How to Overcome Shame and Take Back Your Power and Worth
You are worthy.
Just reading those words on the page can send you into an uncomfortable squirm, can’t they?
I know, I know...I hear all the time from clients about how they may feel worthy ‘over here’ in their life, but not ‘over there.’ They can’t really see how wonderful they are. Despite their successes and commitment to personal growth, they still focus on their past mistakes.
When guilt over the past and judgments from others seep into every part of your life, you start to believe you are not enough. And so, the cycle begins to overcome shame.
Hey, I get it. I used to be like this too. But I let go of my own cycle of shame long ago and learned to embrace my worth. This was a key factor to my own awakening and becoming the best, most real version of myself I could be.
What is Shame?
Externally, shame can look like a lot of different things: anger, fear, guilt, low confidence, silence. Many people think guilt and shame are, in fact, interchangeable, but they are not. Shame goes beyond guilt.
Guilt comes from feeling bad about something you’ve done that you feel was wrong. It’s about feeling terrible about a behavior. Shame is believing that your very being is wrong.
Shame is really a form of spiritual suicide. By believing that your being is wrong, you slowly kill your sense of intrinsic worth. By not feeling worthy, you are detached from your soul-self, and you feel empty, lost, and afraid. It’s lonely as hell.
Your past does not define you.
Look, I lose my shit sometimes. I’ve blown up on my son or my husband more than once. I’ve had clients who frustrate the living daylights out of me, then be ashamed of myself that I was feeling that way when I should know better as a coach.
Do I feel bad about it when I eff up? Absolutely. But I have come to accept that we all have emotions. We all have bad days. I have learned that it does not serve my clients or me one bit to allow the guilt over a less-than-desirable behavior to turn into the shame that keeps me paralyzed in unworthiness.
I realized I had to love myself enough to forgive myself, release it and keep moving forward towards my highest good. That was the first step behind not allowing guilt from a mistake to morph into shame for being who I am.
Why do some people feel more shame than others?
Often, the seeds of shame are planted in childhood. If you grew up in an environment that was emotionally abusive or neglectful your chances of carrying intense shame are higher.
Any environment that makes you feel unworthy, inferior, or just plain “not enough” will cause you to feel shame if you are exposed to it long enough. Other ways shame can start to take over your life is through mental illness or trauma that are left untreated and unhealed.
It’s interesting to note that men and women respond to shame differently. Psychologist Krystalynn Salters-Pedneault, Ph.D., says, “…men with shame-based low self-esteem tend to “act out” through anger and violent behavior toward others, and women to “act in” by turning their feelings inward and hating themselves.”
How to rid yourself of the cycle of shame.
Regret will bring you nothing. Bashing yourself will never take back the past. Allow the acknowledgment that you are a beautiful being experiencing life in all its contrasts.
Talk about it
Well, known shame researcher and author Brene Brown says shame cannot survive being spoken. Talk about a mic-drop.
The first thing we want to do when we feel guilt or embarrassment is keeping it silent. This produces wonderful conditions for that feeling to fester and intensify from internal self-talk.
Airing it out, giving it the light of day, and practicing vulnerability will release it from inside you and give it nowhere else to grow, which i find to be the easiest way to let go and overcome shame.
Don’t feel bad about your success.
It’s easy to see how negative circumstances and behaviors can lead to shame. Surprisingly, so can success and good fortune. For instance, when I got to the point of no longer struggling financially, had no debt, and great income, I would feel intense shame when people in my family talked about their struggles.
One researcher suggests that if you start going down the path of negative self-talk, dismiss it and switch to the positive, motivating “Voice of Intelligence”. The voice of intelligence is the affirming thoughts or phrases that are usually buried under your thoughts of shame.
He suggests keeping a list of phrases on your smartphone or desk calendar for easy reference when needed, so you don’t need to try and come up with them on-the-spot.
Don’t beat yourself up because of your struggle.
Remember that no matter where you are or what you’ve done, nothing is set in stone.
I used to be a whole lotta things – and I wouldn’t label them as anything to be proud of. Depressive train-wreck, negative-Nelly, food binger, living above my means, fake, buying my happiness, not telling the whole story, you name it. For a time, I was lost. And I carried intense shame about it.
What did I do to heal that history? Grace.
I gave myself – and that lost girl – grace. I realized that version of me wasn’t broke because she didn’t make enough. She was broke because she didn’t believe she was enough. Spending and filling my life with things was the only tool I knew at the time to try and fill that void of ‘enoughness.’
Now when I think of that time, how far I have come, and how much I have learned I feel proud. I know had to be that version of myself to become this version of myself. It was part of my soul’s journey and it was the experience that I required to learn about grace.
We get the chance EVERY SINGLE DAY, EVERY SINGLE HOUR, to start anew. To change, through free will and choice. Don’t let shame rob you of that choice. Release yourself from the past and move your life forward; you CAN overcome shame.