We’ve all felt it acutely at various times in our life: the harsh stinging pain of shame.
After we first encounter it in childhood, it becomes a regular part of our life.
But what would life be like if we didn’t feel shame?
It’s important to realize that shame is a human invention.
We don’t feel it without the presence of others. We don’t feel it’s sting until someone tells us we should. It’s a socialized stigma. It’s learned. And it’s used largely a control mechanism.
We use shame to monitor other people, to keep the world “in check”.
But we also use it on ourselves–and the results are rarely worth it.
Shame preys on our vulnerabilities. We all have an inherent need to fit in. We want to be part of the pack. We don’t want to offend anyone and we certainly don’t want to be ridiculed for some essential element of our being.
So once we learn where the shame lies, we stop sticking our necks out. We learn which parts of ourselves we should tuck away forever. We think that if we hide those parts away really really well, the shame can’t hurt us anymore.
But of course, the more we run from the darkness inside of us, the more powerful it becomes.
Besides, is feeling embarrassed really the worst thing that can happen to you? Of course, feeling so exposed and un-liked won’t exactly feel good but there are a ton of way worse feelings in the world (physical and otherwise)
7 Ways To Slay Your Shame Spiral
How To Stop A Shame Spiral Step #1:
Ban The Word “Should”
The word should is a shame magnet! Whether you’re using it on yourself or someone else, the word should always automatically implies judgment. It never feels good! Should implies that there’s a certain way to do things that should not be deviated from. It implies that there’s a societal norm that’s been violated. But the shoulds don’t allow room for all of the many factors that go into a decision in our everyday life!
It’s rarely helpful to tell other people what they should and should do. But it’s downright painful to continually judge our own behavior!
It’s all too easy to look backward and judge our past. (Hindsight 20/20!) So it’s important to cultivate a little self-compassion. We’re always doing the best we can in any given situation. So go easy on yourself! Looking back and judging the things you’ve done is useless. It’s much more useful to look forward and to start deeply trusting in yourself and your future decisions.
How To Stop A Shame Spiral Step #2:
Find The Source
As we’ve already learned, shame is taught to us. So often the things that we feel shame about are don’t really have anything to do with us! As children, we were little sponges, picking up on attitudes and beliefs from the world around us. Sometimes those things serve us into adulthood and other times they don’t. So when you feel shame you need to question where that feeling is really coming from.
One of the coolest things about being an adult is that you get to decide on what kind of life you want to live! And that means that you don’t have to feel embarrassment about anything if it doesn’t serve you. You can choose to trade in that old programming for new non-shameful beliefs.
Plus when you break it all down you’ll start to notice that there’s really nothing in the world you need to feel shame about!
How To Stop A Shame Spiral Step #3:
Snap Out Of The Story
Assigning meaning where meaning doesn’t exist is another fact of the human condition. But it’s important to remember that we’re the ones writing the story!
The world that we live in is a neutral place. The events that happen to us are also neutral. (Yes, even when there are other people involved!) But we assign meaning to the neutral events and create drama for ourselves that doesn’t really need to be there. I’m sure you can all think of an instance with a friend or acquaintance made a mountain out of a molehill! The only problem is that it’s a lot more difficult to recognize when you’re the one experiencing it.
When you experience shame, it’s important to look at the story that you’ve created to bring you there. What are you making this event or experience mean for you? Do you know with 100% certainty that you are right? What would happen if you shifted the story–even just a little?
Don’t walk around carrying the burden of guilt when you don’t have to! Lift the emotional weight and rewrite the story to something that feels better!
How To Stop A Shame Spiral Step #4:
Stop Trying To Be Perfect
Perfectionists feel shame even more acutely than the rest of us! The fear of shame can halt us in our tracks and prevent us from making real progress in our life!
Sometimes we stop taking action in the present because we are too worried about what we “should” do. And that never works out in our favor.
Truthfully, there are few experiences in the world that deserve shame! We’ve all made mistakes, been embarrassed and learned some important lessons. Perfection doesn’t exist! We all have stuff we don’t feel great about. But it’s also an illusion that’s keeping you from being happy. It’s time to accept your past, your mistakes and your current limitations! Don’t waste another moment feeling shame about them.
How To Stop A Shame Spiral Step #5:
Embrace Your Vulnerability
We’ve all experienced shame at different times in our life. And even though we logically know that, most of us still want to hide our shameful experiences far, far away. But expressing your vulnerabilities is a powerful act. It removes their power over you and ironically draws more people towards you. We love and respect authenticity! So being vulnerable is always rewarded.
Yes, it’s scary. And it takes bravery. But allowing your flaws to become visible is true liberation for the soul. It’s the ultimate freedom.
Besides, doesn’t it feel good to be exactly who you are? All the effort and energy that goes into presenting a false face is eliminated. And you might just be surprised at how many people are receptive to the true you, warts and all.
How To Stop A Shame Spiral Step #6:
Tune Out The Noise
Be very wary of the friends or family who try to place the burden of shame on you! Anyone who can say the words “you should be ashamed!” (or implies them!) is not truly on your team! You’re your own person; you get to do whatever you want in your life and you don’t have to listen to the opinions of others.
So let it go with love. Most often those people that are the loudest about the way things “should” be are the ones that are most dissatisfied with their lives! They’ve conformed to the “rules”–and they want you to as well! It can be scary for them to see someone coloring outside the lines! So there’s no need to start a fight or end the relationship. You can gently disregard their advice with love and respect.
How To Stop A Shame Spiral Step #7:
Life is a series of experiences; we’re so much more than just one tiny experience in our lifetime. So don’t chain yourself to your past! We’re all just learning as we go and the mistakes we make often set us up for something better in the future. You don’t have to feel shame about anything for the rest of your life! Drop the guilt, drop the shame, drop the embarrassment. Every day is a fresh new beginning! You can go into it carrying around those old yucky feelings–or you can love yourself enough to set yourself free!
Shame is something we all have to deal with but learning how to transform yours is one of the most rewarding practices you can do!
Thank you so much for reading and good luck with it! I love you.
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