It is really hard to describe shame. It is like feeling guilty or embarrassed for something you did not do, but rather of how you feel or look. Whether it was how a certain part of your body looks, how bad you are with conversations, how weak you are, or how much you are struggling to do simple tasks, it makes you feel shameful. This shame lowers your confidence, makes you feel unworthy, and isolates you from people.
Shame comes mainly from the fear of judgement. When we are first born, and we still have not figured out what judgement is, what is like to be accepted or not, we do not feel shame, which liberates us to show exactly who we are with all our flaws. As we grow, and being this social creature that strives for acceptance of others, we start changing who we are to feel included. However, some things cannot really be changed, or are really hard to deal with, so we start hiding them, and if they were ever exposed to the public, you’d see judgmental eyes all over.
All of that leads us to feel shameful because we are struggling. Whether it was being swallowed with your addiction, not feeling attractive, having a terrible panic attack, not gaining enough money, or being rejected from someone you liked, it makes you feel shameful.
Being shameful when you’re struggling, makes things so much harder. It makes you isolate yourself from others, it makes you think being vulnerable equates to being weak, which would make you more shameful. It may make you engage more with self-destructive behaviors, the unworthiness you feel makes you think you do not deserve anything good. Shame can be absolutely debilitating, and would make any mental health issue so much worse.
I have always wondered what is the best way to deal with shame, and how can I feel my self worth again. The easy answer would be, start loving yourself more, accept yourself with all your flaws. While that is a really great answer, but it is not easily doable. Since shame is coming not just from how you see yourself, but also from how you think people see you, it is really hard to brush off any judgmental remarks or looks that you get.
What actually puts my mind on ease when I feel shameful for having a panic attack for example, is knowing that every single one of us have their flaws and struggle, they might be hiding them well, but they are there. Anyone who has ever judged me for being weak or vulnerable, they have just had forgotten about their own struggle.
You may be feeling alone with your struggle, and the shame you feel makes it so much harder to reach out to people. You might have not replied to someone who asked you how you are doing for a long while, you might have never talked to a loved one the struggle you are dealing with, because you’re afraid they will start judging you. Trust me, reply to them, talk to them, and you’ll hear them say “Welcome back, let’s struggle together”.