Most people experience shame at some point in their lives but toxic shame can be hard to deal with. The emotion of shame rears its ugly head whenever you don’t live up to other people’s standards.
In some situations, shame might be helpful. However, many people go on to develop “toxic shame,” a type of lingering shame in which you never feel like you or your life is enough.
Toxic shame usually comes from experiences earlier in your life. For instance, suppose for instance that you wet the bed as a child. Healthy parents will just clean up the mess and not mention it to you again, seeing it as a regular part of life. Disruptive parents, on the other hand, might lash out at you and ask you what’s wrong with you (even if you couldn’t help peeing in the night).
Unfortunately, toxic shame can lead to withdrawal from life and anger. When you feel ashamed of yourself, you have an abiding feeling that you’re not good enough. All you want to do is hide away and hope that the world will disappear. You also feel violated by other people never accepting you for who you are. You see other people or families in healthy relationships, but you don’t feel as though you could have that yourself.
So what can you do to recover from toxic shame? Let’s take a look.
Understand When You Feel Shame
The first step is to begin the process of understanding when you feel shame. If the emotion suddenly rears its ugly head, tell a partner or someone you trust. Then try to link the shame to specific thoughts and situations. If you can identify your triggers, you may be able to avoid them, reducing the amount of shame that you feel.
Remember, shame likes to hide in dark places. Therefore, if you can be open about it, you can deny its power.
Being mindful means observing your thoughts without judgement. The ancient practice creates separation between your thoughts and consciousness, allowing you to step back and just observe what your brain is doing.
Toxic shame tends to absorb you completely to the point where it feels like a part of who you are. But mindfulness prevents this. It reminds you that you still have sovereignty.
Have Some Compassion For Yourself
Many people go through life without ever being kind to themselves. They internalise the critical voices of other people and incorporate them into their personalities, continuing the abuse long after they are gone. This can be particularly difficult for people with drug or sex addiction.
The trick here is to take back control by having some compassion for yourself. This means accepting that you are human, that you will make mistakes, and that you won’t always get everything right in life. Once your mind is on your side, not other people’s, it becomes considerably easier to go through life in a happy manner.
Face Your Shame
Lastly, you’ll want to face the root of your shame, preferably with a counsellor. The more you can address it and be open about it, the less shameful it will become.