Letting Go Of Shame

We have all experienced shame at some point in our lives. The feeling of there being something inherently inadequate or wrong with us. A lot of parents, teachers, religions and twitter followers use shame as there main tool of instilling their idea of “good” behavior in others. Now there is nothing wrong with holding someone else accountable for their actions, but when it crosses into the territory of condemning and shaming it can become incredibly harmful. When we say things like “you’re going to hell”, “you’re a terrible person”, or “you’ll always like this” we essentially write the other person off, rather than simply telling them that they did something that we didn’t like or that they hurt us. This cuts off the chance of reconciliation and creates deep wounds in the relationship. When we are on the receiving end of shame, not only do we feel terrible, but when we internalize shameful messages, it can have harmful consequences on our psyche. For instance it can cause anxiety, depression, stifled creativity and self expression and poor self esteem. I have found attacking someone else’s character will only serve to damage relationships. Too often in disagreements or arguments we turn to attacking the other person personally for disagreeing with us. “You voted for …?? Do you realize the damage you’ve done to our country??? Do you ever think about anyone but yourself??” (believe me I have been guilty of this.) When we do this, we are pretty much ruining any chance that the other person will even consider our point of view, hurting our relationships, and honestly gaining nothing but the satisfaction of feeling self-righteous. If we really think about it, does it make sense to judge someone’s entire character based on their not having the same view point as us? So how can we hold people accountable and communicate grievances without using shame? I’ve found that clearly communicating that someone has hurt us or crossed our boundaries without attacking them personally goes a long way to healing relationships. They may or may not be receptive and as much as we might like to think so, we can’t control what someone else thinks or does. But I’ve found that this way of communicating makes it a lot more likely that others will listen to what we have to say. (Being a slow learner, it took me quite a bit of angry rants and arguments to realize that.) The other part of the equation is letting go of the shame we carry about ourselves. We all have done or said things we are ashamed of, and a lot of us take those events to mean something about ourselves. Are you inherently not unlovable because you’re girlfriend/boyfriend dumped you when you were 16? Or inherently unintelligent because you failed Algebra in 9th grade? Sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud, yet a lot of us carry these unconscious beliefs. Beginning to question our beliefs about ourselves, lets us start to free ourselves from our prisons of shame and self doubt. This makes us(at least me) kinder to ourselves and others, happier, and more fulfilled.


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