Every time Grace—a gifted drama teacher—taught a class, she returned home with an awful sinking feeling. She didn’t understand why. “I had such fun and did a great job,” she thought to herself. Yet, rather than expand from the delight and exuberance of her time in the classroom, she contracted.
Grace’s contraction came from the experience of shame, a poison that keeps us from experiencing our own joy and disconnects us from the aliveness within and around us.
Often shame is confused with guilt.
Guilt is associated with a particular memory or event of having done something wrong, the feeling of shame is about being wrong at our core. Shame is a debilitating feeling we have about ourselves that comes from a core belief that we are basically and unalterably flawed.
Sources of Shame
The poison that is the root of shame is absorbed in early childhood. A lot goes on in those first five years of our lives. As a result of not being seen and loved for we are who, we can develop the belief that we are unlovable and that something is inherently wrong with us.
Perhaps we were told outright that we were bad, stupid or undeserving, or perhaps we were physically abused, from which we concluded we had no value. The thing we may have done “wrong” might have been simply expressing our joyful authenticity. Like Grace, we learned that being who we truly are is not safe.
Purpose of Shame
Oddly enough, shame gives us the illusion of safety. It provides us with a feeling of control over other people’s feelings and actions. If we are not getting what we want in life—in our personal relationships, in our work, even in our experience of self—a sense of power comes from “knowing” that it is because we are inadequate. If our defectiveness is causing the results we see, we believe there is always something we can do about it. We can do things “right.”
Clinging to the belief that our inadequacy is the cause of other people’s behavior towards us prevents us from accepting our inherent helplessness over others’ feelings and actions. When we begin to understand that all people at all times are simply exercising their free will and it has nothing to do with us, healing can begin.
The poison of shame can be eradicated by taking certain steps towards healing:
- The first step is to identify your shame, to become aware of how it feels in the body. Ask yourself, where do I wear my shame in my body?
- Once you recognize the feeling, notice shame every time it arises and experience it fully; name it and feel it.
- Be willing to express your authentic feelings—including your joy and sense of true power. Reverse the shutting down effect shame causes by giving yourself permission to fully “show up.”
- Accept that other people’s feelings have nothing to do with you. With compassion, choose to no longer take their behavior personally.
- Practice forgiveness—for those whose behavior led to your feeling shamed, and for yourself.
One of the ways that shame can show up is when people feel undeserving of asking for help or receiving help. I assure you that:
Please don’t hesitate to connect if you’d like help releasing the false belief that you are defective, in order to affirm the unique and beautiful individual that you are.
Start the healing right now by sharing something unique about yourself below.
Laura Fenamore, Body Image Expert, Coach and acclaimed Author is on a mission to help women around the world end the constant battle with their bodies and start adoring who they see in the mirror. Her approach walks students and readers through the heartfelt journey to self-love at any size or age by unlocking the secrets to a lifetime of emotional, physical and spiritual health. After overcoming a lifelong battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released 100 pounds – keeping it off for more than 28 years. She chronicles this journey to self-love and health in her widely acclaimed book, Skinny, Fat, Perfect: Love Who You See in the Mirror. Learn more about Laura’s programs, or invite her to speak by visiting SkinnyFatPertect.com.
Image courtesy of Larm Rmah.