It’s everywhere you look.
You’re either too fat or too thin, too dark, not dark enough, too tall, too short, too loud.. the list is endless. Many of us feel like we’re failing in some area of our lives because we’ve been shamed into believing we’re just not good enough. It could be the shame we feel when we think we’re failing as a parent, or when we struggle with simple tasks at our job. In the social media age, we have a constant reminder that others are doing better than we are – or so we are led to believe.
We all fall prey to standards that the world has set, most of which are impossible to meet. Have you ever wondered who gets to set these standards and why? Is it the media, celebrities, parents, friends, instagram? We are constantly shamed into living inside the box of “acceptable” instead of loving and embracing our true, authentic selves – inside or outside the box.
So how can we stop shame from becoming toxic in our lives? Is there a way to live without the constant paralysis from feelings of inadequacy? Here are three simple ideas:
1. Be content in who you are.
Knowing your worth as well as your limitations is the first step. When we accept our flaws (everyone you know has them!) we can focus on improving ourselves instead of comparing ourselves to others who are seemingly perfect. We should always seek to be better but also remember that we are all flawed. We can easily put others on a pedestal but did you know, that person you admire so much has their own struggles that you may not see. No one is perfect, so stop shaming yourself or allowing others to shame you into feelings of imperfection.
Of course we should admire and aspire to learn from those who have mastered the things we would love to be successful in. However, we can do this from a place of contentment not envy. When we see ourselves as whole, capable and significant, we become healthier versions of ourselves and are less likely to entertain feelings of shame.
2. Let it bounce!
What do I mean by that? You don’t have to internalise everything people say about you. Sometimes when it hits you, you’ve got to let negative words bounce off and move on unscathed. Easier said I know, but we can develop the habit of letting it bounce. It’s important to discern when words spoken about us are true, even though we may not like how they made us feel – that takes maturity. However, a lot of the time people speak from their own dysfunction and knowing who we are will help us discern when to let those words just bounce.
Not long ago I had a run in with someone who had some really critical words to say about me. If not for a conscious effort to remind myself who I am and hold on to that truth, I could have believed the words he said. I could then have internalised those words and gradually, silently, I may have adopted them as truth. That’s how shame works. Words may hurt, but we should never simply accept the negative words thrown at us. Give it a go: practice makes perfect!
3. Dispose of unhelpful thoughts – immediately!
Negative thoughts about ourselves are like a cancer starting deep inside, undetected and unseen at first, but eventually capable of doing extensive damage to the whole body. Shame creeps up on us slowly and steadily, from negative thoughts that are reinforced over time and eventually contaminate our minds.
The first time someone asked why you were still single, you didn’t think too long about it but by the tenth time you heard that question, you may have started to internalise and believe false truths about yourself.
I’ll never be good enough for someone to love me. Everyone I know is with someone except me. Maybe I’m too broken to be loved.
You used to be single and free, but now you feel damaged and distant. Shame is a creeper. It makes us believe things about ourselves that just aren’t true. Think of an example relevant to your own life – feeling like a bad mom every time your child throws a tantrum and you can see the disapproving glances, or maybe you feel judged anytime someone looks in your direction because you’ve never been able to lose weight.
Whenever we have these thoughts, we can counter them with positive truths – immediately! If we get into the habit of doing this right away, we are making an active choice not to allow shame to come into our lives and make a home there.
Remember that many others are having the same struggle that you are right now. You are not alone when you feel shame but don’t give it a home in your mind. Seek help if you must. Remember: You are too brilliant to live your whole life paralyzed by shame.