Wow! That’s quite a title, isn’t it?
First, let’s define shame, by comparing it to our old friend, guilt.
Guilt is “I did something wrong or bad.” Shame is “I am wrong or bad.”*
I can’t remember — if I ever knew — who originally came up with that definition. Feel free to do the research and get back to me.
The first time I heard that definition, though, I knew, “That’s it!” And whenever I tell people that definition, I see recognition in their eyes, too.
And while some people have told me they believe that guilt serves a purpose,* NOBODY has ever sung the praises of shame.
So, readers, I hope we all agree that letting go of shame, right now, would be a good thing.
Okay, let’s do it!
One, two, three, GO!!!!!!
There’s the rub, isn’t it? It’s tough to let go of shame. It sticks. It holds on, for dear life.
I haven’t quite figured out why it’s so difficult to let go of shame. I do know that people come into my office, day after day, and use terrible words like “worthless,” “unlovable,” and “loser” to describe themselves. Those are sure signs that shame is in the house.
Imagine, for a moment, somebody you love being called names like that. Wouldn’t you be FURIOUS? I’m outraged right now. Angry. Pissed off.** And I get upset every time I hear somebody in my office using words, like those, to describe themselves.
Let me be clear. I don’t get angry at the person, for having the shame. I get angry at the shame and the toll that it takes on people.
I feel like I’m writing in circles, this morning.
Because what I REALLY want to do is to figure out a way that we can let go of shame.
Actually, that’s probably a great description of what I do, for work. However, that doesn’t make the catchiest business card in the world, does it?
Trying her damnedest to help you let go of shame
If I ever go into the therapy business for myself, I’m definitely going to have to work on that slogan. For now, I’d like to help you let go of shame, a little bit more, today.
Actually, if you really do agree with me that shame holds you back, makes you feel bad, and is not helping you right now, that would be progress.That’s the first, and most important step. The rest is just details.
As some people say, though, the devil is in the details. So let’s try this. Ask yourself some questions, about your shame. For example: Where does your shame live? Can you describe it? For example, does it have colors, a shape, a size? How else might you describe it, using your senses? Often when we “externalize” something like that — put words on it, compare it to things that are familiar — it helps reduce its power.
Actually, when I was asking those questions, above, I imagined describing a perpetrator of some crime, to a criminal sketch artist.
Which reminds me, I haven’t used an image in this post yet. I just googled images for “shame,” and there’s not a lot of good choices, this morning. This was the only one I wanted to include:
Okay! I’ve got to run to work, so … what feels left unfinished, for me, about this post?
Whenever we consider letting go of shame, shame can get really pissed off. Because, like I said above, it wants to hold on for dear life. Therefore, if any part of this post made you feel bad, I would recommend the following:
Be extra kind to yourself today.
And THAT, dear readers, may very well be the answer.
Thanks to anybody who has ever felt shame and — of course! — to you, for reading today.
* Like this person, here.
** If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might have speculated, right there, that I needed something to eat. You would have been correct.
*** And unless I’m mistaken, this seems to be from a website where somebody is advocating Embracing Your Shame. Figures.