Shame is a complex and painful emotional experience that most people have gone through in their lives. The shame experience involves mental distress that results in unpleasant feelings in our body and negative self-conscious thoughts. You start believing something is wrong with you and have messed up your life.
It’s common to go through shame due to specific situations, and you start thinking everyone around you has a reason to look down on you. However, some people fight with this situation in a more enduring way. People with more shame-proneness face shame throughout the day in different situations. It results in prolonged suffering.
Shame is persistent that can originate in many ways. Some people incorporate shame early in their life due to the demeaning messages from their caregivers or parents in their early life. Shame can be in different forms time it’s emotional, physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. Some people have to experience shame due to their identity aspects that are not accepted by others or sometimes by themselves.
Where does Shame come from?
There are different sources of shame. Sometimes people develop shameful feelings from their childhood when their parents tell them they are not good enough. Even sometimes, parents have such high expectations from their children that they leave them to shame when they can’t measure up to them.
The children can grow up feeling insufficient in many aspects, and it happens when the parents are emotionally or verbally abusive, neglectful, or highly critical. In contrast, some develop feelings of shame due to their interaction in worship houses or peer interaction.
It can also develop due to the shaming partner in the relationship or having some shaming aspects in the culture. In these cases, some individuals become harsh and self-critical, which has long-lasting effects on their mental health. According to the research, some evidence claims a biological weakness to shame.
Want to know how to get over the shame? The first step in dealing with guilt is understanding your emotions. Sometimes it’s not apparent that you are feeling shame. You may go through it as defensive behavior, anger, depression, irritability, and even procrastination.
It takes time to realize that shame is behind these continuous struggling emotions. You have to dig into your feelings and ask yourself why. Why are you getting aggressive when your loved one recommends you consult a therapist? Why do specific topics make you go in defensive behavior?
Shame loves hiding. And that’s why people say they want to crawl into a hole after telling an embarrassing story. It’s natural to protect yourself from the people who deride you. Unfortunately, when you get shamed, you are the one who criticizes yourself, and in such cases, shame is just taking another form.
How does Shame become Toxic?
You must have felt shame or may feel that emotion at different times in your life. Shame can last from a few hours to a few days. Toxic shame results when someone continuously tells you that you are not enough. It results in negative self-talk that stays with you for a long time.
Toxic shame starts when someone continuously gives negative feedback to you for specific periods. It usually happens in childhood due to a caregiver or a parent. For example, when you are wet, a parent can respond to the situation differently:
- They can reassure you that it’s okay as it happens and will clean up the bed without making a fuss.
- They will lash out at you and curse you about what’s wrong with you, why you always do this, etc.
The second reaction for a child will result in self-blaming that something is wrong with him. The shame feeling can turn into toxic shame for a child when the second situation is continuously repeated. Some other phrases that can also result in toxic shame include:
- You will never be as good as your brother.
- What were you even thinking before doing that?
- You are wrong!
- Why do you do things like that?
If such things are continuously occurring, it can make you start thinking, “I am not good enough.” “I am not worthy of their love.” And beholding to such emotions can result in mental and physical health.
How to get over the shame?
Many people are curious about knowing how to get over the shame. Fortunately, many practical ways exist to heal from these toxic shame feelings. When we prepare ourselves to deal with life challenges, we also discover many new ways to think about ourselves. These challenges are for reprogramming our life. Fortunately, you can rewire your brain but to an extent.
1. Acknowledge the issue
First, you must realize that you suffer from toxic shame. You can’t always quickly tell it as it camouflages in your behaviour. Even when you know you have unfounded concerns, it will still be hard to see that it’s because of the shame feeling. Admitting your problem is the only solution that can make it stop you from defining yourself.
2. Share the problem
You can quickly lighten this shameful feeling if you share it with the right and empathetic person. Sometimes opening up with the right person will ensure we are not alone in these battles. But even though it’s universal, nobody wants to talk about it. It’s necessary to start the healing process.
3. Look for its origin
Try to observe the origin of your feelings of shame, feeling careful. Are there people around you telling you that you are not good enough? Which situations make you think you are useless, or why have you done this?
Sometimes after going through all such issues, the leading cause was the dysfunctional family, where people always blamed them for all the wrong things. Despite trying to be the perfect and ideal child, he was always told that something was wrong with him.
4. Observe the signs
When you start having negative emotions ask yourself what happened before having these painful emotions and negative self-talk, and figure out how this negative emotional or physical shaming affects you. For example, where in the body do you feel shame? What type of emotional reactions do you have?
Another shame indicator is that the person becomes highly critical of other people. Sometimes people more prone to shame start seeing their faults in the people around them. If you start knowing the origins and feelings, you can constructively respond to the emotions. And hopefully, you can dispel it entirely someday.
5. Learn to forgive yourself
You must know how to separate your work from your personality. You must understand that your identity isn’t at risk with something that doesn’t work out how you want it to. You will be free to take risks and have more chances of success.
You must retain this perspective when your inner critic comes forward. Slowly you will take self-blaming as a sign to reframe the situation. Forgiving will also help in embracing your true personality instead of going through the continuous struggle to meet the expectations of others. You should treat yourself politely and respectfully, the same way you treat other people.
6. Get professional help
As I mentioned above, overcoming shame means acknowledging it and sharing your feelings with the trusted people around you. It requires a vulnerability that can sometimes also result in anxiety. You can ask the psychotherapist or coach for assistance if you have deep wounds or need help.
People in such helping professions are very polite and practical to guide you effectively to overcome the inward-bound journey. Everyone expects psychopaths to have such feelings, but believe me, you must be human to feel shame. But still, we don’t bother to talk about such topics.
The toxic shame flourishes when hidden, so don’t let it fester anymore. To live the life you deserve, you must understand that you are the best person who deserves all the love and acceptance.
Is it Shame or Guilt?
It’s vital to distinguish shame from guilt. Guilt is a beneficial emotion that lets us know that somehow we have let ourselves down. The guilt feeling help us in fixing our mistakes and also makes us improve ourselves. The most significant difference between shame and guilt is that shame applies to our inherent values while guilt applies to our actions.
Guys, guilt says it was poorly done when you make a big mistake or speak rudely to your friend. You will have to apologize for the hurtful behavior and try to be careful next time. While the shame will say, “I am a horrible person going around to hurt other people.”
The thing is that shame will not let you improve your behavior. It will make you feel you are terrible and can’t improve yourself. If you have done something but are ashamed and want to improve yourself, try transferring it to the guilt category.
For example, instead of thinking I am a terrible child who steals from his parents. Change it into guilt; I was wrong for stealing from my parents, but I will never do that again.
Try Opening Up
Try opening up about your emotions, as it will help you heal. As mentioned above, shame wants to hide, but letting it hide will worsen things. Consult a professional or therapist if you feel unsafe opening up with your friends or family.
Your therapist will hear everything; according to the law, anything you share will be confidential. Opening your heart to someone is helpful; a therapist will help you work through the emotions. Group therapy is also a unique experience of opening up with people you never met, and you will see that many of them have gone through similar experiences in their lives.
If you don’t want to share your emotions and feelings of shame with anyone, try writing about it in a journal. Acknowledge them and explore them, as it will make you feel good. It will also prepare you to discuss it openly with a therapist.
Shame is a destructive emotion as it can convince us that we are not worthy of anyone’s love or respect; we are weak and don’t deserve good things. Fortunately, shame can’t bear the light. The more you can acknowledge, the more you can control your life.
What triggers shame?
Shame is triggered by the conscious break in bonding with oneself and others. It also comes with the thinking of how others perceive me and become self-conscious to unhealthy levels. Shame can be defined as the emotional experience of another person’s dislike or disgust that can be real or imagined.
Why is a shame so painful?
Shame is one of the most painful feelings as it rises when a human’s most basic need to be respected and feel safe is unmet. It’s so painful that we must find ways to neutralize this feeling and avoid it as much as possible.
Why it’s so hard to overcome shame?
People who feel guilty are more likely to forgive themselves. Shame starts eroding our sense of self-respect, and that makes it more challenging to overcome. You can also take shame as a complex emotional response learned during early childhood. It generally happens when children are dependent on their caregivers.
What is the root of shame?
The origin of shame can always be tied back to past experiences of feeling judged, rejected, or criticized by people around you. Generally, people respond to shame by pushing others away, withdrawing, and preserving their reputation by hiding the aspects of their personality that they feel will result in rejection.
Can shame be cured?
Yes, fortunately, you can heal from the shame feeling. You can take steps to eliminate shame from your life. Accepting your mistakes and personality will happen when you give yourself another chance. Eliminating shame from your life will make you more confident.