We’ve all experienced shame in our lives. Sometimes we have our shame triggered and don’t even know how or why…but we can feel it…somehow we are feeling worthless, less than, fearful of being “found out.” It can happen at work, with friends and family, in the car alone…anywhere!
Over the years I have developed a number of things I say to myself to work through these nasty and negative thoughts and feelings I have when my shame gets triggered. I have shared these with clients over the years and most have found them helpful. So I thought I’d share some useful ideas, strategies, and affirmations here that I employ to help me move past shame when it attacks.
Often shame is triggered when an old wound that’s being tapped. When our emotional reaction is out of proportion for what occurred, we can assume we are in some wounded child state.
To help conquer my shame I made a decision to accept my imperfection and allow myself at least one mistake an hour and one REALLY BIG one per day. This way whenever I made a mistake or did something that I thought others would judge I could tell myself I was within the norm.
I remind myself that I am a good person even though I’ve made a mistake or been imperfect. (Deep breathing can help here, allow all your negative and anxious self-talk to leave your body with each breath)
Years ago, when I got up my nerve to ask people close to me what they thought, I was pleased to find out others did not judge me as harshly as apparently, I did myself. So sometimes I will still ask someone else for their opinion and ask if I seem crazy to them. This gives me some perspective on my own intolerance of myself. I have found that most people judge themselves far more harshly than others do and so now I remind myself that this inner voice of shame I have is often irrational. I love having a healthy support system…life-saving!
I have really changed my world view. I believe that we are “all born naked”, as I often say. Meaning that no one is born better than anyone else, we all have equal value in the universe and that all “better thans” and “less thans” are made by humans trying to cope with their own shame. How I look, how I act, how much money and things I have do not determine my worth. What determines my worth can only come from me. I get to decide what being the best person I want to be will mean. I can listen to what others think of me and decide if it’s a problem or not. If I want to I can change myself at any time. No matter how old I am I can always change and grow.
I have decided to live a life full of respect for all. For the Me that is inside and for all others I interact with. Family, friends and strangers…yes, even customer service people on the phone! If I can’t think of a nice way to speak my truth I have to stop. I do not have the right to say things that will hurt and or damage another. When I do this I feel good about myself.
I have had people leave my life. People who have decided, for one reason or another, that we are not a good fit. I used to feel horrible and allow that to define my worth. I felt huge shame attacks and embarrassed to even talk to anyone about it. So I gave myself permission to not be liked by everyone in the world without allowing it to determine my worth. I asked myself, “How many people do you really need?” I decided that 3-5 would be good enough and that allowed me to allow others to go. It gets easier and easier over the years to talk my way through these losses. In fact, what has also changed is that I have decided that I should also be picky about who I allow in my inner circle. I have to respect the other person’s choice to end our relationship and wish them well.
We should have an INNER CIRCLE into which we only allow people who are kind, loving, respectful and generous. If people are not those things I do not allow them in. I don’t like feeling like I have to walk on eggshells around anyone anymore. I had way too much of that in my life and did not enjoy it one bit. When I start to see eggshells around someone I start to back off and protect myself.
In all of this, I continually develop my “Functional Adult” (from Pia Mellody). I speak these affirmations to myself in various ways:
- I matter and have inherent worth
- I set healthy boundaries with others and myself in a compassionate way
- I know the real me and am her in my daily life
- I know how to get my needs and want’s met in moderate ways
- I know how to be moderate in my life
I remind myself that my feelings of shame come from my childhood and do not have a place in my adult life. I am Good Enough just as I am. The old messages I carried from childhood do not have credence in the adult realm.
No one else has the right to define me. Only I get to make that decision. Old behaviors do not define me. Only I get to make that decision and it may change from day to day. Who I was yesterday does not define who I am today or in the future.
If someone doesn’t like me or what I do I remind myself that it is not about me. How they view me is based on their own filters and how they experience me, but does not define me. I can be open to what they say, listen well, and then decide if this is something I can or am willing to change to keep the relationship.
If people don’t tell me what they are upset about or need, it is not my job to figure it out. If they choose to not tell me “it’s not my circus, not my monkey.” I will just have to wait until they choose to talk.