Shame is a painful emotion caused by the consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. It’s an emotion we experience when we feel less than, belittled, unworthy, embarrassed, incapable, or unlovable. Everyone experiences it throughout their lives, and whether shame makes or breaks a person is up to them.
I’m here to tell you that your shame is nothing to be ashamed of. If used as a tool for growth, a certain amount of shame can be healthy — you just have to be careful that you don’t allow shame to define who you are. It’s important to remain vigilant, and notice when shame starts to become toxic instead of constructive.
The Plus Side to Shame
Not all shame is bad. Sometimes, shame is just the realization you needed about something to snap us out of a bad habit you’ve developed. Sometimes, it’s the nudge you need in the right direction. If you choose to listen to it instead of ignoring it, shame can motivate you to want more for ourselves and to stop procrastinating on the tasks you know you need to work on. Shame gives you an opportunity for positive change if you let it steer you instead of hinder you. It is important to at least acknowledge that the shame is coming from somewhere. Once you admit that there is shame in the first place, you can finally begin to heal the parts of yourself that are holding you back.
The Toxic Side of Shame
When you internalize your shame and start to let it define you, you create an unsteady foundation for yourself. This makes you more fragile, and more likely to act out in self-destructive ways. When shame turns toxic, you’re much more likely to battle addiction, depression, eating disorders and suicide.
All of this can be prevented by doing the necessary work it takes to heal your shame. Shame can convince you that your worst thoughts and feelings are true. If there is a silver lining to toxic shame, it’s that you can rewire your thought process and the way you internalize your shame.
It’s critical to remember that shame is not who you are, and your worth is not measured by the negative thoughts that shame may cause. To heal, you must face what you want to run from because you can’t keep running forever.
Coping with Shame
Shame thrives on your fears and it shows up in your life when certain situations and experiences cause you to feel inadequate. But you can remove shame’s power when you allow yourself the ability to make mistakes, accept your flaws and shortcomings, and confront what initially provoked the painful emotions within you.
There are a handful of ways to acknowledge your shame so you can begin to heal from it:
- Write down the things that make you feel shameful
- Choose someone to confide in and talk to them about your feelings
- Find a professional therapist who can help you understand your shame
To heal your shame, you have to rewire your thought process. I am by no means saying that this is simple; I’m just reassuring you that it can be done if you are willing to get honest with yourself and commit to the changes it will require. To heal from anything — including addiction — we must first address it, understand it, and learn how to move forward without it.