Shame is a deep-seated feeling and conviction that something is inherently wrong with us. And although this FEELS true it is based on faulty thinking, and is therefore something we can challenge and change. To break free … take one thought (such as I am defective, inferior, worthless or deserve to be rejected) and then ask yourself the following questions:
1. What convinces me this thought it true?
2. What is the evidence against it?
3. Is there one time or occasion when it hasn’t been true?
4. Why was it not true at that time?
5. What would someone who REALLY knew me and loved me say to contradict that negative thought (the thought that I am defective, inferior, worthless or deserve to be rejected)?
6. Who would I be, and what could I achieve, if I let go of that negative thought?
7. What’s the worst that could happen if I let go of that thought?
8. What is the best that could happen if I let go of that thought?
We tend to focus on looking for love, hoping for love, and waiting for love. Yet if we look to others to meet that basic need then we’ll always be empty and unfulfilled.
That is, for others to love us in a healthy way, we must first be able to nurture ourselves … and to love and honour who we truly are. The steps below can help you work towards this goal.
1. Decide to treat others with love and respect: As you seek to bring joy into others’ lives you’ll find that they repay you with kindness and love.
2. Practice random acts of kindness: “Play it forward” by doing random thoughtful things. That will turn you into someone you respect yourself – and you’ll also find that others are more generous to you.
3. Let go of the past: What happened in the past is merely history now. Today is a new day, and you are starting a new page. Let go of disappointments, hurts and any grievances you hold against yourself, other people – or the world!
4. Forgive yourself: We all make mistakes, or we regret some bad decisions. Don’t ridicule, berate or criticise yourself for that. Instead, forgive whatever happened, and give yourself a break. It simply means you’re human – and are not infallible.
5. Practice positive self-talk: Write down and repeat affirming statements and truths … like “I am gifted” … or “I’m a true and loyal friend”. Post these statements on the mirror and repeat them to yourself.
6. Think through what you really want in life – You can carve out your own path and you choose your own destiny. Your life is a gift and you can choose what you will do.
7. Be persistent: Work wholeheartedly at loving yourself. If you’ve suffered in the past then be compassionate. Be ready to acknowledge and work through your pain. You deserve that respect – and it will help to set you free.
8. Celebrate your accomplishments: It’s easy to ignore or to downplay what we have done – but don’t be blind to your successes and accomplishments. They ought to be acknowledged as they’re part of who you are.
9. Think of someone you want to be like and emulate them: Doing that will build those qualities into your life as well – so it is easier to like, love and accept yourself.
10. Be yourself and trust yourself: Be true to yourself – and don’t care what others think. Learn to trust your instincts and to follow your own heart. Also, learn it’s OK to say “no” and to do your own thing … And you don’t have to feel guilty for not pleasing everyone.
11. Don’t compare yourself to others: Every person on the planet is different and unique. We all have different talents and different histories. Discover who YOU are and then invest in being you!
12. Work on receiving love: When someone pays you a compliment or tries to show you love, don’t quickly brush it off – but try and see it as a gift. That is, a gift that shows you’ve value and are loved, and loveable.
1. Be approachable – Someone who’s standoffish, or likes to keep their distance, tends to make other people feel uncomfortable. But if you’re warm and friendly, and have open body language, you’ll help other people to feel much more at ease.
2. Be natural and genuine – We can tell if other people are being insincere, or if their compliments are false, or if they’re trying to impress. But if you work on being natural, and revealing your true self, you will seem like a “real person” who doesn’t wear a mask.
3. Be modest, and be willing to share the praise with others – Give other people credit for the things that they do well, and notice their hard work, and their personal contributions.
4. Listen carefully to others, and ask for their advice – We appreciate when others want to learn from our experience, or they ask us what we think, or they want to know our views. But a proud know-it-all never asks for others’ input. They’re sure that they are right, and others’ viewpoints do not matter.
5. Admit your mistakes and your areas of weakness – It makes you seem more human, and much more likeable, as we all make mistakes and are conscious of our flaws.
Shame is the deeply held belief that, at core, there is something wrong with me. So, no matter what I do, or how hard I try, I can never measure up and be good enough. Thus, I expect other people to reject me in the end, and deep down inside I reject myself.
If I have a shame based identity, I am likely to battle with the following feelings:
- · Feeling like a fraud
- · Feeling like I have to cover up all the time
- · Fear of being exposed for who and what I truly am
- · Feeling powerless
- · Feeling as if I don’t have, or deserve, a voice
- · Wishing I could just disappear
- · Feeling vulnerable
- · Feeling very needy – and perhaps too needy, compared to other people
- · Feeling like I always disappoint myself and others.
The “shame bound” person is constantly struggling against these persistent and negative feelings. They are triggered easily, and by innocuous triggers, such as being overlooked or contradicted by a friend. This can then result in a powerful “shame attack” that is so intense that we’re completely paralysed, and completely overwhelmed, by our sense of worthlessness. These debilitating feelings can persist for days, or months.