Dealing with shame

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Dealing with shame

Dealing with shame requires that you understand where does shame come from, why do you sometimes feel shameful and what is the difference between shame and guilt.

While guilt is an emotion that is experienced when you violate your own values shame is a feeling that is experienced when you feel dishonored or disgraced.

Guilt is a message that notifies you that you are deviating from your values but shame is a feeling that tells you that you may not be adequate or worthy!!

Shame is strongly tied to self esteem because the more shame you carry the less worthy you will feel. In this article I will give you all the tips you need for dealing with shame.

The nature of shame

Shame is getting the feeling that something is wrong about yourself and its usually tied to your self worth. Usually survivors of childhood abuse carry the feelings of shame as a result of feeling that something inappropriate has happened to them.

The abuser usually feels guilty after abusing the child but the child feels shameful, inadequate and helpless. You might be thinking that I am talking about physical or sexual abuse but the truth is that harsh treatment, neglecting a child or criticizing him in front of others are all kinds of abusive treatment that can make him feel shameful when he grows up. (see My past is haunting me).

Shame is strongly connected to inferiority complex because sometimes the main reason a person feels inferior is that he feels ashamed about himself. After all If shame makes the person feel that something is inadequate about himself then as soon as he compares himself to others he will feel less worthy.

How we learned to feel ashamed

Many of us have learned to be ashamed of our emotions, actions or mistakes when we were children. Some parents scold children in front of others when they make mistakes, others tell them that its inappropriate to cry (show their emotions) and both cases result in an adult who feels ashamed of himself.

If guilt stems from realizing that you have made a mistake then shame comes from believing that you are a mistake!!

How some people make us feel ashamed of ourselves

Some of our friends and relatives were raised by overly critical parents who made them feel ashamed about themselves. Those people will usually criticize us when we make mistakes and try to make us feel ashamed of our wrong deeds without having cruel intentions as they were just programmed to think that way.

Sometimes those people manage to make us feel ashamed because they remind us of the old wound of shame we already have.

How to get rid of shame

Here is how to deal with shame:

  • Listen to your inner child: You need to listen openly to your inner child and acknowledge any feelings of inferiority or in adequateness that you find
  • Use CBT: The next time you face a situation that makes you feel ashamed remind yourself that you are only feeling shameful because of your old wound and that your past should have no control over your present. As you keep repeating this over and over it will become a normal part of your thinking pattern and you won’t have to do It manually anymore
  • Respond to those who try to make you feel ashamed: Whenever someone attempts to make you feel ashamed about yourself reply quickly and assertively. If you replied confidently and assertively then instead of doubting yourself the person who criticized you will start to question the validity of his critical comments

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