Whatever You Do, Don’t Stay Stuck In Shame

"If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive," says Dr. Brene Brown.

The Science Behind Shame
According to Dr. Brown, "Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is 'I am bad.' Guilt is 'I did something bad.'" Unlike guilt — feeling bad about a thing that we did — shame is feeling bad about ourselves. Believing that we are our mistakes, not simply humans who mess up sometimes.

Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior.

The Solution
Shame isn’t just for big betrayals, many people experience shame for small infractions - over time this can wear down a relationship, too.

1. Identify the beliefs behind your feelings of shame. Often these beliefs come from somewhere (parents, teachers, etc.). Acknowledging where the feelings came from gives us an opportunity to let go of those shameful beliefs. 2. Transform shame into guilt. This gives us a rulebook for future action. The unfaithful wife can keep the message that cheating on her husband is deeply hurtful but let go of the idea that she is a terrible person because of her mistake. 3. Replace toxic shame messages with positive ones. Shame is a form of negative self-talk—telling ourselves we’re only as good as our worst deeds. Overcoming toxic shame requires positive self-talk—stating that we are human and make mistakes but we are always trying to do our best.

By releasing yourself from the grip of shame, you give yourself permission to move forward, to try again, and to heal. Mostly, you give yourself permission to be human. And hey - none of us are perfect.

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