Things to know about Shame…
What it is:
– Embarrassment, Humiliation, Not good enough, Low self-worth, Perfectionism, Inferiority
– Shame deals with what you think of yourself, and how you are affected by what others think.
– It deals with the conflict between fitting in and being true to yourself.
– There is a lot of Comparing and Competing.
We have all been treated poorly at times to a greater or lesser degree. The greater the abuse or neglect, the lower our self-image. Think about your highest or lowest memories of how you were treated, especially when you very young. Do you have memories of being abused, laughed at, ridiculed, ostracized, despised, left out, picked last, unwanted, neglected, abandoned, rejected, attacked personally, embarrassed?
It’s bad when these things assail your sense of self, but the deeper damage occurs when you take it on, internalize the hazing, identify with it. When you join in on the attack on yourself, agree with the critique, abandon your own good graces, when YOU attack the only thing you have – yourself- you lose the #1 source of love and support it takes to make it through life. This makes Shame the most debilitating of all emotions.
How It Happens
When you are young or vulnerable, you desperately need food, warmth, touch, care, acceptance, approval and love. This dependence requires you to accept what the powers-that-be, your presumptive care-givers dish out – both the goods and their attitudes. If they are suffering you will feel it, and it will feel like there is something wrong with you to be treated poorly. You will go along with what they think and feel about you. They are big and powerful so you stand with them and against yourself – to survive. Then you look back at yourself from their point with disgust. With that image, it won’t take much in the way of further negative attention to validate this poor self-image. You shrink, play small, hang back, hide out, feel bad. Low self-esteem seems to prove itself true in a cycle that can spiral downward into despair.
Yikes, right? It happens to everyone to a greater or lesser degree. It may have happened very early. You may not even remember it. Someone looked at you with disapproval. In that moment it all changed. You could no longer just be you. You became self-conscious and had to quickly figure out how to get them relaxed and smiling again. Depending on the intensity and duration of the attack, it changed how you felt about yourself – from happy and normal to some level of miserable, humiliated, unsafe, unclean, unworthy, unloved, unwanted.
As social animals, our survival depends on our acceptance by others, to fit in with various groups versus being an outcast. But the random and fickle opinions of others are no reliable foundation by which to know ourselves.
How to Reclaim Self-Esteem?
Paradoxically, the debilitating feelings and energies that come with the Shame family of emotions have the ability and express purpose to lift Self-Esteem. Feeling bad is a stimulus to find your way out. In the case of Shame, the only way out is through those feelings. To go deep inside, get real with yourself, see what is there, who you really are, and make peace with yourself. This involves self-compassion, acceptance, self-love, and sometimes some tough love when you find yourself living below your own standards.
Once you know the true purpose of Shame, and work well WITH it, It can bring you from worthless to priceless. It’s your image. And someone famously claimed you were made in the image of GOD/ GODDESS! Do you feel me?