Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself ~ Anais Nin
Shame is the intensely painful emotion of feeling unworthy and not good enough and it is an inescapable part of being human. Different from guilt, which says ‘I did something bad or made a mistake’, Shame says “I am bad, I am a mistake”.
Shame can be the result of one specific incident or many in your life. Experiences such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, bullying, abandonment or neglect can be the triggers that cause you to buy into the conviction that you are worthless.
How Shame Gets Started
Shaming messages that humiliate or embarrass you often start in childhood and come from parents, siblings, teachers, or peers. They include name-calling (You are an idiot!), judgment (what’s wrong with you? Who do you think you are? You should be ashamed of yourself) and direct shaming (Shame on you!) from others.
When you internally accept such statements as true, they become the critical voice in your head telling you that you are dumb, stupid, ugly, fat, awkward or can’t do anything right.
The seeds of shame can also come from a wide-range early life experiences such as a parent dying or being teased or bullied by peers for the way you look, talk or your ethnicity. Even a seemingly insignificant moment of not being chosen first for a team or not having an answer when asked in class can be the spark that begins shame.
Such events fuel a sense of helplessness, humiliation, low self-esteem and inferiority in life and they subconsciously drive your adult choices in relationships as well as your understanding of who you are and how you do or don’t fit in.
Shaming lies absorbed in childhood affect you well into adulthood. The belief that you are flawed can stop you from ever reaching your full potential or connecting with your essentially loving and wholesome nature.
Shame is inside. It’s a problem with our self, our sense of “I” ~ unknown
Adult Shame-based Behaviours – How Many Do You Recognise In your life or in others?
- Constant self-criticism for being less than perfect
- Never satisfied with achievements
- Cannot accept a compliment or love from others
- Criticising others before they can criticise you to armour against further shaming
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism from others and deflecting blame
- Inability to hear or discuss any personal shortcomings
- Self-destructive behaviours such as addiction, eating disorders, depression, violent or suicidal tendencies
- Lack of self-care and feeling deserving of abundance
- Sabotage relationships or career by picking fights, or complaining
- Head down, shoulders up, no eye contact postures that hide and shrink away from connection
- Fear of failure so you will not try anything new or meet a challenge
How to Heal Shame? Compassion is Key!
According to Brene Brown PhD, shame needs three things to thrive within you –
Without all three conditions, shame cannot survive. She offers these steps to heal shame:
- Understand what triggers your shame – is it situations that question your appearance? Your competence? Your motivation?
- Test your reactive shame against reality – are your inner voices speaking truth or lying to you?
- Find a trusted person and share your story because shame cannot exist when it is acknowledged and spoken out loud
- Talk to yourself in the same way you would to a loved one who is feeling unworthy – embrace self-love and self-compassion
How Breathwork Heals Shame
As with all emotions, shame is stored in your body at a cellular level. The breath and particularly the Breathwork technique can skilfully access and release these deeply held, subconscious memories that feed toxic shame and drive negative behaviours in life. It is an effective, intelligent and quick way to let go of the emotional pain of shame.
Despite its negative identity, shame can be a path to awareness as well as an opportunity to embrace understanding and self-love. Overcoming shame offers the potential to lead you through powerlessness into personal greatness.
Shame says that because I am flawed I am unacceptable. Grace says that because I am flawed, I am cherished. ~ unknown
For more information about Breathwork, feel free to connect with John Stamoulos at www.johnstamoulos.com