As Brene' Brown writes in her book Gifts of Imperfection:
“If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.”
Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable on a core level. It fuels feelings of unworthiness and a hopeless and pessimistic mindset.
3 things that are true about shame:
We all have it.
We’re all uncomfortable talking about it.
The less we talk about it, the more it grows.
Shame needs 3 things to grow:
Group perspectives on what shame is and how it feels:
- As babies, we need to feel safe, secure, and loved to develop a healthy attachment.
- Shame is about who we believe we are, as in the identity we have formed of ourselves, e.g. "I am bad."
- Guilt is about something we have done, e.g. "I have behaved badly."It's about behavior.
- Both shame and guilt can be both healthy and unhealthy.
- Healthy shame and guilt can inform our conscience in helpful ways such as prompting us to apologize when having done something wrong, which allows repair, healing - amends.
- Unhealthy shame and guilt can become a burden that can fuel self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-sabotaging/defeating behavior. This ultimately can block us from loving connections, both with ourselves and others.
- Strong feelings of shame can arise relating to feelings of failure in relationships with partners, family, money, food, alcohol, job, illness, family secrets, etc.
- Shame and non-acceptance are also experienced when we feel we do not measure up to societal definitions of success and failure.
- People may question themselves, wondering "Am I bad?" (shame) or "Have I done something wrong?" (guilt). Blaming themselves and/or others for circumstances - shame and blame are connected.
- It's important to identify how shame feels in the body, to catch it when it is occurring so we feel and are aware that it's shame that's happening which allows a conscious response.
- Shame may feel like you are holding your breath, a warm wash coming over you or heat may come to your face, or you may feel nauseous.
- On the contrary, some people may not feel shame in a manner that informs their conscience of badness. In this case, it is important to be aware of not taking on the shame that is actually another's shame. This is critical for people who are highly empathic or who are in relationships that are pathologically narcissistic and abusive.
- It is critical to dis-identify with shame that is not yours.
Group perspectives on how to cope with and heal shame:
- Know that your feelings of unhealthy shame may not be the facts of what is happening at the moment. It is not who you are, in Truth.
- Dis-identify from shame as connected in a core way to your identity.
- Cultivate strength, courage, truth, and fortitude in order to develop self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-esteem.
- Find the strength and courage to look within yourself and to keep moving forward.
- Do not let go of your dreams, no matter what has happened in your life.
- Be Humble: embrace your story and absorb it with humility.
- Share your story with those who will support and hold space for you with love, compassion, and acceptance.
- Ask yourself, "Has this person earned the right to hear my (shame) story?" "Will this person respond with love and compassion or with judgment?" If the answer is yes they will respond with love and compassion, then consider sharing your story. However, if the answer is the person will respond with judgment, then you are under no obligation to share and you might consider not sharing and overly exposing yourself to judgment.
- Enlightening quote shared: “I am under no obligation to make sense to you!”
- Know that you are not the only one that may experience shame. You are not alone. You are human.
- Send compassion and love to the part(s) of you that feel(s) shame.
- Breathe and cry through feelings of shame as this will help release and heal them.
- Have the courage to choose forgiveness for yourself and others.
- Nurture your inner child. Tell your inner child, "You are beautiful, wonderful, and lovable. You are worthy and perfect just the way you are." You are there to protect your inner child and allow growth. Invite your inner child to turn to you for holding when scared or feeling shame.
- Mantras that may be helpful to repeat:
- I accept that I am feeling shame; However, I am not my shame; I am that who is aware of my shame.
- I offer the light of my awareness to my shame for whatever is called for, for transmutation and healing to completion.
- I am worthy now. Not if. Not when.
- I am enough as I am.
Questions for Reflection & Journaling:
- What about your story have you been afraid to share?
- Do you fear/feel people may think less of you if they knew this about you?
- What if caring about this were no longer true for you?
- What could that allow for?
- How can practicing courage, compassion, and connection heal shame and grow worth in your life - professionally and personally?
In Bloom we grow