Shame is an emotion that we all experience at some level. A small amount of shame or embarrassment can be healthy in preventing people from breaking society or personal morals, values, or codes. However, when shame becomes pervasive in our life it makes people believe they are inherently bad or even think something is wrong with them.
One of the causes of shame is trauma. Trauma can be caused by something such as parents shaming their child for drawing on the walls if the child internalizes the message to be, “I am a bad kid.” If a parent uses shaming as a way to discipline their kids on a consistent level, a child may develop into an adult with low self-esteem or low confidence. Their internalized thoughts on themselves might then transform into, “I am not worthy.” If a person believes these thoughts to be true, it can cause depression, anxiety, imposter syndrome, or self-sabotaging behavior.
Shame can also develop if we continue to blame or beat ourselves up over things we have done in the past.
So, how do we overcome shame?
Step 1: To overcome shame, we have to get to the root of the thinking patterns where they started. Our thinking patterns develop during our childhood so exploring childhood memories in therapy and recognizing negative thinking patterns is the first step to awareness and change.
Step 2: Creating opportunities to think differently. For example, start by telling yourself “maybe I am worthy.” Create bridge statements between negative thoughts patterns to more comfortable and compassionate beliefs and you are opening yourself to change. You can do this by doing inner child work in therapy, engaging in EMDR therapy, or CBT therapy.
Step 3: Show yourself and others empathy. Listen to your inner voice and provide compassion to yourself just like you would to your best friend. Connect with others to give and receive empathy.
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
― Brené Brown