Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here! You’re interested in caring for yourself and I’m honored to be a part of the journey; it’s truly my pleasure. Whether therapy is for addiction, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, eating disorders, grief, or a host of other issues, there’s a common feeling that often comes up in one way or another: shame.
Shame is the feeling that you’re not good enough, not loveable, that there’s something inherently wrong with you. It’s different from guilt. Guilt is a little pinch; it says “I don’t like the consequences of that behavior. I made a mistake”. Shame is “I am a mistake. I am just someone who makes mistakes”. If I were to accidentally cut someone off in traffic (let’s say I forgot to check my blind spot), guilt says “oh my gosh, I’m so sorry! That scared us both and I’ll be more careful next time!”. Shame says “Oh my gosh, I am such a terrible person! What was I thinking? I am so irresponsible, that person must hate me and they should!”
See the difference? It has to do with how you view yourself. Are you someone who makes normal mistakes? Can you forgive yourself for being human and give yourself grace and forgiveness? If not, and you view yourself as a total mess-up or someone who ruins things that “everyone else can do, but I’m not good enough”, you’re dealing with shame. The problem with shame is that it’s a really poor motivator. It takes away our hope and our power so we’re immobilized by it rather than having it spark change in us. Shame often leads to hiding our behaviors or our feelings rather than moving through them.
So how do we move forward?
How do we recover?
How do we stop making these mistakes that make us feel so badly?
The first step is naming it and truly believing that it doesn’t serve you. If you feel that comforting yourself is just making excuses, you’re living with shame and I’m not a betting woman but I’d wager it’s not helping you. I don’t believe there’s anything helpful about shame. It originates with our roots in living communally.
Way back when humans lived in large groups and hunted together, they really depended on each other for survival. If a caveman got exiled, he typically didn’t survive. We still depend on each other a lot! Human beings are the most social animals and that doesn’t mean that we like to talk; it means that we rely on each other more than any other animal.
However, when we have really narrow ideas of what’s socially acceptable, we torture ourselves to fit in that box. That’s not fair, you don’t belong in a box. There is a WIDE range of behaviors that are socially acceptable. It takes quite a bit to be exiled. Not every group will be “your people” and that’s OK! Can you just try on for size believing that shame doesn’t serve you? You don’t have to commit! See how it goes! If you don’t like, you can always switch back. But see what life would be like if you didn’t carry shame around with you like a 400-pound boulder.
We’ll answer the question of “am I just making excuses for myself” as we work together because taking honest responsibility for our actions rather than berating ourselves for choices or mistakes or qualities that we can’t do anything about allows us to own our actions and make progress changing our behaviors. Once we get unstuck from the feeling of shame and blowing things out of proportion, we can actually choose how to respond rather than coming from a visceral place of fear (shame is ultimately fear that something keeps you from being loveable) and reacting in ways that we don’t want to (being paralyzed by shame, lashing out at others, eating, drinking, or using our feelings away).
Once you agree to try that on for size, it’s really about calling yourself out on carrying the shame and developing a nurturing voice to deal with feelings that you’re not good enough. Tell yourself that you are good enough the same way a very loving mother would tell her precious child that they are perfect just the way they are. I also have a blog I run that helps us develop this voice. You can find more at www.growththroughhealing.wordpress.com Brene Brown is kind of a leader in treating shame and I definitely recommend seeking some of her resources out. She has two TED talks that I love: Listening to Shame and the Power of Vulnerability. I’d recommend checking those out as well.
I hope this has been helpful. If this speaks to you or sounds like a way of living that might help you feel better, get in touch with me! I’d be happy to meet with you! I’m sending lots of hope and wishes of happiness to you all and believe in the best in you. Let’s bring it out 🙂
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.