Did you know that you can make an epic mistake, screw-up royally, and feel zero shame?
I swear, it’s true.
In fact, shame is not an objective indication that you’ve done something wrong. I’ve had clients ashamed they got divorced, ashamed they stayed in a relationship, ashamed of their successes and failures.
That’s because shame isn’t caused by your actions, your mistakes, your failures, or anything else you do or don’t do. It’s caused by your thoughts.
And specifically, by your negative thoughts about yourself. When you accept yourself, you don’t feel ashamed. When you believe you’re unworthy, you do.
Some of you feel ashamed just for existing, for being who you are. You believe you are unworthy at your core. Others of you feel shame about specific actions you’ve taken or not taken. Either way, the root is the same: a belief you are unworthy and unacceptable.
Most of us find shame completely intolerable and will do anything to get out of it, which is why it can sometimes manifest as anger. When we feel it, we want to blame someone else. We think that will make us feel better.
But it doesn’t work. Because even after we place blame elsewhere, we don’t feel better—have you noticed that? That’s because we’re still thinking the same thoughts about ourselves, and blaming someone else didn’t erase those thoughts.
The antidotes to shame are compassion and exposure.
When you have compassion for yourself, you will not feel shame. Once you fully accept yourself and love yourself no matter what, when you honestly have your own back, you don’t feel ashamed. You choose to never think you’re unworthy, no matter what you do or don’t do, or what happens or doesn’t.
Shame thrives in secrecy and in darkness. When we believe our own thoughts about why we should be ashamed, we hide. We project our own beliefs onto other people and fear their judgment. When we show-up and tell the truth about what we have done or not done, and about our feelings, we cannot feel as much shame.
Once we hear and see other people have had the same experiences, we experience solidarity instead of isolation and acceptance instead of judgment. When you keep your shame to yourself, you perpetuate the cycle, but when you share with others, you’re sending a message to your brain that you won’t be held hostage by your own negative thoughts.
The next time you are feeling shame, dig into your brain. Figure out what negative thought you are believing about yourself and see if you can come-up with something a little more neutral—or even compassionate—to think about yourself.