You’ll be amazed how many people feel shame and how many people unintentionally shame others. Feelings of shame and guilt tend to go hand and hand. Although, guilt is a healthy feeling and shame is not. It is okay to feel guilty if you eat too much, drink too much, or have a one night stand. That is your conscious stepping in saying what you did wasn’t right but try not to do it next time. Feeling shame, however, is when you beat yourself up over it.
“Guilt is the feeling or thought of what we DID was not okay.”
“Shame is an overwhelming negative sense that who you are is not okay.”
Shame is extremely damaging. Shame is a dead-end road. We can’t change who we are but we can change what we do and think of ourselves and avoid behaviors that will leave you in a shame cycle.
A shame cycle is scary because many people have no idea how to stop it or that they are actually in a cycle in the first place. It starts with an action or behavior -> which turns into -> guilt -> which turns into -> negative feelings about one self -> then it goes back to another cycle. I.e. you cheated on your diet, you feel guilty because you have been doing good for a week and messed up -> you start telling yourself you are a failure, fat, and you’ll never get through anything in your life then you start an addictive behavior to make yourself feel better (shopping, eating more, or self harming) then you start to feel bad about yourself and you see where this is going.
How to get out of the shame cycle in a healthy way is knowing it’s okay to mess up and try to change the behavior so it won’t happen again. During a diet, if you know in a week is around the time you start to struggle… do a cheat meal once or twice a week… it’s okay to cheat every now and then. If you fail a test, it’s okay… there are other test, just try to start studying a day or so earlier than you did for the last one.
Don’t fall into shame. Shame typically falls after any compulsive behaviors (shopping, binge eating, lying, etc.), sexually addictive behaviors (having sex too soon, one night stands, unprotected sex, even abortions), chemical abuse (drugs/ alcohol), and gambling. If we participate in these behaviors, we feel ashamed. We need to watch out for these behaviors.
Our past or what happened to us or what was said to us may make us feel shameful of ourselves. We also may feel shame when we have a problem or someone we love has a problem. We may shame ourselves after we make a mistake or some may feel shame by being successful.
Shame is also how some people control others. Learning to reject shame can be the key to your happiness. A very common way to shame someone is saying the word “Why?” I learned to take it out of my vocabulary and so did my husband, Will. Asking why implies something is wrong. “Why did you do that?” “Why are you crying?” “Why does it matter?” (parents say these phrases a ton with their children) We immediately feel inadequate or unimportant. We need to take it out of our vocabulary. Instead try “What are you feeling?” “Can you tell me the reasonings behind that?” “Tell me more so I can understand”
If someone is questioning why you feel a certain way, try to remove yourself from the situation or simply tell them how what they are saying is coming across.
It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to take time to think. It’s okay to be who you are. Don’t question yourself. Who you are is good enough, and what you DID was good enough for that day. Stop being so hard on yourself. You are not your past, you are not your mistakes, you are not your parents, you are not a waste of air.
Today, I will recognize if I am shaming others for feeling, thinking, making a mistake, or for being who they are. I will accept what my past is and move on. I will work on forgiving myself or whoever harmed me in the past. I will recognize forgiveness doesn’t happen in a day. I will watch for signs when I am falling into a shame cycle. I will get myself out by accepting myself and telling myself it’s okay to be who I am. I will learn that it’s okay to feel guilty but don’t shame myself for the behavior. I will correct it and move on. I am a good parent, a good spouse, a good child, and a good worker. Today I will be me so I can be free.
Don’t think I am talking about it’s okay to live in complete sin and it’s okay to feel guilty about certain things that hurt others or do things that are ultimately wrong. I am saying it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them but don’t dwell in your mistakes and beat yourself up about it.
I didn’t go into too much detail over this, but if you have any questions about it PLEASE email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or personal message me on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/weakmadestrongblog/