Reality Check: Is Hidden Shame Holding You Back?
“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
– Brene Brown
I like this quote by Brene Brown, as it depicts shame as something that has the ability to slowly suffocate and damage an individual’s soul, as well as potential. Shame is oftentimes hidden deep under layers of thoughts and emotions and can quietly suck the life and energy out of those who don’t recognize it or know how to contend with it.
Shame vs. Guilt
Oftentimes people confuse shame with guilt, but there is a big difference between the two. Guilt is a negative feeling about something that you did. Shame is a negative feeling about who you are. If you are feeling guilty, you are thinking, “I did something bad.” If you are feeling shameful, you are thinking, “I am bad.”
Shame is a very natural emotion and it is common to everyone. Physiologically, when you feel ashamed you may blush, sweat, and your heart rate may increase. Normally one can experience a feeling of shame and overcome that shame easily if she has a decent amount of self love. Although, if unattended or if you have never learned how to cope with the feeling, it can lead to feelings of unworthiness, guilt, a sense of being damaged, and so on.
Unconscious thoughts held due to hidden shame.
“What you think, you are.” I like this quote because it is dead on. Thoughts matter. How do you know if you are walking around with hidden shame? If you are, you will continually be thinking thoughts like these:
“I am not important.”
“I am a failure.”
“I am not worthy of love or anything.”
“I am unlovable.”
“Something is wrong with me.”
These negative thoughts and feelings about the core self can lead to all sorts of negative conditions and behaviors, such as low self-esteem, depression, codependence, addiction, rage, and more. It can stunt growth in every area of your life: emotionally, psychologically, financially, socially, and spiritually.
The chronic sense of unworthiness we carry due to shame.
Walking around with toxic, chronic shame is very painful. Whether it was caused by a dysfunctional childhood family life, an abusive partner, or unfortunate situations that occurred in life, it can be extremely debilitating and rob you of joy, peace, and success. If you are ashamed of who you are and carry this sense of unworthiness, your relationships will suffer, you will isolate, be emotionally dead, question your identity, you will think that things can never get better, and you will cut yourself short on so many levels.
If you hold onto your shame and keep it hidden, you imprison yourself and never get a glimpse of your beautiful, authentic self. It is important to be able to feel free to be vulnerable, with all of your flaws and character defects.
Steps to heal shame and live free.
Be encouraged friends, because there is hope in overcoming shameful feelings. Here are some tips to help you get on the path to overcoming chronic shame.
- Acknowledge that you are wounded and experiencing shame.
- Get a counselor or join a support group in which you can talk freely. Experts say that when we talk about our shameful feelings, those feelings of shame lose their power.
- Forgive those that have hurt you. Let go of any resentments.
- Remove yourself from situations or people that treat you badly.
- Read up on the topic of shame. Begin with, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw, and Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your Self-Esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame by Beverly Engel.
- Realize that everyone makes mistakes, but YOU are not a mistake.
- Establish a healthy balance in relationships of independence and interdependence.
Overcoming shame is possible and as you do so you will notice your life transforming right before your eyes. Peace will replace turmoil, joy will replace depression, hope will replace hopelessness, and a feeling of worthiness will replace that nasty feeling of worthlessness.
In closing, remember this:
You are important.
You are a success.
You are worthy of unconditional love.
You are lovable.
You are inherently good.
You have incredible potential.