Shame is a powerful emotion that can lead us to feel unworthy, defective, and disconnected from ourselves and others. All of us have the capacity to heal from shame by engaging in a process of self-discovery and self-acceptance.
Here are some strategies that can help us work through shame and reclaim our sense of worth:
Identify the roots of shame
Shame often arises from experiences of trauma, abuse, neglect, or invalidation. To work through shame, we need to understand the origins of our shame and how it has impacted our beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. This may involve exploring our family of origin, childhood experiences, and significant relationships. By gaining insight into the sources of our shame, we can begin to recognize and challenge the false messages that shame has taught us.
Shame thrives in secrecy and isolation. To overcome shame, we need to break free from the shame cycle by sharing our experiences with others who can provide empathy, validation, and support. This may involve opening up to a therapist, trusted friend, or support group. By practicing vulnerability, we can create a sense of connection and belonging that counteracts shame’s message of disconnection and unworthiness.
Shame can make us harsh and critical towards ourselves, leading to a vicious cycle of self-blame and self-hatred. To break this cycle, we need to cultivate self-compassion – the ability to treat ourselves with kindness, understanding, and acceptance. This may involve practicing self-soothing techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or visualization. By offering ourselves the same compassion we would offer to a dear friend, we can heal our wounded self-esteem and build our sense of self-worth.
Challenge shame-based beliefs
Shame often operates through a set of core beliefs, such as “I am unlovable,” “I am defective,” or “I am a failure.” To challenge these beliefs, we need to examine the evidence for and against them, and develop more realistic and compassionate alternatives. This may involve journaling, talking back to negative thoughts, or using affirmations. By questioning our shame-based beliefs, we can shift our perspective and reframe our identity in a more positive and empowering way.
Shame can make us feel stuck in the past, unable to move on from past mistakes or regrets. To break free from shame’s grip, we need to practice self-forgiveness – the ability to let go of self-blame and self-punishment. This may involve acknowledging our mistakes, making amends if possible, and releasing ourselves from the burden of guilt. By forgiving ourselves, we can create space for growth, learning, and self-improvement.
Working through shame requires a process of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. By identifying the roots of our shame, practicing vulnerability, developing self-compassion, challenging shame-based beliefs, and practicing self-forgiveness, we can heal our wounded self-esteem and reclaim our sense of worth. As John Bradshaw reminds us, “Healing the shame that binds us is a journey that requires courage, vulnerability, and self-compassion.” Let’s embark on this journey with courage, compassion, and hope.
If you are struggling with feelings of shame and/or unworthiness, and need help, please contact me, clinical psychologist, Dr. Christine Dickson. My practice focuses on mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, which is an evidence-based treatment for working through strong emotions. Please reach out to me today through my website.