This question was posed to me recently during a chat with a colleague…do you feel that you shame yourself or feel guilty for what you’ve experienced in your life?
I paused for a bit and replied with, “yes”.
To me, both guilt and shame can go hand in hand. One can affect the other, just like the feeling of one can start the affects of the other.
There is a difference though, so lets establish that first.
Shame – We feel like we were born bad, screwed up, and destined for failure. Basically before we ever had a chance to live our life, we were born doomed for nothing more than mediocrity at best. Why fight to change what we are unable too?
So since we feel that way, as soon as a situation in our life goes sideways we are quick to blame ourselves for what we should or should not have done to stop it or change it.
Guilt – I think negative thoughts, I dwell on negative things, I don’t have the ability to live the life I want based on my past regrets. I beat myself up for what I’ve done, whether it was truly my fault or not. I don’t deserve to be happy or have a good life because of things I’ve done.
One of the biggest ways that we shame ourselves, without even realizing it, is using the word “should” in regards to ourselves. As a good friend puts it, we “should” ourselves all over the place.
By doing so we either start a pattern of negative thinking, or reinforce a current pattern. Therefore making it harder to break that habitual invalidation once we realize what using the word “should” really does to us.
-I should have said “no”.
-I should be able to lose weight.
-I should be able to handle this situation.
-I should be able to lead this work project on my own.
-I should be able to handle my finances better.
-I shouldn’t let so and so bother me so much.
-I should just try harder.
We are shaming ourselves for things we didn’t do correctly according to what the guilty gremlin in our head tells us. That right there is the affects of abuse and trauma hard at work to keep us stuck. To invalidate us.
The more we “should” ourselves, the more we shame ourselves and then we feel guilty for shaming ourselves because we feel guilty for what we “should or should not” have done.
A viscous cycle that is all too easy to start but very difficult to control and put an end too.
Let’s look at guilt then and see how that works…
-We feel guilty because we didn’t say NO to the person(s) who abused us.
-We feel guilty because we didn’t run away and tell someone about the abuse we were suffering.
-We feel guilty because we couldn’t stand up to those who were bullying us.
-We feel guilty for putting our family through the stress of having to explain why we suffer from PTSD, Anxiety, Dissociation, Dissociative Identity Disorder, etc. We feel like we are ruining the family name.
Again, insert any type of guilty feeling you have and it’s the same cycle all over again.
We feel guilty for ________ so then we shame ourselves because we should be able to handle __________.
It’s a no win situation and just continues to dig the “should” hole even deeper.
I was challenged with the following, and I am extending that challenge to you. We can call it the “ShouldNoMore” Challenge.
As soon as you realize you said the word “should”, no matter what it was in reference too…stop and assess what you are doing to yourself.
-Are you blaming yourself for something you couldn’t control?
-Are you worried about what others will think of you or your family?
-How is using the word “should” going to help you increase your self esteem and self confidence?
-How can you better rephrase the statement to build yourself up rather than tear yourself down?
Being aware of how many times you “Should” yourself can be the start of more positive self awareness and self confidence.
It’s not easy, and it’s not quick. You can’t fix years of shame and guilt overnight. In time and with practice you can take proactive steps to living a more positive life, and loving yourself…and that my friends is a big part of healing.
Be kind to yourself and love yourself because you deserve it!
You have my word that I will be doing my very best to practice this and keep up with the ShouldNoMore challenge.
If I falter though, I will not allow myself to give up, so don’t you give up either! 🙂