It may be something you aren’t telling your partner, something you think they will dislike or make fun of.
This feeling could be those voices in the back of your head telling you that you aren’t thin enough, aren’t working hard, too big and bold, or just not enough…
Shame is a horrible emotion, ripping and tearing a person’s self-worth. It can drive people to make decisions that make no sense.
Most people want to get rid of shame, but what if you accepted it? What if you could heal toxic shame?
This isn’t easy, and it can take a lot of work to move past any kind of shame. But, if you start tackling little bits of shame, you can start discovering more about yourself and feeling more peaceful and self-accepting.
What Is Shame And Why Is It Important?
Shame is about acceptance. One of the most notable scholars on shame is Brene Brown. Through her research and education, she has helped numerous people understand themselves and accept some of the worst emotions we have.
Here’s the thing…
We’re never going to get rid of shame because it is tied to fear and vulnerability. Shame is the reaction to what we perceive others saying and doing to us. It’s evolutionary purpose was to keep us conforming to the tribe so we wouldn’t be kicked out.
But if we blindly act from a place of shame without examining it, we give our power away and allow others to dictate how we feel and act.
Imagine that you play a game and absolutely love it. It brings you into contact with others like you and you feel great acceptance and love from those people. It’s stimulating, challenging your mind every time you play.
But, it’s not accepted by everyone. Perhaps you brought up your love of the game and were sneered at, made fun of.
You have a choice, fight it, accept that they don’t like it, or stifle your enjoyment to fit their ideas.
Every time you remember that incident and feel hurt, or stifle your desire to talk about your enjoyment, that’s shame.
It doesn’t have to be a game. It could be anything, from what music you listen to, your favorite TV show, an incident from the past, or even the choices your currently making in your life.
There is a way to overcome this, but it takes work.
How Feminine-Energy Women Perceive Shame
Even though popular culture demands we support women, fundamentally, more shame surrounds how a woman connects to others than anything else.
The majority of shame connects to motherhood and raising children or how we look. If a woman chooses to have children, the age she has them becomes a source of shame. Too early and she loses her life, too late and she’s harming the child. Or, if she chooses not to have children, she is shamed for her selfishness.
If she works, who will take care of the children? If she doesn’t work, why is she relying on a man to take care of her?
But, one of the biggest emphasis a woman has placed on herself is how she dresses. Her accomplishments don’t matter if she did not dress nice or as what people expect. Her use of makeup, perfume, hair products, jewelry, and shoes are all more important than what she knows.
She is defined by how she relates to others – as a mother (or not) and as an object to look at.
The greatest gift she can receive is her partner’s acceptance of her choices and looks. Compliments can go a long way here!
How Masculine-Energy Men Perceive Shame
“I think she would rather I die on my white horse than ask for help.”
Even though gender roles are changing, much shame for men comes from appearing to be effeminate. Vulnerability, caring, and emotions are perceived by patriarchal culture as weak and womanly. Most men are still taught not to show softness. Stoic is good, emotions are bad, in the old paradigm.
Working and providing play a large part in a man’s shame. If he doesn’t do enough, earn enough… Or if he works too much and does not spend enough time with his family, that is shameful.
Men do and don’t feel.
The greatest gift a man can receive is his partner’s support and acceptance of his emotions. When he does share a feeling, let him know that emotions are ok.
How To Overcome Shame
Shame is most powerful when hidden. Being vulnerable and expressing shame removes its power. It does not stop others’ opinions or actions. But, the vulnerability of sharing this shame can reduce the impact. If you share with someone that you trust to accept your feelings, then it can help you accept yourself and lessen the shame.
From the example above, what if you told someone about the game you played, and their reaction was simply “Oh, that’s nice. Do you have a good time?” The level of shame greatly decreases. This is especially true if the person you love is accepting.
But, it also requires the inner work to discover why you feel the shame. Sitting in meditation to focus on this shame is tough work and feels horrible. But, the other end can be a release of the same.
Practice: Healing Shame
Experience the feelings surrounding the shame and take note of your thoughts:
- Trace those thoughts. Is this somebody else’s opinion or your own?
- If they’re someone else’s thoughts, you can ask yourself: what’s my authentic truth? Can I accept myself for that truth?
- Who are the people in my life that do accept me for that truth? How does that feel when I imagine accepting myself and having important others accept me?
- What do I need to believe about myself/others in order to accept my truth? What’s evidence that those beliefs are true?
- What actions come from self-acceptance?
It takes strength and acceptance to remove the power of shame.
Ignoring shame or wallowing in it does not reduce it.
Doing the hard work of questioning yourself and opening up your vulnerability allows the shame to let go of its hold on you. We all experience shame in some form or another, and the more you do the inner/outer work of lessening it, the more peace you can feel.