Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Therapy Spot. This week, let’s talk about shame. If you’re like me, you might have a physical reaction just to the word itself! When I read it, I want to curl up into myself and disappear. That’s because this emotion registers intensely in our bodies.
Shame does, however, serve a purpose. You probably wouldn’t feel ashamed if you tripped in front of your partner. Tripping on your way to the podium to speak in front of a crowded audience, however? Cue the red cheeks, racing heart, and the overwhelming feeling of dread! That’s because shame works to keep us within the norms of whatever group we’re in at the time. Your partner doesn’t care if you stumble, because they love you. Your audience, on the other hand, wants to see someone poised and confident, not someone clumsy.
When it shows up, shaming sounds like:
- “That wasn’t good enough.”
- “I messed up big time.”
- “That’s not right.”
- “I’m too much.”
Maybe you don’t even hear those words. Since the roots of shame often go back to our childhoods, it might look like the wallpaper — you don’t even notice it anymore! Do you cringe at the idea of taking a closer look at that wallpaper? I don’t blame you. Shame is uncomfortable.
Recently, I attended a retreat on the subject of shame and self compassion. The more I learn about these topics, the more excited I get to share what I’ve learned with others! Guilt and shame affect all of us in our daily lives, directly and indirectly.
Luckily, the antidote is simple (though not necessarily easy). If shame has taken over, you don’t need to crawl into a hole and disappear. You just need to peel back that old wallpaper and find some self compassion.
When we see shame clearly, we can do things differently — not just suffer. My motto? Get to know yourself. When we become more aware of ourselves, we can better connect on the inside. By doing that, we open the door to stronger outside connections as well.
Need some help getting started with self compassion? Check out the guided meditation I mentioned in the podcast. Take ten minutes to listen to Tara Brach’s RAIN of Self Compassion and discover what you need.
“Untitled” by Flickr user garann, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.