How shame holds us back

In Blog by Celine Redfield1 Comment


Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. ~Brene Brown

According to the research of Brene Brown all humans experience shame. The psychologist Rick Hanson, reports that shame is a primal emotion, one of the first that we experience as children. So if this is the case why does no one talk about shame? That is the tricky thing about shame is  that it is silent and keeps us quiet and has become the fabric of our daily lives.

Because our society is shame based, we are encouraged to be tough, look down on ourselves and on others, and if we are not perfect then there is something definitely wrong with us. Shame is fueled by not being enough or having enough, it keeps us hungry and always unsatisfied. This week we will be looking at how shame lies to us and what we can do to combat it:

1) Shame tells us we are no good.

Do you have a voice that tells you that you did that wrong? OR that you could have done that better? This is the shame voice that tells us these things. Shame and fear are a tag team that keeps us frozen in a state of self flagellation.

What is interesting about this voice is that a long time ago when we were young this helped us to survive something that was painful, embarrassing and/or scary.  So why is the voice so loud now?  Most likely we have been using this a template since this time to protect ourselves and keep us safe. But the current question is, does this voice actually help us any longer? Do you want to live from a place of fear and self deprecation? If not, it is possible to change this voice and replace it with one that is more self compassionate. Try the self compassion break that Kristen Neff created, on for size, when you notice that you are having a difficult time. You can learn how to do that here.
2) Shame keeps us isolated and quiet.

Shame wants us to be comfortable in the status quo. It wants us to believe that we are bad and that we deserve bad things. It encourages us to be mean to ourselves. It wants us to stay where we are and feed it and make it stronger. Being in the state of shame keeps us quiet and guarded. Shame prevents us from learning to be vulnerable or telling our truth. This in turn keeps us isolated and lonely. How can you break out of this pattern?

The only way to break free from this, is to be open about where we are by being vulnerable. We must find people whom we can trust and can help us to process these feelings, relate to us, and have compassion for where we are. Staying quiet is not the answer it just keeps the shame alive and thriving.

“It is the self judging the self. A moment of shame may be humiliation so painful or an indignity so profound that one feels one has been robbed of her or his dignity or exposed as basically inadequate, bad, or worthy of rejection. A pervasive sense of shame is the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate, defective, unworthy, or not fully valid as a human being.” ~Fossom & Mason, Facing Shame

3) Living in shame has us repeat the same patterns.

When we are stuck in a shame spiral there is little possibility for change. When we stay stuck in patterns, the faces of the people just change but the situations stay the same. When we recognize this it is time to get help. The only way to stop repeating patterns and staying in relationships, jobs or situations is by taking risks and making changes.


Learning that we are worthy of being treated with love, respect and dignity is the first step in ending old patterns of shame. By talking to someone we trust or a professional, one can process their patterns. Having an outside perspective can help one to see what their patterns are and what they are looking for in relationships and what they need to steer clear of.

Shame= “I am something bad.”

Self worth= “I have made a mistake, everyone makes mistakes and I love myself anyway.”

4) Shame tells us we have to be perfect or not try.

Perfectionism is a part of shame. The need for perfection usually is because the person believes that they need to be perfect in order to be lovable or likable.  At some point this person learned that if they are not perfect they will be rejected in some sort of way. This in turn has lead them to internalize unrealistic expectations for themselves and usually others as well. And when they are unable to be capable of this impossible task they experience shame.

What I find so fascinating about perfectionism is the need for control, order and controlling how others view them. What these people do not realize that they were born perfect, their belief that they are not is a lie. This lie they have internalized  keeps them in a pattern of  shame and guilt.

Do you have issues with this? Are you willing to begin to let go for the need for control? Can you give yourself  and others slack? What needs to happen for you to let this go?

Try seeing yourself as being perfectly imperfect. Let yourself make mistakes and be fallible. Remember that every decision we make is a lesson, do not be fearful of learning the things that we are meant to, this is what propels us into become the person that the universe wants us to be.
5) Shame keeps us in the pattern of being less or more than. 

When we have shame about who we are then usually a way of coping is by comparing ourselves to others. We play the game of better than and less than.  OR my favorite saying “Compare and despair.” When we compare ourselves to others outsides we are playing into a lie and a perception. When we do this we really have no idea how that person is doing or wether or not they are happy. The flipside of this is when we say, oh well I am better than them because of x, y, z; we are guilty of doing the same thing just trying to inflate our ego that is needing stroking. The more than less than trap is a part of shame, it keeps us separate from our fellow man and keeps us isolated in our judgement/ self judgement.  Do you ever catch yourself doing this? When you do, try asking yourself what you are avoiding or what feelings are coming up for you? By doing this you can stop this habitual pattern and start being able to live with more grace and ease.

The last thing that I want to leave you with is visualization from Rick Hanson, releasing-shame-visualization. Enjoy!

Please feel free to comment below. How has shame affected your life? If you have any questions please feel free to contact me: or 323-515-2278.

Have a blessed week!




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