What to Do to Feel Less Shame
Sometimes we are sure our faults are blindingly obvious to everyone. We have just done something we feel is a mistake and we are sure everyone has noticed; it seems everyone is judging us but no one says anything because they don't want to embarrass us. The shame we feel is terrible and we just want to hide away. What can we do to help get on top of this situation?
Others might not notice
The first thing to realise is that other people might not have even noticed; even if they have, it is just not that important to them. When we make mistakes we become so self-conscious; our ability to take in information about the other people around us is compromised. All we can do is think about ourselves, the mistake we have made, how huge it seems, and worries about how we are going to fix it – along with some very heavy criticism of ourselves.
In these moments of extreme self-focus, our view of reality is skewed to exclude accurate data about how other people about us are responding to what we did.
Others feel ashamed too
What we can miss is that many other people also regularly experience such high levels of shame and feel so self-conscious that they might not have really taken in what you have done. Like us, other people get very focused on what they have done, so much so that the mistakes that you make often just go unnoticed to others – it's just ourselves who are painfully tortured by it.
Past shame amplifies current shame
The shame you're experiencing about this mistake you've made might not be about what just happened. This current shame may be an echo of a deeper, older shame that you have experienced at some time in the past; it's just this event has tapped right into it. Shame is a powerful emotion that we seem to be particularly vulnerable to when we are young. Unfortunately, it can have long-lasting effects.
Reducing the impact of shame
There are certainly things we can do to reduce the impact of shame on our life. Consciously try to take in a realistic picture of the impact of what you've done; contextualise your mistakes in the broader picture. It can also help to recount to ourselves the many successes we have had, and the many times when we have done things that were proud of. However, as long as this primary shame remains unresolved then events of the current day have the power to reawaken this primary, hidden shame.
Let me know what you think in the comments.