At some point in our lives, we have all probably had an inner thought such as “I can’t do that”, “I am not good enough… I must do better” or “I don’t deserve ____”. Granted, it may not be that clear cut and can manifest in different ways. More subtle examples might be not feeling like you can step foot in the gym because of what someone may think of you, not feeling like you can apply for the dream job you always wanted or maybe feeling like somebody is out of your league; that kind of thing.
These beliefs and thoughts we may cultivate about ourselves ultimately all stem from shame. Shame is the belief of feeling one is unworthy or there is something fundamentally wrong with oneself.
What is difficult about shame is that it is an emotion so deep rooted within us from early childhood experiences that it sort of grows into a little gremlin that pulls all the puppet strings of our patterns of behaviours and thought.
Let’s break this down a little. As a child, when something traumatic happens, such as a parent not paying you attention or giving you the affirmation and affection that you need; you have to go into survival mode. This survival mode means that the child internalises the experience to being their own fault and that it is a result of something that they have done wrong. Thus, this leads to the belief in their mind that there is something wrong with them (shame). If a child did not go into this survival mode, they would have to deal with such intense pain of not being loved that this would literally kill them. And so, over time, these traumatic experiences alter a child’s behaviour from their true nature into conditioned patterns of altered behaviour that are fuelled by belief that they are not good enough.
In other words, one could grow up through traumatic experiences and lack of attention etc. and this fuels the belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, so then one is constantly living through these patterns of compensation. Over time this could cause long term low self esteem, lack of confidence, lack of self-love, anger, fear, decreased resilience… you get the picture.
In some cases, if this shame remains untreated and is added to through adolescence into early adulthood, it can transform into over-achievement, perfectionism, hatred of ones body, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, alcohol dependence for a ‘good time’.
So many of western medical approaches focus on treating the symptom and NOT the cure. But the issue is, our whole society is psychotic with patterns of shame. Just look at a women’s magazine, walk around Selfridges, look at the cosmetic surgery industry… these are all examples of how society reminds us to conform to the expectations of what we should be like and that there is always something better and we are never good enough.
So we treat the symptom with some CBT, pills or maybe alcohol or drugs… but what if these feelings of shame are eating away at us when we address the symptom? What then?
Well, we can reclaim the power and eradicate the weed of shame that grows in our body. In order to face up to these beliefs of unworthiness and shame, we must face up to the root cause of where these beliefs first began. In therapy, I have realised that some seemingly tiny things that happened to me in childhood actually really deeply affected me. I never realised this until I went into my reservoir of memories as a child and really felt my way through them, as opposed to tried to talk it through logically. What I mean by logically is that I try to justify what happened to me through trying to see the good in the other person or understanding their side of the equation, but actually, it doesn’t detract from the emotional trauma I faced and internalised then and there. In uncovering feelings of shame, we must simply feel our way through, without feeling bad about what comes up. You felt how you felt; the deep hurt, the guilt etc it was a real lived experience that we couldn’t fully embrace and deal with at the time and our cells still hold onto it. We can kindly take this feeling, experience it with kindness and awareness and once this has happened usually part of the root of the weed of shame is permanently eradicated with the most loving kindness.
This type of journey is deeply emotional but also deeply healing and empowering. You can truly work through these feelings and slowly one by one, the habits, beliefs and thoughts about your life and yourself melt away to reveal the nature of your true self in your most beautiful essence of who you are.
Perhaps if we look to our vices or behaviours, whatever they may be; we can see where there is a negative and unhealthy underlying belief that fuels them. If we ask ourselves truly why we do a lot of different things, we may actually uncover that there are many for pleasing other people or society through changing our own behaviour. This can also be terrifying, as you are facing up to how much of yourself is conditioned patterns of societal expectations.
Think of the long term liberation, empowerment, freedom and happiness you could feel if you just let go of all the beliefs, vices and patterns that are no longer useful to you and realise that what you are right now in this moment, is an absolute perfect expression of the universe and nothing about you needs to change. How empowering to know that you are enough.
Cut the junk out; face your shame with courage and compassion, always be kind to yourself and true to who you are. Get in touch with the true warrior inside; past the puppet show. Embrace you and let your soul shine out for the world to see.