RECOGNIZING HOW SHAME IMPACTS US
If you are curious about the impact of shame on us, please keep reading.
Let me make a key distinction between shame, guilt, and humiliation. Shame is when our self-worth is at stake. We think we are not good enough — that we are not worthy. Guilt is connected with our behavior – with something we did – not with ourselves as human beings. And humiliation is about someone doing something to us that makes us feel bad.
WHY WE NEED TO BE MINDFUL OF SHAME
That said, it is very important to point out that shame is the feeling we need to be most mindful of.
- GUILT OR HUMILIATION
- If we feel guilt or humiliation, we are more ready to open up and say that we are hurt, as the feelings are not connected with our self-worth. We can put the blame on someone else or on our own behavior. When we focus on the behavior, we know there is a choice we can make to do the behavior or not. This could help release the feeling of guilt; we know we can change our actions.
- When we experience shame, things are not so simple. We close ourselves to others, we don’t share, and the negative feelings stay with us. Then the choice is not easy to see: we think this is us and that`s it – no way out. So, we keep the shame with us and it starts impacting our lives. It makes us stay in our comfort zone and not put ourselves out there, as we think this is who we are. Not a pleasant way to live!
A PERSONAL ENCOUNTER: BREAKING THE CYCLE OF SHAME
Now I will share a personal story about shame. I recently noticed how I was unconsciously shaming my child. I want to share it with all of you so more people can learn from my mistakes.
I promised my children to play table-hockey in the park. As we didn’t have a lot of time, we agreed to play two games. The first game was over and they were pretty excited to start the second game.
Then, some children came up to my daughter and told her very impatiently that they wanted to play. She froze, wanting to play a few more minutes with her brother but not knowing what to say. She was ready to let them play and not finish the second game as planned. She looked at me confused, so I told her to finish the second game and then let them play, which she did.
Afterwards, I asked her why she was ready to let them play before finishing. I was frustrated. Her reaction struck me. She said “I don`t know, Mum! I don`t want to talk about it anymore.”
She shut up and didn’t want to say anything more. We were walking in total silence.
Then it hit me. I remembered shame, and how people react to shame. They close up and keep everything inside.
And this is exactly what had happened. Unintentionally, I made her experience shame.
I felt so bad at that moment. And the first thing I thought was, what do I do to make things better? Well, I decided to use empathy.
I said “Honey, it must have been so frustrating for those children to disturb your game like that!”
And a miracle happened! I couldn’t recognize my daughter. The silent child was gone.
She started sharing how annoyed she was with them, and what irritating behavior they had shown! She was so excited when she was sharing her thoughts, and I heard the determination in her voice that she wouldn`t allow the same situation to happen again. I was so relieved!
Be mindful of shame, and learn to recognize it, in you and in others!