Shame is a terrible, crippling emotion that results from a poor, harsh assessment of oneself. Shame encompasses your fundamental worth as a person, in contrast to guilt sentiments, which result from one’s behaviour. Deep humiliation may set up the sympathetic nervous system, which results in a fight/flight/freeze response. Internalized shame that last for a long time might affect your ability to function in life and your perception of yourself. Or it might linger just below your level of awareness and only surface when provoked.
Signs of shame
If you experience any of the following signs, you may be dealing with toxic shame:
- continuous self-criticism and low self-esteem
- persistent feelings of worthlessness
- Compulsive and ongoing people-pleasing
- feelings of unjustified guilt for offences you haven’t committed (or not uniquely so)
- Anger or defensiveness
- settling for less in your relationships, job, and other areas.
- fakery syndrome “People would despise me if they realised who I truly was.”
Strategies for overcoming shame
Revisit your childhood
Regardless of how terrible it may be, it’s critical to recognise that shame is not your fault. You now possess adult judgement and perspective since you are an adult. Look back at the young, impressionable youngster you were and how unable you were to comprehend and digest your parents’ demands and damaging behaviours, even innocuous ones that were “well-intentioned. When you started to feel undeserving of anyone’s acceptance and love because you so desperately needed their approval and unwavering devotion. NOTHING was your fault. Every time your shame flares up, remind yourself of this. Try to identify where your shame first came from. Write about the encounter or keep a journal of it, then reflect on it from an adult viewpoint.
Reconnect with and reparent your inner child
Try to recall a time in your childhood when you were wonderfully happy, or at the very least, at peace and comfortable. Who or what were you?What have you been waiting for forever? What is an act of kindness from someone that you will never forget (in a good way)? So what can you do now to meet the deep-seated needs and cravings of your inner child? Do any of the following bring you comfort or joy when you think back?
- Painting, illustrating, or colouring
- Taking something apart to understand it better
- Playing or swimming on the beach
- Flying high on a swing
- strolling a lot
- searching for turtles, fireflies, frogs, etc.
- maintaining a flowerbed or garden
- assembling rocks
- writing original stories
- Find ways to engage in one or more of your favourite pastimes and take pleasure in them like a child might.
Recognize your triggers
Start observing what makes you feel ashamed. This could be challenging at first since we frequently bury our emotions beneath layers of coping mechanisms. So, begin with your actions and how you respond to distress before asking yourself what transpired to cause those actions.
Do you remember hearing something that made you feel exposed?
Were you rejected in a way that brought back memories of being rejected as a child?
Have you been plagued by regretful thoughts about a past event?
Knowing what trips, you up and causes you to feel guilty will help you manage the triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
It’s challenging to be nice and compassionate to oneself when you feel ashamed. But even before you actually experience it, you can engage in self-compassion exercises. As you would a wonderful friend or a beloved child, speak to yourself and treat yourself with care and love. Until you start to shift your thoughts and feelings, act as though you are a beloved and valuable person. Oxytocin, a hormone that elevates feelings of trust, calm, safety, emotional stability, and closeness, is released in response to self-compassion.
Listen to and correct your self-talk and false beliefs
Consider whether the things you’re telling yourself are true when you notice yourself having self-defeating thoughts. Think about whether you truly believe them or whether you’re just attempting to prepare yourself for the hostility and rejection you anticipate from other people. You’ll have to become better at catching yourself in the act and being the friend, you wish you had — and the friend you want to be for others — if no one in your life asking youto out for trash-talking yourself. Since you are not the only person who lives in shame.
Challenge your thoughts
Find evidence to the opposite rather than believing what your mind tells you. You have a part of yourself that knows you’re not a nasty, unworthy person and that your views aren’t the whole reality.
Don’t double layer shame
Give yourself permission to acknowledge your shame whenever it arises. Avoid adding extra suffering by berating yourself for your emotions. We all experience vulnerability and shame from time to time, and by admitting that, you may stop fighting your shame and start treating its underlying causes.
Release the tension in your body
It’s lot simpler to feel intellectually and emotionally comfortable when your body is relaxed, which makes it simpler to switch out negative self-talk for true and empowering affirmations.
Allow yourself to be exposed and take a chance on the result.
You’ve just discovered that you have the bravery to take that risk and the resilience to withstand the result, whatever painful it may be. Even if it backfires, you’ll still have learnt that you have the fortitude to allow yourself to be vulnerable. And simply realising this about yourself helps to lessen the hold of shame.
Accept love and kindness
Practice being open and grateful when accepting it. Accept praise without denying it or downplaying it.Allow yourself to have faith in the wisdom of the individual who recognises your positive attributes. It will take deliberate, intentional work, but with time it will start to feel more natural and enjoyable to appreciate others’ generosity and appreciation.
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