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
- Eating disorders
- Perfectionism and other compulsive behaviors
- Chronic pain
- Digestive issues
- Social phobias.
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.