Let’s talk about shame. Shame is the painful feeling of humiliation or distress that follows us after a perceived act of embarrassment or injury of pride. Shame has a tendency to follow us throughout our lives as we remember those negative moments where we felt the grasp of crippling humiliation, even years after the event occurred. These recurring negative thoughts manifest in horribly self-deprecative talk such as, “It’s all my fault” or “I’m such a loser”, or even worse, “I’m not worthy.”
It is when shame becomes an ingrained part of our society, however, that it begins to erode our happiness and damage our lives. There is this idea that if we shame someone enough, then the behaviors we don’t like will begin to change. But more often than not, shame creates a ripple effect of negative emotion, insecurity and breaks down our sense of autonomy. It creates a society of bullies, finger pointers, and blamers.
Effects of Shame
Brené Brown, a well-known research professor at the University of Houston who is an expert on shame, vulnerability, and resiliency, defines shame as ‘the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
When we feel shame, we are digging into those feelings of unworthiness and placing them at the forefront of our lives. Living a life of shame creates a self-defeating cycle of behaviors, physical health problems, and often leads to psychological disorders such as:
- Low self- esteem
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Excessive anger
- Feelings of loneliness and emptiness
These feelings are often intensified when shame comes from another party. When we shame others, we are putting them in a state of mental anguish that can potentially last for years. But what can we do to combat this and create a society that embraces understanding, grace, and vulnerability?
Creating Safe Space to Mess up
We all mess up sometimes. That is the beautiful part of being human. It means that we are allowed to NOT be perfect! When we are faced with overwhelming feelings of shame, we need to remember this very important factor – it’s okay to mess up sometimes. And when we start working through those feelings and giving ourselves grace, that is when we truly learn about ourselves and how we are all worthy.
It is also important to share that same empathy and understanding when others mess up. To let them know that they are worthy of love and connection, no matter what their past may look like. When we approach the world this way, it opens us up to being vulnerable and helps us create a society that thrives on positive interactions. In other words, it makes the world a better place!
If you are working through feelings of shame, just remember that you are not alone. You are allowed to be imperfect and if someone is shaming you, take a step back from the situation and take a deep look at what makes you, YOU! Focus on one small aspect you love about yourself and work on making that love larger every single day. And don’t forget to give yourself some grace on your low days.
The truth is that constant shame has long-term damaging physical and psychological effects such as anxiety and depression. It creates a ‘bully’ mentality and it removes the individual quirks that make us interesting and unique!
If you or your loved one needs help to address the psychological effects of shame, we are here to help. Our mental health treatment centers offer a variety of services and can help you work through the deep wounds that shame causes. Let us help you get back on the road to mental wellness. Contact us today at 844.875.5609.