Shame can be an uncomfortable feeling. It is a painful form of vulnerability that can take a toll on us physically, psychologically and emotionally. Shame can make us believe that we are flawed, thereby creating a barrier between ourselves and people or situations because we feel unwanted and unworthy of their love and attention.
There are different types of shame; self-inflicted or caused by external factors. The common incidences that lead to shame, such as accidentally spilling a drink on yourself in public or being reprimanded by your superior in front of your colleagues, are minor. However, should the shame become too intense and toxic where it affects your mental state, it is advisable for you to address the issue or seek professional help.
There are a few interventions one can adopt to prevent shame from becoming too toxic.
- Acknowledge the shame
The first step is to have self-awareness that others are making judgements towards you. Once you have realised and accepted that you are feeling embarrassed, you can take steps to avoid shame from hanging over you. You can share your issues with your trusted friends or family. Their empathy will allow you to keep your sense of shame in perspective and even motivate you towards finding solutions to tackle the issues.
- Change humiliation to humility
Accept that we are flawed and iron things out. In fact, everyone will experience shame at some point of their life and at times the feelings can be devastating. The important thing is changing your mindset whenever you are faced with an embarrassing situation. For example, you are having an important presentation and halfway through you stutter, and your mind goes completely blank. Typically, most will adopt the self-blame game and it will affect the remaining presentation. On the other hand, you can accept that you made an embarrassing mistake and laugh it off. This can often be seen as a strength.
- Taking preventive measures
We are raised and taught with morals and values to determine if certain actions are right or wrong. Typically, the wrong actions can make us or even our loved ones lose face. We are not perfect, and we can be prone to making mistakes. It can be psychologically discomforting to be on the ‘wrong’ side of the situation. When recovering from an embarrassing moment, you can find ways to deal with it and work towards preventing such situation from repeating. Counselling can be instrumental as it allows us to either self-regulate or talk to a counsellor about our feelings. Simply hearing “I know how you feel” or “I’ve been in that situation” will not make us feel ‘alienated’ and alone.
Shame when not managed properly can lead to a life filled with guilt, and mental and emotional exhaustion. That is when the presence of our friends, loved ones and their words of encouragement can aid us to fight off shame. Ideally it would be better, if we are able to self-regulate our emotions from allowing shame to control how we perceived ourselves.
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