Six keys to understanding & overcoming Shame

– I believe too many in the self-improvement space overlook the impact of shame.

My last post on shame resulted in a host of questions. These are the top six.

What is the difference between shame and guilt?
When someone lacks nurturing, appreciation, and support, they attempt to relieve the pain of shame by forming a perfect self, driven by resilience and drive. The shame becomes an identity, “I am.” Guilt results from an action that is detrimental or painful and becomes “I did.”

What are the chief causes of shame?
Besides the ones already mentioned, childhood neglect, criticism, or abuse left unresolved lead to shame, as can an environment that encourages unrealistic standards.

Does shame affect mental health?
Shame can have a profound impact on mental health, resulting in depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Coping mechanisms like substance misuse or self-harming are common in individuals with chronic shame.

Does shame always cause harm, or can it be beneficial?
While shame is a negative emotion, it may prompt self-reflection and motivate individuals to strive for personal growth. But remember, intense shame, when internalised, is likely to be painful and harmful.

Does culture play a role in Shame?
Cultural norms influence how shame is experienced and expressed in all cultures. Some, cultures place a higher emphasis on collective identity and conformity, which can lead
to intense shame when individuals deviate from societal expectations.

Understanding cultural influences is crucial in addressing shame, as interventions need to be culturally sensitive and consider diverse perspectives on both shame and self-worth.

How can individuals best cope with and overcome shame?
Coping with shame involves self-compassion, acknowledging and challenging negative self-talk, and seeking support from others. In short, learning to accept yourself with all your greatness and all your flaws.

Therapy or Coaching, when handled by an experienced practitioner, can be effective in helping individuals explore the roots of shame and develop a self-compassionate outlook.

If you’d like to read more about shame, you might want to consider the work of Helen Lewis or Sylvan Tomkins.