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What is Shame and What Do I Do About It?

by Gabriela Sheinin
Welcome To 54

“I am bad.”

This statement is at the core of shame. Shame is often confused with guilt, which is feeling bad about doing something that was wrong. Shame, on the other hand, convinces us that there is something wrong with us. It’s a painful emotion that leads us to believe we don’t belong and are undeserving of love. We know we may be feeling shame when we look away, droop our heads, and slump our shoulders.

Shame is common and one of the ways we keep ourselves safe. It notifies us when we behave in unacceptable ways and prompts us to correct the situation, but sometimes shame takes over. We blame ourselves for the problem and conclude that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. We internalize this message and create a narrative that highlights ourselves as being “bad” and causing the problems around us.

4 Tips to Overcoming Shame:

  1. Recognize shame: It’s an emotion that can be helpful, but sometimes goes too far and makes us blame ourselves for something that was not our fault. When we recognize it, we can start to name it, understand it, and question it.
  2. Self-compassion: Remember that we are human. We make mistakes and that does not mean that there is anything wrong with us. Treat yourself with kindness and love in the same way you would treat a loved one if they were in your shoes.
  3. For parents/caregivers: Avoid saying things like, “What’s wrong with you?” and comparing your child to others. These comments reinforce for youth that they are, in fact, flawed. Instead, focus on the problematic situation and collaboratively work on a solution with the youth.
  4. Talk to a therapist: Talk therapy gets to the root, it is a great way to address symptoms and the cause of your problems. The effects of talk therapy are long lasting, it helps you develop the tools you need to deal with your challenges long term.

The link: https://www.psychologytools.com/professional/problems/shame/ is a great free online resource tool that shares worksheets and exercises that you can complete from the comfort of your own home.