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How to Find Meaning Out of Shame

I work with many clients who struggle with their self-esteem related to shame they feel either related to their professional or personal life, or perhaps even both. My job as their clinical therapist is to help clients understand the reasons where their low self-esteem is stemming from. After doing that, I help provide the clients tools on how to cope with this shame they are experiencing. Through experiencing the feeling of shame, it is heavily connected with some low self-esteem which can lead to sadness or even depression.

I recently read an article from The Cut, “I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life” by author Heather Havrilesky who is responding to someone from the “Ask Polly” section. Havrilesky is responding to an individual who is expressing some enormous amount of shame related to both her personal and professional life. This mid 30-year-old female discusses feeling shame due to not having the job she loves and not having a romantic partner. I certainly have seen many clients who have discussed very similar topics as this individual.

Below are some key points Havrilesky discusses on how to cope with feelings of shame.

  • What is shame? Havrilesky defines shame as a way of turning every emotion into a personality flaw, mistakes as huge failures, telling yourself that you’ve accomplished nothing, and it’s all downhill from here on out. What a miserable state of mind that must be for people who experience this shame feeling once in a while to even daily.
  • Discarding shame. Havrilesky then discusses the importance of discarding the shame you are feeling. Realizing it is causing you so much pain can also help in discarding it.
  • Can’t discard shame? If you have been wrapped up in shame for so long, it may be challenging to discard it in one day. So instead, attempt to find some value in the feelings of shame you are experiencing. When you can look shame face on in an intentional moment in time, it opens a new path of allowing you to see what it is that is truly causing discomfort. Giving that feeling company instead of avoiding it, allows you to not feel as defeated by it. Instead of running away from something bothering you, you are welcoming it to provide you a sense of clarity.
  • Using shame as your motivation. Essentially, find a way to make a new narrative out of the uncomfortable feeling you are facing. For example, if the shame is about a job that you hate, use that shame to motivate you to apply for just one job this week.
  • Shame creates imaginary worlds. Shame is created inside our thought distortions in our heads, that many times people on the outside cannot even see, unless perhaps they are a clinical therapist helping you to cope with it. Many people are not thinking the purely negative thoughts about you that you might be thinking about yourself. Leave those negative thoughts about yourself behind; they are damaging your self-esteem!
  • Treat yourself the way a loving parent would treat you. If you were lucky enough to have parents that treated you with love, attempt to treat yourself that same way. Or perhaps, treat yourself the way you would treat a young child: treat yourself with love. Tell yourself it is okay to have challenges in your life, but having shame about yourself daily will not make it less challenging. Attempt to build something meaningful with the shame you’re experiencing. A new meaning simply means finding a new exciting version of yourself that is on the way of positive shifts and new beginnings.

If you are currently struggling with shame that is leading into depression, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.

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