common that we might believe this is just the way life is.
But we are not meant to live in perpetual feelings of shame and unworthiness. And it is possible to let go of this shame.
I am especially well-acquainted with the Do Enough Myth because for many years of my life, the Do Enough Myth was my philosophy. I lived in a frequent state of shame and anxiety because of it. And this eventually pushed me to an emotional crisis.
I eventually changed my story and replaced the Do Enough Myth with a new story. I call it The Great Love Story. This has made a profound change in my life for the better. Before I tell you about The Great Love Story, let me tell you a little background information.
What I Once Knew
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I understood The Great Love Story very well when I was a young teenager.
Growing up, I was deeply interested in God and big questions about my purpose in life in general. I was raised in the Quaker Christian tradition, and Quakers believe that every single human being has God’s Light within him or her. They refer to it as the inner light. And I believed that this light gives us wisdom and comfort and connects us with everyone else. (Note: Don’t worry if you are not religious at all. This blog post is still for you, and The Great Love Story is still for you.)
I took the idea of God’s light inside of me seriously.
When I was thirteen, I had a big closet in my room. I created a fort in it where I spent time daily trying to connect with my light by writing, praying, reading scriptures, and listening to God.
Life was often really confusing and painful for me as a teenager (as it is for many teenagers). But I always felt like the time I spent seeking God and connecting with the light inside me gave me a great deal of clarity. The things I understood most in these moments were that . . .
Love surrounded me and was the light inside of me.
I could rest in this Love and be peaceful.
And I could love everyone else because of this Love, which was a light inside them as well.
I had a very strong sense that I never had to do anything to have love. All I needed to do was to be myself and rest in the Love all around and the Love inside of me.
The Great Forgetting
Unfortunately, as I grew older, the Do Enough Myth began to obscure these beautiful things I knew about Love and myself. Like most people, and especially young women, I soon grew consumed with getting love by proving my worth to everyone around me.
I spent years trying to be good enough, thin enough, beautiful enough, in control enough, Christian enough, successful enough, sweet enough, pleasing enough.
I had forgotten my insight about resting in Love from years before. Instead, I kept desperately trying to earn love by being enough.
Perhaps you have spent many years trying to do enough to earn love, too. If you are anything like I was, trying to do enough to earn love makes you anxious, sad, depressed, and lonely.
I Crash and Burn and Stop Believing in the Do Enough Myth
My many years of trying do enough to earn love finally pushed me to a breaking point. (You can read about that here.) I had an emotional crisis and fell into a deep depression for about three years. During this time, I remember telling my husband, “I will never be happy again”, and I was certain this was true.
This was the darkest period of my life, but something good came of it. I no longer believed in the Do Enough Myth. I let go of my perfectionism and trying so hard. And I no longer believed that these things would get me love and self-worth.
I decided that wherever and whoever I was would have to be good enough. And I vowed that even if no one else loved me, at least I would love myself. Although this was the darkest period of my life, it created a lot of space for something better.
It was actually through losing hope and giving up The Do Enough Myth that I started to gain hope again.
I realized that I could give up the myth and nothing bad happened. The world did not fall apart. And I did not turn into a horrible person. God did not send lightning bolts to strike me down.
This actually relieved a lot of pressure and anxiety. For years, I had lived in shame and terror of not doing enough. So getting rid of that myth brought a great deal of peace, relief, and even courage.
I stopped caring about what people thought of me. And I worked on being compassionate to myself because life was hard.
Subverting the Do Enough Myth (and its accompanying shame) and showing compassion to myself gave me more hope, but I was searching for something more. I wanted a new story that would take the place of the Do Enough Myth.
I wanted a beautiful story. A liberating story.
One day I asked God to give me a new story to replace the old Do Enough Myth that had failed me so miserably.
That is when things got interesting.
Remembering (A New Old Story)
Shortly after asking God for a new story, I was perusing the library one day and saw a book titled Return to Love. Something about the title felt familiar to me, and I felt compelled to read it. One of the quotes I read in the book was this:
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
When I first read this quote and the rest of the book, I both thought it was a little weird, and I also felt a little bit afraid, for some reason.
But it also reminded me of what I had known about myself and Love when I was younger: Love is all around me and inside me, and it connects me to God and everyone else. I never have to do more or do enough, I just need to be myself and rest in Love.
Despite my initial fear and uncertainty, I also suddenly felt like I was waking up from a very long slumber.
I thought, All of this time, I have been searching outside of myself to find Love, and I have been trying to do enough to be lovable. What if I am already lovable and surrounded by love right now? What if I have just forgotten it or have temporarily lost my ability to see it?
This was the day I became reacquainted with The Great Love Story. It eventually became my new story (or my new old story, since I knew about it when I was young) and replaced the Do Enough Myth in my life. It has made profound difference for me
I do not think you have to read Return to Love to understand The Great Love Story–that is just the book that reminded me of it.
In fact, Return to Love does not even mention The Great Love story by name. That is my name for it.
The Great Love Story is actually everywhere, and many people have written about it in many different ways. I believe it is actually one of the most foundational ideas of many major world religions (I will write a post about this later), although I think it can also be spoken of in non-religious ways.
Here are the key points of The Great Love Story:
One: We have an authentic Wise Self that is beautiful, whole, and good.
Two: We can never lose this authentic self. We can only forget or cover it up.
Three: Our Wise Self is the truest thing about us. It connects us to everyone and also to something greater than us—a higher and greater reality.
Four: The Wise Self is pure Love. It affirms, heals, preserves, nurtures, and cultivates all that is good in us, in the world, and in others.
Five: We can cultivate and strengthen this Wise Self infinitely, so we are infinitely valuable right now.
Six: We never have to be more or do enough. We just need to be our Wise Self and allow this part of us to grow. Another way of saying this is that our purpose and vocation is to be Love.
New Stories, Healing, and Restoration
As The Great Love Story became my new story and took the place of the Do Enough Myth, it made a profound difference in my life and healed a lot of shame I had suffered from for years. Here are just a few of the ways that it did this:
I realized that it is okay to make mistakes and fail.
The Do Enough Myth teaches us that mistakes are a sign that we are unworthy and not trying hard enough. The Great Love Story tells us that it is okay to be human and make mistakes. As long as we keep walking in love, we will understand how to correct our mistakes and failures and to do the right thing.
Understanding this began to heal my chronic and acute perfectionism, as well as heal my shame over mistakes and failures.
I realized that I never have to do more or enough; I just need to be myself.
The Do Enough Myth tells us that we have to do enough to be worthy of love. The Great Love Story tells us that we are completely lovable right now. We just need to keep being our authentic selves, which is Love.
Understanding this healed my worry and anxiety that I was doing my life wrong.
I realized that I can trust myself and trust my process.
The Do Enough Myth tells us that we are bad and unlovable as we are. This myth further suggest that we cannot trust ourselves. We can only trust that someday we might do enough to be lovable. The Great Love Story tells us that our authentic self is good, wise, and loving and that it connects us with that which is most real in us, in everyone else, and in the whole world. We can always trust our authentic self and trust its guidance.
Understanding this gave me confidence that I could always find a loving solution to any problem I was facing.
I realized that I do not have to worry about what other people think.
The Do Enough Myth tells us that we always have to worry about what people think. It further tells us that we always have to please them or else we are not doing enough. The Great Love Story tells us that everyone is equal and that our worth is not dependent on people’s opinions. It further tells us that our goal is not to control and judge each other but to love ourselves and others.
Understanding this healed my obsession and paranoia with what other people were thinking of me.
I realized that painful emotions, depression, and anxiety are an invitation to return to Love.
The Do Enough Myth tells us that difficult and painful emotions are a sign of failure and that we are not doing enough. The Great Love Story tells us that it is okay to be human. It reminds us that painful emotions are an invitation to return to Love and to understand how we can connect with Love and our Wise Selves again.
Understanding this comforted and relieved my fear that painful emotions always signal disaster.
I am human, and so just like anyone else, I still have days when I struggle with anxiety, depression, and loneliness. But now when I have these painful emotions, I know much better how to return to Love. And I know how to find ways to soothe or be present with these feelings.
Why We Sometimes Fear The Great Love Story
As I mentioned, when I was reacquainted with The Great Love Story in my adult years, I first thought this story was a little weird. And it also scared me. Maybe it seems a little weird and scary to you, too.
You have to believe whatever you think is right about this story. I am not the boss of you or your beliefs. But I would like to offer something for your consideration.
One of the reasons The Great Love Story sounds so weird and, perhaps, a little frightening to us is that we are so used to living under systems of domination. (Once again, you can read about systems of domination here.)
People are much easier to manipulate and control when they feel shame. This is also true when they believe they must search outside of themselves (or do enough) to find love, value, and worth.
Therefore, any person who desires to control other people usually tries to do this initially at least by making that person doubt their worth. Or they try to get them to doubt their lovability or their ability to trust themselves.
Are You Ready for a New Story?
I don’t want you take my word for it that The Great Love Story is true. Rather, I want you to think about it and try it out for yourself. You may be ready to make The Great Love Story your new story if…
You regularly suffer from exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. Abd these feelings are tied to you trying so hard all the time to be enough.
Or you suffer from shame regularly. And you constantly feel like you are not lovable, worthy, or valuable.
You regularly suffer from self-hatred or self-loathing.
And you have no idea how to love yourself or be friends with yourself.
You constantly worry what other people think of you and whether they think you are enough.
And you are constantly too busy because you are trying to do enough.
You are terrified of making mistakes or failing.
And you struggle with self-harming behavior or addictive behavior because you want to punish yourself or fill an empty place inside you.
This is not an exhaustive list of signs that you are ready for a new story. But these are some of the most common signs.
We were not meant to live in shame, anxiety, despair and loneliness. We were meant to live in Love
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And if you would like to read more about The Great Love Story, you might like these posts:
 I always thought of this love as God’s love, but it is also possible to think of this love in other ways. You might think of your light as collective human creativity, wisdom, and compassion.
 It is important to note that The Do Enough Myth is a distorted way of thinking that can even infect our religious systems and institutions. It can also distort the way we interpret sacred scriptures. When we get rid of the Do Enough Myth, it can help us to have a richer spiritual practice and authentic faith.
 I am so grateful for my husband’s unconditional love through all of this. One of the insidious things about the Do Enough myth is that even when you do have people around you who love you, The Do Enough Myth can make you feel like you do not deserve their love.
So you keep pushing yourself to earn love, even though you already have it. I am so grateful that my husband loved me through all of those years even though I did not believe I deserved his love.
 If you do not believe in God at all, this post is still for you, and The Great Love Story is still for you. I like to explain The Great Love Story in both religious and non-religious terms. But I would be remiss if I did not mention the role that my own faith has played in my understanding of The Great Love Story, so that is why I include these details here.
 When I asked God for a new story, I was not asking God for a new religion. I am still a practicing Christian to this day. I just realized that for much of my life, the Do Enough Myth had infected the way I interpreted my Christian faith. So, when I asked God for a new story, I wanted a new and different way to see my Christian faith and the world in general.
 Return to Love is a book written by Marianne Williamson. I don’t think anyone has to read this book to learn about The Great Love story, although I think it is a beautiful book. It is just the book that reawakened my own knowledge of this story, a knowledge which had been dormant for many years.
 Different religions speak of this authentic self in different ways—as our Buddha Nature, the Imago Dei (the image of God), or Atman.
 You could think of this higher reality as God, a Higher Power, our collective unconscious, or the highest possible potential of creative and compassionate rationality.
 You could also think of the authentic self as other things such as light, compassion, wisdom, goodness, or all of these qualities and every other good quality altogether. I like to think of it as Love.
 Our authentic self is the self in all of us that is filled with compassion, love, creativity, and wisdom. There is no limit to the degree that we can develop this self and increase our compassion, love, creativity, and wisdom.
 When I say that our purpose and vocation is to be love, it is important to note that love always confronts and denounces hate. So, being Love contains both a more restful, peaceful, and nurturing side as well as a more active, liberating, denouncing, and confronting side, as well.
 One way to think of The Great Love Story in a non-religious way is to think of our authentic self as our baby nature. Babies are not born being violent, hateful, and greedy. When babies are fed, warm, and cared for, they are naturally loving, happy, curious, and creative.
Babies are kind of like little exuberant plants that grow in really cool and beautiful ways when they receive proper nourishment. Human beings never lose their baby nature, even as they age. We all have a place of love, joy, curiousness, and creativity inside of us. When we nourish this in ourselves and others through love and compassion, we do amazing and beautiful things.
 Humanity and its accompanying fallibility and imperfection are accepted in The Great Love Story. Humanity is one expression of the adventure of Love, and humanity and its limitations is an invitation to join a Higher Love.
 Loved ones is in quotes because shame and scorn is a really weird and pathological way to express love.
Published by shellypruittjohnson
My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View all posts by shellypruittjohnson
13 thoughts on “The Great Love Story: Healing Shame”
How interesting – I’d never thought of it in that way before. You’re right that we can never please everyone, and that shouldn’t be our goal, either. We are all worthy of love and acceptance.
Also, love the illustrations, so well-made.
Kathrin — http://mycupofenglishtea.wordpress.com
Thank you so much for your comment, Kathrin. I am glad you found the post thought-provoking. I am looking forward to checking out your blog.