6 Steps to Release Shame and Finally Cultivate Self-Worth

How We Sabotage Our Self-Worth with Shame

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Self-love

Perhaps you have heard or even used the colloquial phrases “what a shame,” and “shame on you.”  But, have you ever thought about what shame is and how it could be affecting your life by limiting your self-worth?

Shame is a tactic that has been used for centuries as a way to protect and control tribe members. In ancient times, tribes lived in enclosures known as pales.  As long as members stayed in the enclosed area, they were protected. But once members stepped “beyond the pale,” the tribe would no longer protect them, and would wound them through abandonment, betrayal, or shame. Many religious leaders control their communities through shame.

In much the same way, shame is used by families.  It is passed down from generation to generation and most of us carry shame around for a long time before we even realize it. Shame can originate from something big, such as sexual abuse.  But, it can also originate from something seemingly small, such as a passing comment.

And, many families have implied rules that are unspoken. As a child you probably learned about these rules for the first time when you crossed a line that you never knew existed and were subsequently shamed. The well-studied alcoholic family system is a great example of this.

The truth is virtually no one can live past the age of 12 without having been shamed about something. If you have ever felt ashamed of your social status, your body size, or your age it is likely that shame originated from your family. Living with shame can deeply hurt your sense of self-worth. In fact, it can effect your life on many levels, including your health.

What Happens When You Carry Around Your Shame?

When you are shamed as a child, that shame becomes internalized into a lack of self-worth. Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of being something wrong. It is that voice that says “I am not good enough.”

You end up believing that you are flawed and unworthy of the connection you so desperately seek.  This often causes an insatiable need for approval from others and a need to feel like you belong.

Bonding from a place of shame can make you physically and emotionally ill. For one thing, bonding with others over the parts of yourself that you feel ashamed of puts you in victimhood. If you bond while in victim-mode, you will tend to bond with other victims who validate how much you’ve suffered and how hard it must have been for you. After a while, these relationships backfire leading to deeper feelings of self-hatred and even self-abuse.  

Boys who have been shamed tend to act out in anger. Girls tend to turn their shame inward, becoming more introverted. Narcissists often have shame at the core of their self-inflated behavior and will deflect their shame by devaluing or attacking others. Another pattern that shame can induce is avoidance. In addition, many violent behaviors can have shame as a root cause. 

How Shame Affects Your Health

Aside from that queasy feeling in your stomach or that knee-jerk reaction that makes you want to hide, shame can be at the core of many physical and emotional illnesses, including

A study by Jean M. Lamont, a researcher at Bucknell University, showed that women who have felt body-shame tend to experience more infections and symptoms, and experience lower levels of health in general.

Another study showed that feelings of shame increased pro-inflammatory cytokines, a marker for inflammation and disease. The people who felt the most shame had the highest elevation of cytokine activity.

6 Easy Steps for Releasing Shame

Everyone feels shame at some point.  But, if shame is cutting you off from pursuing your Soul’s purpose due to feelings that you are not worthy, it’s time to let it go.

Here’s how you can release shame and reclaim your self-worth. 

Step 1: Acknowledge your Higher Self.

Remember that your circumstances were set up by the Divine part of you before you were born. Your higher self actually wants you to experience whatever it is that you feel shame toward. Once you acknowledge your higher self, you can just BE yourself.

Step 2: Engage in Self Expression.

Shame thrives in darkness and secrecy. It is a low, slow vibration that keeps you trapped by the belief that you’re not enough or that you don’t belong. Shame is lifted when you have the courage to talk about whatever you feel ashamed about, and then are willing to receive support.

Step 3: Own your story.

Owning your childhood story can be difficult, but in order to release your tribal shame and live heaven on earth, you have to be willing to take responsibility for yourself and your circumstances. And if there is something you didn’t know before but know now, you act on that new knowledge and fix what needs fixing if possible.

Step 4: Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

The ego wants to protect you from the pain of shame. Brené Brown reminds us that connection—the ability to feel connected—is why we’re here on this earth. Being vulnerable is part of feeling connected. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. When we’re willing to risk being vulnerable and fully human, we open to our humanity and our Divinity simultaneously. We know we belong. And we feel deeply worthy of the best that life has to offer. Vulnerability is big medicine. It is the truth that sets you free, lightens your heart, and heals your world.

Step 5: Find some humor in your situation.

A good belly laugh can change your mood. Shame can’t live in an atmosphere of humor and light. Having a laugh at yourself, the Universe or at your circumstances can help to release any anger and tension associated with your shame. If it’s too difficult at first to find humor in your situation, watch a funny movie or video of your favorite stand-up comedian.

Step 6: Love yourself.  

Loving yourself is the first step toward being able to develop your self-worth. When feelings of shame surface, simply place a hand over your heart and say “I love you,” “I forgive you,” “You are beautiful,” “I love you.” Replacing feelings of shame with compassion and self-love will help you move forward and allow you to start living your Soul’s purpose.

How have you released shame?  What was the outcome?  Please leave your comments for me below.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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  1. Teri
    7 months ago

    Suddenly I am being flooded with shame as my mind repeatedly brings up incidents of the past where I had acted inappropriately or said something that might have been hurtful. Very interesting how ever since I’ve been working this new job for 4 months now, the work is such that my mind drifts to the past and most of my thoughts are about how I went about something wrong. It is overwhelming at times and I start to tear up. I start thinking I’m not well-liked. I am excited to read the words I can say to myself to promote self love. Thank you very much for this.

  2. Nelisa
    8 months ago

    I loved this.
    Thank you 🙂

  3. Mary
    9 months ago

    What does it mean in Step 1 that your higher self actually wants you to experience what you feel shame toward?

  4. Pam
    9 months ago

    Wow thank you Christiane and all of you who risk your vulnerability to be “wildly authentic” as one of you posted. It helps us all to know we share so much in common as human beings and that we can come back to ourselves. Thank you thank you thank you and peace be unto you.
    Pamela

  5. Marlo
    9 months ago

    Thank you Dr. Northrup, this is brilliant! The world is a better place because of you.

  6. Helen
    9 months ago

    Dear Christiane
    Thank you so much for this well written article. I have healed many of my shames but never from this perspective. It really has given me food for thought and I have shared it with my FB friends.
    With deep gratitude
    Helen

  7. Carol
    9 months ago

    Brilliant to read this today. I grew up feeling very unworthy – and feeling responsible for my parents unhappiness. At 16 my father told me that if I couldn’t be the daughter he wanted me to be, then I had to leave. And so I left and married at 17. My father used to ignore me if we passed in the street and I would feel confused and abandoned. I tried then for years to be what I thought others needed – leaving me exhausted and empty. So much has happened and now in my 50’s and after a lot of soul work – I finally realise that I am only meant to be me and that this is always evolving. I live in another country to my father now and at 84 after mum died, he found another “daughter” at church. She cooks for him and asks him what she should wear – and he is happy. It was only yesterday after talking to him, that I finally realised I could never be what he wanted me to be and that if I had kept trying – I would have lost my self completely. I feel life works in mysterious ways, and I feel I am becoming more of what I put here to be. It’s been an amazing, sometimes very painful, but deeply spiritual journey. I am feeling grateful.

  8. Kacey
    9 months ago

    How do you love yourself?

    1. Terry
      9 months ago

      A good way to start is by taking good care of yourself by eating lots of fresh veggies and fuits. Check out Kimberly Snyder and Kris Carr blogs and books. Take care…. Yoga is wonderful too! It is a time that a takes me out of my head and I don’t think about stressful stuff.

  9. Jolanta
    9 months ago

    Thank you Dr. Christiane for another excellent article. It forced me to look at my own list of “shameful experiences” and I am happy to report i took care of them with your 6-step method.
    Love you. You are my role model <3

  10. adriana
    9 months ago

    Thank you soo much to everyone on this blog and to Dr. Northrup for the wisdom, courage, beauty and the love to share. It is thanks to people like you that life becomes a better and more joyful experience. The heavy curtains of darkness and pain are removed and light can finally shine through. Other than this, it would be hell on earth!!!XOXO

  11. Deb reidy
    9 months ago

    Dr. Northrup, A light bulb just went on for me. My mother passed away a year ago and my brother and I have been working through our Father’s lose. Yes, Mom was a part of our life and she was a Narcissist. You helped me many months ago with another blog and Radio show to understand that. But now, Dad– all the behaviors you describe are symptoms of my fathers current behaviors and issues. The eating disorders, the anxiety, the perfectionism that I always thought was he reaction to my Mom. Now I realize it has been his own issues all along. And yes, his drinking and his self pity point to a deep level of shame.

    My next question to myself is can I find a way to help him understand the pattern he has lived by for I would say his whole life ( 78 years)..

    Thank you– I continue to learn from your wisdom and desire to fuel the world with the knowledge to do what is right to improve us all, one person at a time.

    Deb

  12. Lynn DeWolf
    9 months ago

    I have carried shame my whole life. I was supposed to know if I did something wrong ( I was never told if I did something right)without ever being told. Talk about confused! I have just learned about self-help in the last 3 years and I am having aha moments all of the time. I am moving forward slowly -2 steps forward and 3 steps back – But I am still trying. I have 2 brothers who could do nothing wrong and was told things like ‘ if Robby doesn’t need glasses then you don’t either’ (4th grade and I finally got a pair of glasses in 7th grade) I had the same winter coat from 6th grade till 11th grade. I never knew that I deserved anything new. I still don’t know how to shop for clothes money wasn’t the problem because my brothers got new clothes and other things I just turned 58 and I sometimes feel like I have lost a lifetime of living I pushed away my 3 daughters when they were 9, 11, and 14 because I didn’t think I was good enough to be a mother to them I didn’t know how. I have just learned that I have been trying to get my family to like me – to the point of obsession – but they aren’t capable my father lives in Florida and still says ‘ I was going to call, I just didn’t’ it still hurts I want a relationship with my daughters but I am terrified what if I say the wrong thing? I have a nagging feeling that I am wrong but I have learned tapping and it has helped me keenly

    1. Jean S.
      9 months ago

      Hi Lynn, Your comment really struck my heart. You can heal your childhood issues. Could you find yourself a good therapist to help you sort all of this out? That person can guide you through the process……that is what I did. I healed all my shame by slowly, over time, telling my therapist a bit of it at a time so I wasn’t so overwhelmed. It worked like a charm! It just seemed to melt away once I told her and we talked about it. That was one of the most freeing things I have done for myself. I no longer have “shame attacks” as I call them. I pray you seek the help and guidance you need so you can reconcile with your precious daughters. You deserve them and they deserve you! May you be blessed on your journey.

  13. Mary Fagan
    9 months ago

    Dr Northrup,
    In light of the ongoing opiate/heroin epidemic, and the fact that shame is one of the causes of addiction and in addition to that addicts are shamed/stigmatized even further by society…how can your insights into shame be put to use to help stop the epidemic from continuing to escalate?
    I am a TAM Grieving Moms member and my group discusses this phenomena frequently. It’s too late for our children but not for the children of the main group, TAM Moms.

  14. Mim
    9 months ago

    How many of you out there were shamed in your toilet-training? I was physically punished, and often feared for my life, because neither parent took steps to re-frame their own fear until my habits were set. How many of you realize that the harder you try to control your limbic system, the less control you have? How many of you go into “the trauma vortex” every time you are far from a bathroom with a full bladder? Think about that – a lifetime of associating the urge with fear. I want to tell you: it’s not you, it’s not your bladder, it’s not your lack of self-control. It’s the memory of the trauma that triggers the panic, that increases the likelihood of incontinence, that triggers the shame, and so on, and so forth, in layers and layers and layers of shame. I intellectually knew self-regulation was more important than self-control, but now, as an adult, I know what self-regulation feels like.

    1. Verena
      9 months ago

      thank you so much for sharing. I always thought it was me, knowing it was “education” but not feeling it. Will go into that deeper.

  15. Angel
    9 months ago

    Hi Christiane, thank you so much.
    As a Narcissist for many years, now into spiritual growth, I always wondered the cause of my behaviour. Shame from my childhood.
    Before I was given that label by the mental health system, which was then taken up by my husband as a barb in our arguments, I just thought I had great ideas, drive and enormous energy. “Follow me, I’m great fun to be with”.
    However it has taken me two years to be able to look in the mirror and honestly say “i love you”
    Thanks again for giving piece in my puzzle.

  16. Willow
    9 months ago

    Very good article.
    I’m a 65 year old incest survivor and had worked on the shame part for may years. I am now a happy and balanced crone.
    I learned that shame is not a natural emotion, but a learned one (as is guilt). That made sense to me. I wonder if there is such a thing as “healthy” shame and think that remorse would be a better word to use for the feelings that we try to instill in our children as we help them to learn about not acceptable social behavior (using your example).
    I look up to you as my model for ageing gracefully and stay physically and emotionally healthy, so I’m interested in your view of the idea about natural versus learned emotions of shame and guilt. Either way I know we have to learn to process these shame and guilt and come out on the other side shame-free (as I had realized that it was my father’s shame I carried, not mine).
    I’m so happy to have discovered your blog! 🙂

    1. Julie
      8 months ago

      Thank you for sharing. I am a 57 year old incest survivor but have not made the progress you have. At least now I know there is still hope for me 🙂
      I want to be a happy old crone too!

  17. Cas
    9 months ago

    Silent shame is a shackle many women seem to share, myself included.

    I grew up poor and felt second class and embarrassed, ashamed to invite friends over.
    There is a direct correlation to my self esteem/worth and my surroundings to this day.

    I felt less than on many different levels that I still struggle with in adulthood.

    Logically, I know I must overcome and disengage these limiting beliefs. I have times I feel confident and valuable but other times feel eroded and stuck.

    I am not my surroundings.
    My surroundings do not define me.

    I am worthy
    I am valued
    I am enough

    To quote Robert Ohotto,
    ” I am Flawesome ”

    I am learning to accept my inadequacies and embrace my shadow side, with humor. Keeping a balance of light and dark. A balancing act indeed. Learning to let go of perfectionism in all its insidious forms, and just enjoy the ride.

    It does not help growing up blamed/shamed being the designated family scapegoat.

    A Deep viscious circle that seems perpetuated and triggered by circumstance.

    Thank you for letting me share

    Many Blessings ~

  18. Sophia
    9 months ago

    Thank you Dr. Northrup for becoming YOU! I just love the beautiful work you are doing in the world. You are a bright light shining courage and wisdom on those of us who have forgotten the truth of our own power, beauty, and nature. So, I admire you and just wanted to tell you that because I bet that becoming the woman you are today was a lot harder than you let on. Thanks for being brave. Shame tries to frighten us into being small and false, but love pushes us to become larger than life and wildly authentic. Love makes us strong and brave and gratitude energizes us and gives us fuel for the transformational journey. So, I think gratitude is a great tool for dissolving shame as well. Gratitude leads to joy and joy and shame tend not to coexist. Besides, who doesn’t want to feel joy? Reading this blog and the comments section made me feel love, gratitude and joy because I am not alone in processing shame and transforming my life to match the truth of who I am. Love and gratitude to all who have gathered here and blessings on your journey!

  19. Julia
    9 months ago

    Oh how liberating this post is. Thank you!! I’ve known that I’ve carried shameful feelings for some time, but did not realize until the past days after listening to both you and Brene Brown just how deeply they sit, how early they formed or how subtly shame has shaped my thinking and actions. I do practice many of these steps – if I speak negatively about myself or grasp from my ‘false self’, I’ll bring out my loving mother and breathe. And, I work in the arts, which I believe saved my life and allowed that critical self expression. Your thoughts have shone a light on that core false belief I haven’t been able to shake. Thank you for helping me see I can finally be free of unjustified shame and the need to please others. I know it will be a process. But still – Hallelujah!!!
    Thanks, Dr. N – you are a blessing!!!!

  20. Rhonda
    9 months ago

    Hi Dr. Northrup ,
    Thank you with all my heart for writing this article about Shame and how it can affect us deeply. I had an affair about 10 years ago which almost destroyed my life. I live in a small town and worked in a place that was well known and frequented. I was exceptional at my job ,great position in a business that I loved. However, lines were crossed with one of the owners ,and I thought I fell in love with him . He favored me ,and made me feel like there was no one on the planet that could quite do what I did for that business. What a crock of S&$T! Honestly, I can’t believe how naïve I was , I just couldn’t see Clearly!! They were other circumstances that made me look towards this man as a best friend. I felt very on my own in most of my daily life. We were young and trying to do the best we could taking care of a family. Although ,my husband was loving and supportive and he worked in the next state and left very early in the morning and came home late every evening. Anyway long story short ,the affair was revealed. Of course I lost my Great job. I live in a small town so even though they wanted to keep it quiet for his sake, most people from that business found out. Of course ,The businessman I work for came out smelling like a rose and is still loved and admired. A real big wig in the community! I was despicable, home wrecker and I’m sure a slew of other things. Talk about shame and regret. It was a long hard road back to myself. It was pretty hard to forgive myself and took years! My Scorpio husband found out of course and we have had years of therapy. Hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life! I felt so much shame that I actually became physically sick.
    But Believe it or not I feel this was a deep soul lesson for both of us. I wish it hadn’t been so hard but believe there is a Silver-lining to the story. I learned a great deal about myself! My husband and I are closer and more deeper in love than ever! I have since changed career to health and nutrition ,and I hope and use this experience to help empower women in their lives! Thank you , thank you ,for letting me express this here. Ronni xo

    1. Joyce
      9 months ago

      You are very brave indeed, you have learned through very difficult circumstances and I truly wish you and your husband much love happiness and good health.

    2. Christiane
      9 months ago

      You have so much courage for telling this story. I’ve just done an interview with Sandra Brown, MA, author of Women who Love Psychopaths. And while that guy you had an affair with was probably just a narcissist, not a total psychopath, I’m willing to bet her just used you for “narcissistic supply”. I could be wrong on this but I doubt it. Anyway, many blessings for the work you did to heal your life. Impressive!!!

      1. LM
        9 months ago

        I too, have gone through what Rhonda went through. Thinking if I did everything perfectly at work I would be rewarded. What the boss rewarded me with was sexual and I believed it was love.
        Upon reading your blog, It has been an eye opener to many things that were said or done from childhood that made me feel ashamed and unfortunately still do. There were so many events that created shame that it probably will take me the rest of my life to get over them.
        The most difficult one is that my daughter who was the love of my until around the age of 15 felt I wasn’t as rich as other parents and thought I had called her fat (she wasn’t fat but is slightly heavy now at 39 and can’t lose weight which, of course, is my fault). Her father, who abused me terribly and now, my daughter who has abused me verbally, emotional and financially (when I lost my home in my late 50’s and had to start from scratch) has now totally abandoned me when I told her she had anger issues when she sent me a very, unjustified email filled with anger.
        Although I try to rise above this shame, this was my baby who I adored and loved with all my heart and soul. She not only has disowned me from saying she had anger issues but has removed me from my grandchildren (except the oldest who I was always closest to and not the one she loves the best – in my opinion.)

        I have such a history of shame from my father to my abusive husband to my daughter, that living in isolation with my dogs is as close as I can get to peace.

        Have been told so many times by those I love that I was worthless, etc. not sure if I can ever get over all the scars. I am 65; have started from scratch again but family feel I am a failure. Talk about shame and how people do this to other people. How we treat other human beings; parents; friends, etc. and what damage we do to those people is just plain sad.

        That’s why I only have dogs in my life. People hurt too much.

        Thank you Christiane for bringing this to light. Have been following you for many years.

        1. Rhonda
          8 months ago

          I am sending you so much love

  21. Barbara Stow
    9 months ago

    Thank you Dr Northrup from the depth of my being. This is so helpful personally and also to potentially understand others better.
    I find the idea we all to the best we an do at any given moment helps me to release shame & guilt & forgive others for their trespasses.
    Bless you again for everything you do. You’ve made a profound difference in my life.
    Much love to you❤️️

  22. Fern
    9 months ago

    Shame is one of the deepest and most uncomfortable things we can feel, and creates a real Catch-22, because it is so uncomfortable to feel that it remains hidden from our awareness. Only once we recocognize it can it be healed. While I appreciate the 6 steps offered here, shame runs so deep that it can be very difficult to address on our own. Artie Wu at Preside Meditation (artie@presidemeditaion.com) offers one of the best 7-day intensives for beginning to work through inner shame I’ve come across, with love, grace, humor, and no blame. He is a beautiful soul, and helps people identify how shame was passed down in their own family, to start folks on the journey of healing their shame.

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      Thanks for this resource. We all need help with this. And very often one on one or group help is best. This blog is simply to uncover the issue.

    2. Fern
      9 months ago

      That’s artie@presidemeditation.com

  23. Jay
    9 months ago

    Though I’ve examined myself extensively (have a PhD in clinical psychology) for old shames, I still have little self-love – and Protestant and Eastern religions don’t help me attain self-forgiveness. Thus, I’ve never married, am 90, and have serious infirmities. How to reach contentment?

    1. Joyce
      9 months ago

      Oh I just wish I could give you a hug.

      1. Christiane
        9 months ago

        How incredibly sweet of you Joyce. Really. I am touched.

    2. Christiane
      9 months ago

      This is where I would use a Divine Love petition such as this: “With my Spirit and the Angels help, I focus Divine Love throughout my system. I acknowledge the lack of love in my life, including self-love, and I ask that this now be entirely healed with Divine Love, according to the Creator’s Will.” Sit with arms and legs uncrossed when you say this. Then take a deep breath in through your nose. Hold it for 3 seconds. And pulse it out. Then just sit and let Divine Love stream through you. Throughout the day, just say” I accept Divine Love” Repeatedly. In time it will clear you. The other thing you could do is a Change Me prayer as per Tosha Silver: ” Divine Beloved, please change me into one who loves herself unconditionally, without reservations, right now.” Hope this helps. And bless you.

      1. Jean S.
        9 months ago

        I LOVE THIS Dr. Northrup!!! You are so awesome to send on such valuable information. I can only imagine how many people have bettered their lives immensely because of your willingness to share your wisdom. I’m going to print this out and keep this where I can refer to it often. When something pops up I will use Divine Love and the Me prayers to facilitate my healing. I just can’t thank you enough for all you do. I share your information with many people and often refer people to your website and blogs. I can’t wait to get your new book “Making Life Easy”. Love to you!!!!

        1. Julie
          8 months ago

          I agree! Thank you!!! I just copied that prayer myself and will use it. I am a 57 year old survivor of incest and have been living with shame my entire life. I don’t love myself and although I have been in two marriages and a common law one now, I don’t really feel as if I have loved any of these men who have truly loved me. Feels as though I have a blank space where my heart should be. I’m fearful of everything, and have become somewhat reclusive, preferring the company of my dogs to people. Healthy relationships have evaded me my entire life and I do not have any female friends, which I so desperately need. I hope this prayer will eventually help me to learn to love myself.

  24. Lori
    9 months ago

    I have been sexually abused as a child so I know what shame is about. I have been getting a lot of counseling and realizing that it is ok to talk about it. And with doing so I have found that it is easier to remove the shame that goes along with it

  25. Nancy
    9 months ago

    Dr. Northrop, I read your articles often and am always enlightened by your wisdom and reminders of how our lives can be transformed just by directing our attention inward, to what is true and authentic. Thank You so much! ❤️✌️

  26. I have done and continue to do all 6 of these things. I’ve found it is an ongoing process. Not sure if I’ll ever get to the bottom of the deep well of shame I’ve carried, but I keep on clearing it, and life keeps getting better as a result. Thank you, Dr. Northrop, for sharing your wisdom. This helped me today.

  27. Jill
    9 months ago

    Facing the shame that every woman has felt, just for being female, is so much larger than I ever imagined. Spending time deeply diving into the feelings has been transformational for me. Then discovering the existence so much closer to ‘home’ – within my family, and the inability of my parents to love my sister and I the same as my brother has been shocking. Mostly because I have spent decades hiding from it….. Allowing myself to see and feel it full force, then allowing myself to express however I need to express, no longer being the gracious one who lets it all slide, has been invaluable. Every day I go further to opening myself to my self. It is a journey, and I continue to walk forward, listening to my Heart. I am grateful Dr Northrup for everything you have ever shared. I am listening!

  28. Wendy
    9 months ago

    I recently met up with an old friend and we opened up about working out our issues. Her parents were always busy with work so she basically raised herself. They never showed up to her soccer practice or piano recitals and that made her feel unworthy. My issue is never feeling good enough. My problems stem from being born a female in an asian family that values male, so I have always worked hard to beat all the males, and although I am smart and successful in the eyes of everyone else, the feeling of having to be better, smarter and stronger is still there doesn’t go away. I feel guilty when I take a break, or go on vacation. I equated not being productive to wasting my time. I feel worthy of everything in life, primarily because I worked for it. Are we both experiencing shame?

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      Yes– this is cultural shame. Passed down in families. Check out Mario Martinez’s book The Mind Body Code. And soon– his next book The MindBody Self coming from Hay house. Wonderful resource. there are some very concrete ways to develop personal excellence and transcend the beliefs of your culture without leaving it altogether. But the first big step was identifying the issue. Congratulations.

  29. Diane
    9 months ago

    As a child who suffered sexual abuse surrounded by alcoholism, I can certainly see why at 71 I still suffer from shame as evidenced by most of the afflictions on your list. I thought it was anger. I find it hard to see the shame through the anger but I know it must be there because I have distanced myself from any involvement in male company for over 27 years. I always chose the ones who brought me pain so I thought it was just better to refrain. I meditate and even host a meditation group so I have a lot of serenity in my life but damn, when those anger/shame memories arise, it never ceases to amaze me how strong and palpable they are, still. Proving once again, that I am still a work in progress. Thank you for the wisdom and helping me to see.

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      I have a suggestion I learned from Matt Kahn recently ( author of Whatever Arises, Love That.) When the anger/shame memories arise, take a moment and congratulate yourself. Say” Nice work. NOBODY does shame and anger better than me. I nailed it.” When you just give it a whole lot of space like that, it very often disappears!!!

  30. Jen
    9 months ago

    I go to confession and receive forgiveness and healing from God.

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      An age old ritual that helps so many.

  31. Stephanie Alberts
    9 months ago

    As a recovering alcoholic , I have found Dr .Northrup’s wisdom and sharing so uplifting. ( some other hayhouse people too!) Yoga has helped me immeasurably , with a daily morning practice …. I have ( finally) made peace with the past and the person inside me.
    Finally seeing and feeling many of the good things that I am and have done/do. Shame was keeping me stuck in that story . Now , i define myself with positive adjectives.
    Namaste, Dr.Northrup!

    Stephanie A

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      Nice!!

  32. Amy Raml
    9 months ago

    Thank you for this article as I truly believe that many physical and emotional issues stem from childhood shaming. I recently have gone on a journey of releasing my childhood shame (most of which I had no idea existed) and my physical health and emotional well-being has flourished! I used EFT along with hypnosis to break through the barriers which were holding me back. I also do other protocols (meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, etc.) however, I believe those were the two which really helped me. I work with young adults who carry lots of baggage and hope to use these modalities to help them reach their full potential by letting childhood shame go. Thanks again for some new ideas 🙂

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      These models are great. Shame isn’t just intellectual. As you well know. So any modality that brings in the body is important. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Mel
        9 months ago

        Yes the body which houses the shame in the form of pain. I am a dance teacher having left after 27 years and am relearning the whispers of the body mind spirit by
        working my own method of somatics. It allows me to work through past trauma in a place of held love and compassion while allowing the body to takes its time to reveal its messages to me. It is a slow process yet rewarding beyond measure.

  33. Paul Knoll
    9 months ago

    Perfect read for the perfect time as I reflect in meditation to let go of old patterns and beliefs. Thank you.

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      Nice Paul. Good to see you here.

  34. Wendy Doherty
    9 months ago

    BAM! You nailed it. It is as if you were watching my life from the inside out. The major issues were mentioned in your article were prevalent in my life: growing up in an alcoholic home; sexual abuse; unknown or unspoken rules with severe consequences; the parent who plays the “shame” card and so on. This blog is so timely as I was just talking with my therapist about this on Monday.

    Thank you for helping me heal one of many wounds. I am one step closer to freeing my inner child.

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      Love it. Thanks so much for letting me know.

  35. Heidi Symonds
    9 months ago

    Love this. Every. Single. Word. I’m going to journal about Step 1 right now. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

    1. Christiane
      9 months ago

      Would love that!!

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