Shame is similar to guilt, but more personal. You might feel guilty for stealing a TV last month, whereas you might feel shame for being a thief. When you feel guilty, you feel bad about a particular event. Shame is more pervasive and personal. You might feel shame for being a poor parent or even being the victim of abuse.
Think of guilt as “I did something bad” and shame as, “I am bad.”
People that never feel shame are usually psychopaths. So, that is one less worry you now have.
Use these ideas to deal directly with any feelings of shame:
1. Explore why you feel shame. What happened? What does that event or series of events say about you? Is that a reasonable interpretation on your part? Are you being too hard on yourself? Is it possible that you didn’t do anything wrong at all?
2. Understand that you are not permanently defined by your behavior. No one is perfect 100% of the time. Everyone does things that are considered “wrong” or “bad” at times. Everyone has thoughts that make them feel ashamed. Even the most moral people make mistakes or think thoughts that violate their value system. It’s part of life.
3. Forgive yourself. Even if you understand the cause of your shame doesn’t taint your character forever, you might resist the idea of forgiving yourself. Why? Does your suffering accomplish anything? Does it help the people around you?
4. Consider what led to feeling shame. Can you prevent this from happening again in the future? What can you do about it? How can you avoid the situation or behavior that led to this feeling? Can you make changes in your life that will alleviate the feelings of shame?
5. Avoid those that are intent on making you feel shame. There’s always someone that feels obligated to make you feel as bad as possible about yourself. This is precisely the type of person no one needs in their life. Surround yourself with people that want the best for you.
6. Avoid situations that trigger your shame. Maybe you feel shame about not being able to financially provide your family with the lifestyle you wanted for them. You might avoid driving through the wealthy part of your city where the sight of the million-dollar homes triggers your shame.
7. Connect more with others. Studies show that the more isolated you are, the more likely you are to feel shame. When you’re regularly interacting with others in a meaningful way, you’re less likely to feel shame. Even if you do feel shame, you’ll be more compassionate with yourself if you have a sense of connection.
Shame is another of those unenjoyable parts of being human. Remember that you were born without shame. You’re still the same person you were before you felt shame. If you’re unable to deal with your feelings of shame successfully, seek out professional help. Letting go of your shame will set you free again.
This Week’s Creative Exercise
“Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives; secrecy, silence, and judgement.” -Brene Brown
We create the perfect storm of shame, let's unlock it.
Get out your art journal or a piece of paper and create your feelings about your shame. Give your shame a voice. Allow yourself to move through it.
Start by writing on your blank page what you are ashamed of and why, shy you hold on to it, is it yours or someone else's? Write to release it.
Now pick your favourite color and paint or color over it. Decorate the page with the release of your emotions about shame.
Allow yourself to feel the emotions releasing, maybe you're angry for a bit and you color black scribbles and then you start to release and feel like a cloud floating, draw out your feelings. There is no right or wrong way to do this.\
I will add the exercise video to YouTube on Thursday, but you can get started now, no need to wait. Let that shame go.
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Have an Amazingly Creative Day,