Shame by definition is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.”
A painful feeling of humiliation or distress..
Becoming acutely aware of the thoughts in my mind began when I was a young teenager. I was possessed by comparison and deep deep embarrassment for who I was, what I looked like and how I came across to others.
I was ashamed of who I was… deeply ashamed. For no reason at all. And no-one could have ever guessed.. from the outside I was confident and proud of how I looked. (I know that this comment sounds cliche.. and unfortunately it is.. that is why I wanted to write this post.)
Every now and again these thoughts come back. The post partum body has been a trigger of me lately. I feel truly fortunate that I can become aware of these thoughts and work through them quickly.. they no longer consume my existence.. but it’s still not easy (and I’ve done 15 years of therapy!)..
The reason I am telling you all this is because we all feel alone with our shame.. our ego likes to think that it’s the only one feeling this way and everybody notices and is judging the “deeply humiliating” aspects of you.. but the truth is that they’re too busy being consumed by their own shame.
When shame pops up it comes in the form of:
“You don’t look right”
“You’re not doing..right”
“You’re not living right”
“You’re not worthy enough”
“You’re should be doing more”
then all the shoulds and comparisons that occupy our thoughts on a daily basis!
It’s no surprise really that shame has become such a common experience in our society. We are flooded with advertising in nearly every vision space. Nearly every where you go or everything you do has advertising.. and how does advertising work? By stimulating shame and creating a sense of lack within you – if you don’t look/feel/have then you are not what society will expect…. i.e. you will be different if you don’t look/feel/have/think/behave in a certain way.
And being different is incredibly scary for the human brain! This is because being different is a threat to our survival, as underneath it all we are pack animals.
So in order to not be different, we have to be the same, we have to be accepted. So within us starts this conflict – our hearts say “be yourself you’re awesome” however our brain is just trying to keep up with whats acceptable so that it can survive – cue shame.
Shame comes about when there is a conflict between what/who we think we are
and the expectations we perceive from the world.
When shame is unresolved (and with all the media out there telling us the next thing to be ashamed about it is more often then not unresolved!).. it can display itself as either anxiety or anger.
Just think about those thoughts you have all day “what will they think/I’m not enough”.. day in, day out those thoughts become unresolved, those thoughts fly around and around in your mind looking for solutions that it cannot always execute.. cue anxiety/anger!
And more often than not, all these thoughts are subconscious!!
So I’m asking you to please be kind to yourself
You are just trying to feel loved, accepted and safe from judgement and alienation.
Shame works as motivation on a very short term basis.
Long term it’s a killer of kindness, confidence and self love.
I’ve found the key for myself is to combat each shame thought with a kind thought.
I can be honest and incredibly kind at the same time.. it’s not trying to convince yourself of falsity, it’s just pure kindness.
For example: yes Emma your body has changed.. but be patient and feel the strength and capacity of that body – it’s had a big year!
There’s no lying, no trying to convince yourself into a new belief.. it’s just allowing yourself to see the whole truth – and then surrounding that truth in a warm hug 🙂
Don’t let shame and guilt be the decision makers in your life.
It’s really not a nice way to live.
Be kind instead