We have all experienced shame to different degrees. It shows up in each of us in different ways. Shame researcher, Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, in her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power, defines shame in the following way:
“An intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
Brown goes on to share that “shame creates feelings of fear, blame, and disconnection.” Can you relate to this? There are so many different things that trigger shame. At the core is that shame is triggered by anything that causes us to feel that who we are is somehow wrong. This feeling causes us to want to hide and in turn results in us taking actions to keep others away. We may become defensive, angry, or judgmental in our attempts to not be seen. The good news is that there is a way to work through shame and develop resiliency.
Identify what triggers your feelings of shame
The first part of this process is to identify what triggers you to experience feelings of shame. For example did a well-meaning individual make a comment about your weight that resulted in you becoming defensive and critical in return? That’s an example of a trigger.
Label it as shame
Did the trigger cause you to feel a sense of unworthiness and that there is something inherently wrong with you? If so then you are experiencing shame and it is important to identify that this is what is happening. This is very important because it will allow you to move onto the next step.
Identify who you really are
What did that person’s comment cause you to feel about yourself? What mental “script” did it attach itself to? An example may be the following: “The shame is telling me that because I am overweight I am unworthy of love and respect. What I know to be true instead is that I am worthy and lovable at any size.”
Share your story with a safe person
Once you have worked through this process, the final step is to share your story. When we share our story with someone else, it helps to make it real. Our shame stories are not for everybody. Dr. Brown encourages you to pick a person who has earned the right to hear your story. You want to choose an individual who is unconditionally supportive of you and will embrace your story without judgement.
The following are some other great resources from Brene Brown,PhD, to help you on the path to wholeness:
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
- Men, Women, and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough (Audio Book CD)
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead