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  • Writer's pictureAmaia Oiz

Healing from Within: Understanding and Conquering Shame

As human beings, we all experience a wide range of emotions, and while some are uplifting and empowering, others can be incredibly debilitating. One such emotion is shame, a complex and often misunderstood feeling that can deeply affect our mental and emotional well-being. Renowned researcher Brené Brown has extensively studied shame and its impact on individuals, shedding light on its sources, effects, and the path to healing.


Defining Shame: Unraveling its Origin


Brené Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling or belief that there is something inherently wrong with us. It goes beyond guilt, which is feeling bad about something we've done; shame, on the other hand, makes us believe that we are fundamentally flawed as individuals. Shame can stem from various sources, often deeply rooted in our upbringing, culture, and societal expectations.


According to Brown's research, shame tends to thrive in secrecy, silence, and judgment. It's that voice in our heads telling us we're not good enough, smart enough, or deserving of love and belonging. Understanding these sources helps us recognize when shame is at play in our lives.


Internal Battles: Understanding Shame


Shame can manifest in various ways within us, each causing a unique internal struggle. Here are a few common examples:


Body Image Shame:


Comparing ourselves to unrealistic beauty standards, feeling embarrassed about our bodies, and believing we don't measure up in terms of appearance.


Achievement Shame:


Feeling inadequate despite accomplishments, attributing successes to luck rather than our abilities, and fearing that we'll eventually be exposed as frauds.


Vulnerability Shame:


Believing that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness, leading to reluctance in opening up to others, even when it's necessary for connection.


Parenting Shame:


Doubting our parenting abilities, feeling judged by others for our parenting choices, and constantly fearing that we're harming our children.


Breaking the Chains: Overcoming Shame


The journey to overcoming shame is a challenging one, but it is essential for our emotional well-being and personal growth. Here are some practical steps and real-life examples to help become aware of and counteract shame:


Practice Self-Compassion:


Talk to yourself with the same kindness and nurturing you would offer to a child. Remember, you're only human. For instance, instead of berating yourself for a mistake at work, acknowledge it as a learning opportunity.


Challenge Negative Self-Talk:


Listen to how you talk to yourself. Do the words you use feel inspiring? When shame-driven thoughts arise, counter them with evidence of your worthiness. If you catch yourself thinking you're a failure, remind yourself of your past achievements and strengths.


Seek Connection:


Shame thrives in isolation. Sharing your feelings and experiences with trusted friends, family, or a therapist can create a sense of belonging and diminish shame's power.


Set Realistic Expectations:


Perfection is unattainable. Embrace your imperfections as part of your uniqueness. Celebrate the journey, not just the destination.


Empowering the Healing Process:


Addressing Negative Self-Talk Negative self-talk can be a significant barrier to healing from shame. It reinforces the harmful belief that we're not enough, perpetuating feelings of shame. By recognizing and reframing these thoughts, we can pave the way for recovery. For instance, replacing "I'm a failure" with "I faced a setback, but I can learn and grow from this experience" shifts the narrative from shame to growth.


In conclusion, understanding shame through the lens of Brené Brown's research helps us grasp its origins and effects. By acknowledging our own experiences with shame, we can take proactive steps to become aware of it. Healing involves self-compassion, challenging negative self-talk, seeking connection, and setting realistic expectations. Remember, the path to healing begins with self-acceptance and the belief that you are inherently worthy of love and belonging, free from the chains of shame.

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