Overcoming shame is not easy. Many of us have been shamed in childhood as well as adulthood. Remember that shame is a feeling that lies for it says that you are a horrible, terrible, sick, weak, dysfunctional person. While guilt is about taking responsibility for behaviors and making amends, shame is about feeling awful to our core. Within shame, we struggle to see our positives and often give up hope on ourselves as we feel we are not ‘fixable.’ But there are ways to get out of shame.
- Learn as much as possible about shame because such education is the first step in understanding the toxicity of shame.
- Learn to change the negative voices in your head. You no longer accept your own self shame which often repeats the shaming messages given to you in the past. Reframe the negative voices to positive ones by focusing on your virtues.
- Acknowledge the shame to yourself. This is a way to begin to let go of all of negative beliefs and feelings that can keep you trapped.
- Accept the child within who was shamed. This allows you to see that you were only a child when this happened and you could not have done anything about it.
- Talk to others about your shame. If kept secret, you won’t recover. Expressing how you feel is a beginning step to honoring your own realities.
- Journal about how you have been shamed. This also helps to externalize the internal pain.
- Find supportive family and friends.
- When you make a mistake, realize that it was about a thought, feeling or behavior and not about WHO you are.
- Watch out for a shame spiral. If you start to feel shame, you need to immediately do things to get out of it before it spirals out of control, like:
- Play healthy video games
- Go for a walk
- Play with your pet
- Focus on your strengths and who you are as a beloved human being.
- Practice staying in the moment, instead of dwelling on the past and fantasizing about the future.
- Attend 12-step meetings such as Codependency Anonymous.
- Seek out a therapist who focuses on addictions and codependency. This may be individual counseling, group counseling, and/or family counseling.
- Don’t attend places shamed you such as a church that doesn’t honor who you are (such as if you are LGBTQ or have been shamed for having an abortion).
- Use affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements about yourself. Say them out loud, internally, or post messages around the house that are affirming statements such as, “I’m a good person” or I deserve the best in life.”
- Learn how to be assertive (see article on communication patterns). By being assertive, you take control of your own life and your relationships with others.
- Hold people accountable for how they shamed you. You can do this by writing a letter (to a living or deceased person) and either send it or burn it as a way to let go of what others have said and done to you. Or confront them if this feels appropriate.
- Remember that the person and/or institution that shames you are the ones with a problem.
Shame gives us a license to hate ourselves. We need to focus on how to overcome shame and focus on our strengths. Finally, remember that you are a good person to the core and that you will not accept shaming behavior from anyone, including yourself.