Shame storms are shitty.
There is a creepy feeling of unworthiness that attacks you when you screw up or do something wrong.
You start looking down at yourself. You feel as if you have betrayed yourself. You feel that you don’t deserve any of the things you want.
This feeling can be intense enough to be believed. Its message is, “You are bad and you are hopeless. Nobody ever is going to think you are good. You can’t be good after all this.”
If you buy into this emotional crap, you are going to lose yourself.
You are going to give up on yourself. No actions are going to be taken in order to fix the situation or to learn from it.
I talked about this creepy feeling many and many times. Here and here and here, to mention only a few. In this article, I want to talk about a different factor in the equation of looking down at one’s self.
There are a few actions that can help you ease those creepy feelings in the short and mid-term. And even cope better with them in the long-term.
We will discuss two of them right now. Do any, or both, of these actions whenever you feel creepy hatred toward yourself that it’s very tempting to give up on it totally. Or do them whenever you can –they are good for the mental health.
Here we go…
Give With No Strings Attached
We all know that ‘receiving’ is a need. We want to get something. This ‘something’ can be anything from money, love, respect, attention, or support.
But we forget an important thing.
Giving is also a need. If receiving fixes our need for essential things, giving fixes our own soul and heart.
We often search for fulfillment in receiving-activities. But it’s giving that will give us fulfillment and satisfaction –the idea of contributing to something larger than ourselves.
Now here is the thing.
Your brain is an observer. It always observes your actions and thoughts. And then compares them to an already existing list of values and beliefs (your own values and beliefs).
The reason you’ve ended up feeling bad about yourself was that your brain observed something that had contradicted your values.
Or it observed that you had done something that is not consistent with how you see yourself.
Either way, this observation was the trigger for looking down at yourself. (Actually, not totally. But it’s a part of the equation).
Giving reveres all this (to some extent).
Because nothing goes unnoticed.
Giving, without strings attached, is a noble deed. Unless you are a psychopath, you will consider giving a good experience. It’s good because your mind observes the fact that you are doing a noble deed.
The same way it looks down on you when observing something bad, it will look up at you when you do something good.
And giving is also a powerful experience that moves people emotionally. That’s one of the reasons many people volunteer. Many studies have shown that volunteering has both psychological and physiological benefits.
So, it’s pretty simple. Without getting into the details of the studies and the theories about how giving enlightens the soul, go and do it.
Help someone in any way without expecting something in return from that person. Give money and food to those who desperately need them. Make someone feel they matter. Just do something. It’s powerful. And its effects on your self-esteem can be dramatic. Let alone its effects on the world.
Share With No Shame Attached
Let’s first get an idea of what shame is.
Shame is about believing that you are too flawed to be liked, accepted, or loved.
It’s destructive. It tells you that something is wrong with you.
I believe it’s at the core of every self-esteem problem. That’s why I’ve written about it many articles on this site. And that’s why I’ve been recommending Brene Brown books from which I’ve learned everything I know about shame. Here is what I’m talking about:
- How to Raise My Self-esteem If I Hate Myself?
- What If You Are Not Good Enough?
- Everyone Has Struggles, So Don’t Stigmatize Yourself
- Daring Greatly (Book)
- The Gifts of Imperfections (Book)
Anyhow, there was something interesting which I’ve read on Daring Greatly. It was what Brene calls “shame resilience”.
She believes that we all feel shame. The point is not to stop feeling shame, for that is impossible. The point is to know how to handle it better.
She has found out through her research that people who handle shame better –she calls them the people who live wholeheartedly– have specific characteristics. Those characteristics shape what she calls “shame resilience”.
One of these characteristics that shape shame-resilience, as she describes, is: those people talk shame.
What does that mean?
It means that those people share their feelings of shame with other people who have earned the right to hear their stories. I used the same expression that Brene uses in her books: people who have earned the right to hear our stories.
Why is that important?
Because those people will listen to our stories without being judgmental or critical. And they will be compassionate and tell us that we are not alone.
Brene shared on her book a story of her own where she had felt bad about herself. She mentioned that she had stopped for a minute and called her husband and a close friend.
Both of them listened to her and gave her, as she described, the you-are-not-alone feeling.
I found that to be very true in my own experience.
I recently shared something very personal with one of my close friends. I shared it because I was inspired to share it. I was inspired to share it because my friend was sharing something with me. And I wanted to let him know that he was not alone there and that I had been there, too.
It didn’t feel good spitting the words out of my mouth for it’s something I’m not particularly proud of. But it did feel good afterward. I guess it was a good comforter for him to realize he was not alone. And it was a great comforter for me, too, to share myself without being judged or looked down at.
This sharing thing becomes bad when you share with someone who is judgmental. Or a person who you don’t yet know very well. This person will add fuel to the fire of the shame inside of you. You’ll be feeling more shame. You’ll be feeling worse about who you are as a person.
You need to be careful about who you share yourself with. And you need to take the depth of the relationship into consideration. Your relationship needs to be strong enough to tolerate the intensity of this sharing.
If you can’t share it, then write it. It’s helpful, too. Write especially how you are feeling. Get it off of your chest. You can keep what you have written or you can get rid of it. Also I have found it very helpful to write a resolve: something that you are going to do to now or in the future to make the situation better.
But, yes, there is an amount of risk. Even with the people close to us, we sometimes shy away from sharing. But risks must be taken because lack of connection is intolerable.
To take risks, you need courage. And courage is something that you choose to do. It’s not something that you are born with. Here is a quote that helps me to remember that:
“Courage is like –it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” ~Brene Brown