Where Does Shame Come From and What Does it Mean?
Shame can be defined as a “feeling of embarrassment or humiliation that arises in relation to the perception of having done something dishonorable, immoral, or improper.” Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt is more about what you have done and wrong actions you’ve taken while shame is about your character and who you are as a person. Shame can come from a few different origins including childhood neglect, being the victim of bullying, experiencing failure, experiencing rejection, and not living up to your standards or not meeting expectations. It also can come from any mental health disorder that involves self-criticism such as social anxiety. As you can see, shame is a normal and natural reaction, but when it becomes internalized and extreme, it can become a problem.
How Do We Internalize Shame?
Internalized shame is about shame that’s turned inward. It’s especially common in survivors of childhood abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. People that internalize their shame often take those toxic messages about themselves and start believing that they are a bad person. For example, those who experience childhood abuse may experience a feeling of being unworthy or a feeling of shame related to their abuse. This can cause you to think that there is something wrong with you, lead to social withdrawal, lead to physical health problems, cause you to engage in people pleasing, and cause you to feel lonely. Internalized shame can have a lot of negative impacts, so it’s time to try to start turning that shame into empowerment.
How Do We Turn Shame Into Empowerment?
There are a few tools to help you change your shame into positive thinking. One powerful tool is to develop self-acceptance in which you can accept past experiences without judgment. Reaching self-acceptance can be done through mindfulness meditation and cognitive reframing. Cognitive reframing is imagining different perspectives of yourself and your experiences. An example of this would be to imagine how you would provide support to a loved one that is feeling shame and then applying that to yourself. Another way to reframe your mindset is to confront your self-talk with evidence that contradicts what you’re saying. Ask yourself if what you’re saying is true and if they are fact or opinion based. Lastly, EMDR can change shame to empowerment by changing "negative cognitions" about yourself to "positive cognitions" about yourself. It is different than other modalities, in that you actually "feel" the change. It is not just "positive thinking" but actually feeling the change in your body as your truth. Confronting shame head on and flipping your mindset from negative to positive will help empower you and lead you to feel more confident in your own skin.
Sometimes you might need assistance in confronting your shame through help from professionals. Wise Mind Therapy provides a judgment-free, safe space to help you heal and overcome your shame. Click here to contact us and schedule your first appointment today.