Think about the moments in your life, from when you were a very young child until now when you encountered shame. Notice how your body language might change to feeling heavy or that unpleasant feeling you get in the pit of your gut.
Do you feel shame when you violate the social norms you believe in?
Shame makes you direct your focus inward and view your entire self in a negative light. Women are more responsive to feel humiliated than men, and adolescents feel shame more intensely than adults. The conclusion is that women and adolescents are more susceptible to the negative effects of shame, such as depression and low self-esteem. They found that men and women manifest shame differently as well as age seems to affect how quickly people endure it.
Shame makes you feel that you’re not good enough, that you are not lovable, and that there’s something definitely wrong with you. Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt tells you that you don’t like the consequences of a particular behavior and that you’ve made a mistake. But shame is what whispers into your ears, saying, “you are a mistake, and you are the ones who make mistakes.”
Imagine you accidentally cut someone off in a line; shame makes you think that you are terrible and irresponsible people for doing so. You start thinking that the other person must hate you for what you did and that it is right for them to hate you. Shame makes you view yourselves as people who ruin everything, total mess-ups. This so-called shame is a demotivating factor.
Most of you have felt shame at some time. However, shame is a universal emotion, how it does affect mental health.
Studies in Canada revealed that teenagers who exhibited greater shame-proneness were more likely to have symptoms of depression. A connection between shame-proneness and anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, was exhibited in the project, which included roughly 140 volunteers between the ages of 11 and 16.
Shame robs your hopes and renders you powerless, making you feel immobilized. You hide your behaviors and feelings instead of moving through them because of shame. To recover and move forward, you first need to name it and believe that it doesn’t serve you. When people have narrow ideas regarding what is socially acceptable, they tend to torment themselves to fit into that box.
But this is unfair since you don’t belong in a box. It is alright not to fit into a certain group. You should also take honest responsibility for your actions without beating yourself up for your choices and mistakes. This enables you to own your actions as well as change your behaviors.
Once you get rid of the feeling of shame, you can choose how to respond to it. Then you can avoid reacting in inappropriate ways, such as by lashing out at others or drinking. You should tell yourself that you are good enough using a nurturing voice and call yourself out on carrying shame. Tell yourself that you are good enough like a loving mother would. Only then can you get rid of this ugly monster in your life called shame.
In general, shame appears a more destructive emotion. Parents, teachers, and others who want to encourage constructive behavior in their charges should avoid shaming rule-breakers. Instead, help them understand the effects of their actions and take steps to make up for their transgressions.
Ways to Silence Shame
- Bring shame into the light – By acknowledging shame, you refuse to let it fester or define you. If you bury the story, you will forever stay the subject of the story.
- Untangle what you are feeling – Shame means that you are bad. Guilt means you did something bad. To be bad means you see yourself as incapable of changing, yet remorse and regret that can come with guilt can motivate you to make adjustments or follow a new path.
- Release what you do from who you are – if you define yourself by what you do, you place the power of your happiness in the hands of others. You can look at praise and condemnation with the perspective they deserve, absorb any helpful judgments, and move on.
- Recognize your triggers – By being aware of our shame triggers, we can help nip this process in the bud.