Roots of Shame
Shame is a self-conscious emotion that reflects our self-thoughts of unworthiness, dishonor or inadequacy. People tend to confuse shame with guilt because these emotions are often intertwined. However, guilt is always behavior-related and develops as a result of our awareness that we had done something wrong, whereas shame doesn’t make a distinction between a behavior and the self. Shame involves the feeling that there is something basically wrong with our nature.
Shame can be triggered by a situation, circumstance or another person. However, it can also result from our self-perception of failure, because we tend to feel shame when we don’t meet our standards or ideals. In other words, shame causes us to feel as though we are deeply imperfect which may open the door to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse or other mental health issues.
Some people constantly struggle with self-love and self-compassion. Their inner critic is always ready to judge, criticize, and censure, which means that the tiniest mistake can trigger feelings of low self-esteem and shame.
Shame causes you to feed your subconscious mind with self-critical thoughts of failure, inadequacy or worthlessness. This, in turn, affects your self-confidence causing you to feel insecure, rejected, unloved, isolated, and afraid.
But what are the roots of shame?
Why Do We Feel Shame?
The main feature of shame is the feeling that there is something basically wrong with you. In other words, shame stems from the belief that you are at the core flawed, bad or inadequate. Many people internalized this false belief during their childhood. Those overwhelmed by shame were often raised in an environment that caused them to feel unsafe.
Unhealthy attachment styles such as a fearful-avoidant attachment with either abusive or cruel caregivers, caused the child to feel generally unsafe.
Also, as a result of not feeling loved, understood or valued, these children developed the belief that they were not loved because there was something wrong with them. Even if they weren’t told straightforwardly that they were flawed, bad or stupid, these children concluded that there is something wrong with them by the way they were being treated. They internalized shame and the effects of mistreatment, believing that what happened is somehow their fault.
Similarly, children who grew up in a family with an insecure-avoidant attachment style may also internalize shame that belongs to the adult who left or neglected them, assuming that abandonment was somehow their fault.
How to Overcome Shame
The best cure for shame is self-compassion and acceptance. Self-compassion or your ability to relate to the self with kindness and love can help you to tackle negative self-talk, be more forgiving to yourself and treat yourself with understanding.
However, as the feeling of shame was internalized from messages you received about yourself from others, love and acceptance have to come from interpersonal experience too - you need to feel accepted and loved by others to overcome your shame. In other words, you need to be ready to open up to others and allow them to accept you and love you for who you are.