Have you struggled with shame in your life? If the answer is no, congrats! This post is especially for you.
Have you ever started something you were excited about, it goes well for awhile, then suddenly you hit a brick wall? You're overcome with fear, doubt, and feel like you don't deserve what you're working for, your ideas are stupid, and there's no way you are "worth" it.
Here's a personal example: my business. It's been slow recently and suddenly I was consumed with doubt, feeling like I don't deserve what I'm working for. That I'm not good enough. Well, turns out that thinking you aren't deserving of something, whether it's creating your own business, making more money, losing weight...that's shame talking.
Shame is a sneaky trait that manifests itself in multiple ways. Some of the key areas I found shame to be lurking are: feeling withdrawn from social situations, using numbing techniques like bingeing in any form - overeating, over-partying, overworking, over-exercising, etc., the constant need to prove others wrong, setting high expectations for yourself you know you can’t achieve, and, one key factor that gave me an "aha" moment...feeling disdain for weakness and others... because you don’t like to be reminded of weakness in yourself.
Dr. Brene Brown, a shame researcher and author, tells us that shame an intensely rooted belief that we are flawed and unworthy of acceptance and belonging. I used to think I didn't battle with shame that much, but boy was I wrong. (Hint: those who deny they don't have shame probably have it the most). Shame is deeply rooted in childhood trauma. This could be anything from severe sexual trauma, physical, or mental trauma like being made fun of in school and shamed in front of your class. These feeling stay with us throughout our lives controlling our thoughts, actions, and influences our goals and ideas for the future.
Shame is not a one and done issue. It's a constant, lifelong battle. Thankfully, there are ways to overcome it. Once you know how to identify it, you can approach it from a place of compassion and acceptance. Remind yourself that you are only human, that you learned from the situation and it's ok to move on from those feelings to be free to live the life you desire.
Below are the steps I've found useful for me when dealing with shame:
1. Recall every childhood instance where you felt shame. and write it down. Find a picture of yourself as a child, and read back the situations you wrote while looking at your picture.
2. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that come up. Anger, sadness, fear, compassion, anything. If you need to beat your bed at in anger or yell out, do it! Allow yourself to feel the emotions and let it out. Yes, this is hard, yes it's emotional and vulnerable, but completely necessary.
3. Write down compassionate affirmations and responses you would’ve wanted to hear as a child in those situations. Talk to yourself by name! For example:
"NAME, it’s not your fault."
"NAME, you did the best you could."
"You’re not a bad person, NAME."
"You didn’t deserve this, NAME."
"You deserve everything your heart desires, NAME."
And so on. Doing these above steps is a crucial part towards releasing the shame and guilt holding you back in achieving your goals.
As I delve more into shame and how it is directly related to our health, I will be sharing more tips and strategies with you. Remember that it's easy to stay stuck in shame, constantly overeating, oversleeping, being depressed, feeling like a failure, proving to yourself time and time again that you can't keep your word. It's harder to face your issues head on, see yourself as a flawed individual and BE OK with it.
The pressure society puts on us and that we all hide behind in social media is completely misleading. We don't have to "be strong", "suck it up", pretend it didn't happen, compartmentalize, or whatever coping strategy you've heard about. It's 100% ok to feel ashamed, weak, undeserving, or like a failure. In fact it's better, because then you can find the source of those feelings, uncover those deep-rooted beliefs and start changing who we think we are.
Shame is not an isolated thing. WE ALL experience this in some form or another. The key is having the courage to recognize when shame comes up, acknowledge your imperfections, then release it from your life.