Shame is an uncomfortable emotion that we often avoid feeling. Feeling shame does not mean you are a bad person, it means you are human. The discomfort and fear of feeling shame can activate certain behaviors. Shame can look like:

  • Wanting to hide/hiding
  • Rigidly believe that we are ‘good’ or bad’
  • Being attracted to folks who are emotionally unavailable 
  • Avoiding certain tasks, people and situations 
  • Not asking for what you want or need
  • Not speaking up and/or ruminating about things you would have said
  • Doing what you think other people want you to do 
  • “Go with the flow” even though you have preferences 
  • Reacting in anger
  • Negative self-talk and self-blame
  • Blaming ourselves when things don’t work out

Because humans are hard-wired with shame, we can’t necessarily ‘get rid of it’ and we can learn to recognize and manage it when it gets in the way of us living the life we want to live.

My story of shame starts with an anxious and fearful parent who did their very best to ensure that I was set up for their definition of success. This looked like controlling my normal, developmentally appropriate, child-like behaviors with, you guessed it, shame. Since childhood, I spent much of my life fighting against all the “shoulds” and expectations of others. I would try on the expectations of others, what other people wanted from me and it was like a vice squeezing me but I didn’t break (or maybe I did).  It seemed to me that everyone got the manual on how and who to be and I was the only one who didn’t “get it.” I thought that no one would love me unless I fit into this box that everyone else seemingly fit into.

I could go on about my shame story but I can’t change the past. Let’s skip to the present, the process of ReLearning.

Over time and lots of therapy, I have come to understand that my thoughts and behaviors kept me little, unseen and safe. I learned that I cannot control others’ thoughts, actions, or their feeling towards me. I can, however, become aware of how these pieces impact me, how these old wounds may become raw again when pressed and how I can best help myself when I feel anxious, angry, scared, and human. Getting to know your personal story of shame and how it is impacting your life and relationships is one of the most powerful tools learned in therapy. Shame is a powerhouse emotion. The humans at ReLearning Human are experts in shame and shame management. If you want to work on how you show up as a human when you feel shame, we are here to support. Kavita and I created ReLearning Human to provide a space for you to explore your own human experience, whatever that looks like for you.

– Annie, Co-Founder of ReLearning Human

ReLearning Shame

The Exposed Therapist