How to Identify and Overcome Shame
When I booked my first print modeling job for L’Oreal a few years ago and received a big paycheck for just a few hours of work, I found myself wondering:
“How do I deserve the money when all I did was showing up with a pretty face?”
Little did I know then that I was suffering from shame. I was against my own money and my own looks, and I thought that was it was supposed to be — I was not supposed to make a lot of money, or be complimented as pretty.
Then, a manager I worked with dropped me like a hot potato within 2 months. She said: “We brought you on board because of your good looks, but I’m sorry we couldn’t move the needle for you.”
She chose me because of my appearance and dropped me because I wasn’t making money. Money and appearance. Two things I was against the most. The truth bomb reduced me to tears and eventually made me realize I’ve been living in shame my entire life.
What is Shame?
Brene Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging — something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” The keywords that popped out to me are: painful, flawed, and unworthy.
Shame is internal and can turn into the source of destructive, hurtful behaviors. According to Dr. Bryn Jessup, Shame has to do with the negative feeling about ourselves, which can get activated anytime we are frustrated or challenged.
Shame can be harmful to teenagers and young adults in their most formative years as they are constantly learning, evolving, and forming relationships. Challenges and setbacks can provide the soil to feel unworthy, inadequate, insecure, and unlovable.
This is what the shame spiral looks like — one thought leads to another, then another, and before you know it you’re dragged down the rabbit hole by your own thoughts. This is how shame destroys your confidence, disempowers you, and makes you buy into your “filtered” story of unworthiness.
“Money is dirty.” “ I don’t deserve this much money.” “I’m bad with my finances.” “Thinking about making money makes me a bad person.”…The list goes on and on. Does any of these sound familiar?
Money shame is the negative feelings towards money. Money is a taboo subject, and many of us have learned to associate money with negative emotions, anxieties, and conflicts from an early age.
Bringing those beliefs into adulthood, we shun away from talking about money so that we don’t have to feel the emotions attached to it. But the emotions don’t go away — they may be suppressed, but they are in there in our subconscious mind, preventing us from reaching our goals.
“There is so much shame around money — shame about not earning enough, not knowing enough and owing too much. Shame is dangerous because it creates avoidance.” — Ann marie Houghtailing
“ Your face is too broad.” “Your thighs are too chunky”. “Your hips are too wide.” “Your skin tone is too dark.” ‘ You are not nearly half as pretty as when you were little”. Those are the sentences I grew up with, and almost all of them came from my mother.
No wonder I spent my entire 20s running away from my looks — I found it incredibly hard to accept any compliments on my appearance. I thought whoever complimented me wanted to take something from me because I didn’t think I deserve those compliments.
Body-shaming manifests in these ways: 1) Criticizing your own appearance, through a judgment or comparison to another person; 2) Criticizing another’s appearance in front of them; 3) Criticizing another’s appearance without their knowledge.
Four Decisions to Overcome Shame
1. I decided to try something different
I’ve been beating myself up all the time, and it’s not working. So why not try something different? Why not try to praise myself a bit more? Why not try to reward myself a bit more? Why not try to feel good about myself a bit more?
The more I do this, the better I feel. The better I feel, the more good things I start to notice about myself. The cycle is stopped. The “shame spiral” is broken.
2. I decided to own it, good or bad
I was victimized. I was angry. I was blaming my parents and blaming the world. None of those things worked. And I ended up exhausted, resentful, and miserable. So I decided to own it. I decided to own myself. All of myself.
I decided to believe there was nothing wrong with me, regardless of what happened.
Sometimes it can be hard to believe, especially when you had a bad day, hopped on social media, and saw everyone’s smiley face and beautiful stories.
But I made a commitment to myself to own ALL of it — good days and bad days, success and failures, miracles and disasters. All of it. And it’s not about me.
3. I decided to trust more
I used to doubt everything — if they’ll work, how they’ll work, what if they don’t work, etc, and attribute the cause to myself. All the achievements I made came at a huge emotional cost. Eventually, I hit a wall and asked myself: “So what’s the point?”
I decided to trust more. I decided to believe everything will eventually work out. I decided to focus my time and energy on the things I’m doing, instead of worrying about how they’ll turn out. Worries are illusions. Life is too short to be spent on illusions.
4. I decided to speak up
Feeling bad about money? Let’s talk about money. Feeling bad about the body? Let’s talk about the body. Feeling bad about sexuality? Let’s talk about sexuality.
Bringing these things into daylight makes you look at them in the eye, and you’ll realize they are not that scary. They are not bad. They are what they are. They are neutral until you attach meanings to them. But since you can attach meanings, you can also detach meanings — you have all the power.
Shame is painful, but it’s not a monster. Don’t run away when you feel those uneasy feelings. Make a decision to face them and do something different, and see how you are setting yourself free.
Want to write for The Pink? We’d love to have you in our community of 200+ writers. Or Follow us on Instagram for more.