Shame: Part 5

Healing from Shame

  1. Be patient with yourself - years of comments, looks, and attitudes got you to this place, so it’s going to take a while to heal. Give yourself permission to take the time to heal. It will be a long road, but it will get easier to navigate the harder you work at it.
  2. Become aware of your shame - shame is worth learning about, so that you understand the impact it has on you. I recommend two books:
    • Healing the Shame that Binds You  by: John Bradshaw
    • The Soul of Shame by: Curt Thompson

These books will help you become aware of how you personally respond to shame, how your body feels when you are feeling shame, the thoughts you think that fuel shame messages, and how you act in response to shame.

3. Determine your Defenses against Shame - what have you done all of these years in order to face you shame. What defense mechanisms have you come up with in order to survive? Which ones are healthy? And which ones need to go? Take a look at the “Common Responses to Shame” mentioned earlier and decide which ones are your go-to behaviors.

4. Investigate the Origin of your Shame - do you know where these shame messages came from in the first place? Was it from your family, society in general, or a current relationship? Make sure not to get stuck in the shame as you investigate.

5. Write down the shame messages - this way you know what you’re dealing with. These will be the messages that play in your head and determine your worth.

6. Grieve - It’s not fair that you received these messages. No one should have ever treated you this way. Recognize that you experienced loss and grieve the impact that these messages have had on you over the years.

7. Challenge the messages - decide if the messages you received were true or not. Choose to start telling yourself the truth and surrounding yourself with people who also tell you the truth.

8. Change your behavior - when we feel shame we act in a shameful way. Start acting in a way that lines up with the things you now know to be true about who you are.

9. Return “borrowed” shame - most of the time, the shame we received didn’t belong to us in the first place. Often shamed people shame people. Recognize the messages you received that have very little to do with you and more to do with someone else’s hurt. Either figuratively or literally return the shame that doesn’t belong to you.

10. Forgive those who shamed you - this will also take time, but the bitterness that will follow you around if you don’t forgive is not worth the trouble. Forgiveness however, does not mean that you open yourself to be hurt by this person again.