It's that pit feeling that lives deep inside, the one that gnaws at you, telling you that you aren't smart enough, successful enough, or good enough. It's the sensation that dulls the joy with pleasant experiences, the thief that tries to steal your confidence and intuition.
Shame is an insidious and powerful emotion. It doesn't discriminate who it impacts, but it can stunt you from achieving fulfillment and happiness.
Shame often manifests from previous experiences, such as childhood trauma, bullying, or negative relationships. Other stressors, like substance use or mental illness, often exacerbate its role. Regardless of its origin, committing to overcoming shame is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Let's get into what you need to know.
Label the Feeling
The next time you start experiencing shame, stop and take a moment. Identify the feeling. Be present with it, rather than try to deny or rationalize the experience.
How do you know when you're feeling ashamed? Most people feel a sense of discomfort- it's like you want to hide, but you don't know where to turn. At the same time, you feel exposed and raw, and you're feeling particularly vulnerable to rejection.
This feeling can happen anywhere. It can emerge around people you want to impress. It can occur when you're trying a new sport or applying for a new job. Usually, shame results when you feel triggered by something from your past.
Having self-awareness is the first step towards overcoming shame. After all, if you can't identify it, you can't work through it!
Shame is ruthless, and it can convince you that you're ugly, incompetent, and bad. Shame turns a simple mistake into you being a complete mistake.
Combating these negative thoughts is essential for working through this emotion. For example, the next time you start thinking you're incompetent, try to rewrite the hostile script. Think about the times you have excelled. Tell yourself that you are committed to trying your best, even if you don't know everything.
In other words, make a conscious effort to counteract negative thoughts with more positive, realistic ones. The more you can lean on the feel-good messages, the less likely you will believe the toxic shame scripts.
Share It with Someone Else
Shame festers in secrecy. When we feel shamed, we naturally want to guard ourselves against others. This survival stance backfires- the more you withdraw, the more ashamed you will probably feel.
Instead, think about you can confront your shame by talking about it. Who will validate your feelings? Who will listen to you without judgment or cliched advice?
If you're not sure, it might be time to seek individual therapy. Therapy offers a nonjudgmental environment to process your innermost thoughts and feelings. By opening up more about shame, it becomes less powerful and domineering.
Take a Curious Stance
Rather than make shame the enemy, consider trying a different approach by learning more about the feeling. Getting to know your shame makes it less taboo and scary.
Journaling can help with this self-exploration. The next time you start experiencing that familiar discomfort, answer the following questions:
Where am I feeling these sensations in my body?
What unhealthy urges am I experiencing right now?
Why do I think I'm feeling so triggered right now?
Instead of judging your answers, practice acceptance. You are an evolving, learning human- you are not perfect, and perfection isn't the goal. Remind yourself that you can continue evolving every day.
Practice More Self-Care
Shame wants you to feel miserable and insignificant. By neglecting to take care of yourself, you only reinforce this emotion, causing you to feel anxious or depressed.
Instead, commit to engaging in routine self-care. If you're struggling with shame, try to double down on acts of self-compassion. The more you focus on honoring your needs, the more likely you are to feel worthy.
Self-care doesn't necessarily mean total relaxation and indulgence. Instead, self-care refers to any conscious effort intended to improve your mental or physical health. Likewise, these acts can change, and it's crucial to adapt to those changes as needed.
This process doesn't need to be time-consuming or expensive. Some easy ways to implement more self-care include:
spending more time with loved ones.
reading books or listening to music that you enjoy.
cooking a delicious meal.
spending more time volunteering.
Overcoming Shame Together
Sometimes, it takes a village to tackle shame. Learning how to talk, explore, and accept your feelings takes time and courage. You don't have to manage all the work of overcoming shame alone- finding the right support can make an invaluable difference in your recovery.
At The Mental Health House, we understand the complex intricacies of shame. We recognize its role in addictive behaviors, codependency, and low self-esteem. If you think you're struggling, reach out. We're here to help you and your loved ones!