Are you comfortable in your own skin or do you pretend to be something you’re not? Sometimes when we feel bad or guilty, we can subject to shame.
It can be hard to be yourself: especially if you feel unloved.
Shame and Darkness
I’m really fond of saying this every once in a while:
Shame can only live in ignorance. If you’re feeling shameful, talk to a friend or loved one.
Ever since I discovered this idea, it’s been something I write to myself about.
When I think about the saddest moments in my history, they were moments when I felt shameful about myself. I’ll give you a few examples from my personal life so we can talk about them.
I felt shameful because I couldn’t stop my mom from drinking alcohol.
I think most people can relate to a situation like this: there are things you can control and things you cannot. Alfred Adler calls this the separation of tasks: you should not feel bad about things outside of your control.
This can be hard when you are in a painful situation and you are helpless to stop it. If you are, breath deep and remind yourself what you can control and what you can’t. In this case, I talked to my best friend and explained how helpless I felt. He reminded me I wasn’t alone and to not internalize the helpless feeling. My mom would be my mom and I could only offer advice, not change her decisions.
I felt shameful because I felt was alone.
At age 23 I had had 2 girlfriends and failed both times. I felt like no one loved me and I thought this was because I wasn’t worth liking.
I was wrong.
I had a good friend from college, Diego, who taught me meditation, showed me self-love by example. He was completely content being alone. This made me realize I was missing something. This was a turning point for me: I decided to learn about myself and to love myself. If I had not asked Diego how he could smile so much when he was alone, I likely would not be the person I am today.
I felt shameful because I felt like an impostor.
Do you know that feeling when you do something, but feel like it couldn’t possibly be because of you or your skill, but it was just a coincidence or luck?
I felt like this for years as an analyst, until I accepted myself. I told my boss one day and he outright laughed at me. He said, “Ed, if you’re an imposter, God help all the other analysts in the world!”
It’s amazing to have something that has lived in the dark to be healed with a moment of courage.
I felt shameful about being a quiet person.
This was probably the most painful for me personally. I felt like something was wrong with me: most of the time I didn’t have much to say to other people. I sucked at small talk, but I had lots of deep thoughts to share like, “I wonder if you can be happy at any job?” or “Did you know the greatest way to be happy is to enjoy ordinary things?”. These are the sort of things that run through my head all the time.
I realized that I just because I had complicated thoughts, didn’t mean I was broken. I talked to my dad about it because he seemed to be similar to me: he was quiet and went to school most of his life because he liked to learn. He told me to try to appreciate the quiet as much as the noise and it wouldn’t bother me as much. So, I started to not be agitated by silence. Instead, I started to use it for mindfulness. And over time I found myself enjoying it and smiling and accepting myself as I was.
2 Steps to Expose Shame
- Identify the thing that you are feeling bad about. It can help to take 15 minutes to write down exactly how you feel about it.
- Identify someone in your life to share your fear with. This is the foundation of trust. If you’re scared, remind yourself this is what your loved ones are for — to help you when you need help and bring light where there is darkness.
It’s always a bit scary talking to someone about your deepest fears, but it always pays of in the end. If the person is a complete jerk about it, then they aren’t good support for you. I think you’ll find that anyone who loves you will reply with love in kind.
If you don’t have anyone you trust, you can always use my contact form! I’m more than happy to offer thoughts or support to any of my readers.