This must be a pretty common experience as I am hearing a lot of clients discuss it. That feeling of not being okay, flawed, and comparing ourselves to some unreachable “perfection.” Why is it that we are so ready to believe that we are defective rather than magnificent?
We are not born with shame-I have never seen a baby blush with embarrassment or hide with shame when making unusual noises, obnoxious smells, or uncontrollable crying. They just do what they do without thinking.
But somehow children begin to learn that they are not good enough-something is wrong! This feeling stays with us as we grow older and even when friends may tell you how great you are and you have accomplishments galore you still hang on to the feeling of not being okay. You may think that with age this will lessen, but I have clients who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 70’s who still struggle.
I learned shame very early in my family. It seemed normal! Shame was actually disguised as being “holy or good!” I blushed easily and always admired those who could just speak up or seemed comfortable with themselves.
Many times I tried to stop the uncomfortable feeling. I read books, went to self-help seminars, prayed, participated in numerous spirituality groups, and talked to therapists. I got some movement but it wasn’t until I learned a few good tools that I finally learned to let go and decided that all shame did was keep me small.
Here is what helped me! First I acknowledged what I was feeling and took responsibility for hanging on to the shame (this did not make it go away, but I felt more powerful when I realized I had some say!)
Next I made a mental note each time the feeling showed up. At first I was so used to feeling shame that I did not realize it was present until I was in the middle of putting myself down or thinking the negative thoughts. But once I decided I would start noticing it, I became more aware and could say “Oh, there you are again!” (I began to feel more in control!)
Then I made a list of all the times that I felt shame in my past. There were enough examples to fill a page. I started using Emotional Freedom Technique or “tapping” on each “story.” (Tapping is that funny process of touching parts of your body while saying the story. It is a mind body technique that allows shifts in the brain and emotions with long term results in releasing stress and altering memories. I will share the graphic of how to do below. You can find more info at www.sheranmattson.com) Eventually I found it harder to feel shameful. It just didn’t feel normal anymore.
Lastly, I forgave myself for feeling shame and sharing it with others. Acceptance of not being perfect is so great and so freeing. Now it is hard for me to feel shame about much of anything! Guilt also has a hard time showing up in my life. I call it a wasted emotion!
I hope this helps you! It is my hope that all children grow up knowing that their uniqueness is special and that they learn to tap on any “bad” feelings so it does not take a lifetime to realize that there is no such thing as Perfect!!!