Shame is a normal feeling about ourselves and our behavior. It’s not necessarily a symptom of an illness or pathology. In many situations, it’s abnormal if we don’t experience it.
When we feel shame, we feel that something about us makes us so flawed that we don’t deserve to be in connection with other people. It disconnects us from others and teaches us to feel alone. As humans, we are hardwired at a cellular level for connection. When we feel shame, these feelings physically make us want to go inside ourselves, withdraw, and can further trigger avoidance behaviors as a way to comfort or soothe. The point is that shame and self-criticism keep us from doing the things we need to take care of ourselves and ultimately find comfort, connection and motivation.
There’s mounting evidence that problems occur when shame or humiliation becomes an integral part of a person’s self-image or sense of self-worth.
It can lead to aggression, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and addiction. It generates low self-esteem, anxiety, irrational guilt, perfectionism, and codependency, and it limits our ability to enjoy satisfying relationships and professional success.
The fundamental belief underlying shame is that “I’m unlovable — not worthy of connection.” Usually, internalized shame manifests as one of the following beliefs:
- I’m stupid.
- I’m unattractive (especially to a romantic partner).
- I’m a failure.
- I’m a bad person.
- I’m a fraud or a phony.
- I’m selfish.
- I’m not enough (this belief can be applied to numerous areas).
- I hate myself.
- I don’t matter.
- I’m defective or inadequate.
- I shouldn’t have been born.
- I’m unlovable.
These shame thoughts are often referred as the inner critic.
How we relate to these thoughts determine our lives!
Guilt and shame
Guilt is a positive response of psychologically healthy individuals who realize they have done something wrong. It helps them act more positively, more responsibly, often to correct what they’ve done.
But shame is not productive. Shame tends to direct individuals into destructive behaviors. When we focus on what we did wrong, we can correct it; but when we’re convinced that we are wrong we get problems.
Healing shame and the voice of the inner critic with
- Unconditional Acceptance
- Love and kindness
Awareness is the first step to recognizing and letting go of shame and the inner critic. Many of us don’t even realize its presence.
2. Unconditional Accepting
Feeling and realizing whatever is there and responding to these feelings and thoughts with a “Yes”.
3. Love and kindness
The antidote to shame is self-compassion. I teach love and kindness with a self-hypnosis technique.
Do have questions? Call 0049 1774512080, Skype birgitzottmann or write Birgit@drzottmann.com