When I feel shame, I feel like I have less energy. I withdraw, rest, and sometimes just dissolve into the background. There’s a specific reason for this, which is why a lot of people feel this way.
Shame is an energy drainer!
When you feel like you’re not good enough, or at fault (not just having done something wrong, but are something wrong), the body just wants to shut down.
Its like the shame is saying “you don’t deserve to be anything, I’m shutting down!”
You want to hide away, avoid, escape from the threats and scary feelings.
Also, the various huge conflicts that feelings of shame create take a lot of energy to repress, manage and cope with. This is why headaches, migraines, lethargy, apathy, aches and pains are common.
What feels like laziness can often just be shame, disguised as withdrawn apathy.
I honestly believe that unless there’s a reason to feel mentally or physically exhausted, when you’re free of shame or fears of failure, you’re naturally very productive, motivated and full of energy.
Really, its a natural state to be. Its the default state.
I think more can be accomplished in terms of personal success, happiness and fulfillment by letting go of feelings of shame, and fears of failure, than anything “extra” you could learn or acquire.
Because without those barriers, those hidden handbrakes, your natural human tendency to push forward and fulfill itself is able to just “do what it does” without being held back.
Other feelings of shame
But people feel shame in all sorts of ways. You may feel it physically – as a nervous tension, an ache, a source of heat.
When I think I’m feeling shame, if I say out loud “I’m frightened of not being good enough” or something more specific to a situation like “I’m frightened of loving because I don’t always feel like I deserve it”, those things feel true.
It could be a series of thoughts – like certain internal monologues (or dialogues!) that leap out saying something like “WHY did you do that!” or “Shit shit shit shit shit!” when you’re threatened by something.
It could be certain automatic behaviours – like stooping, not making eye contact, being clumsy, saying stupid things!
It could be something you imagine – suddenly daydreaming bad events that could unfold. Seeing yourself being laughed at. Feeling small, imagining the world looming large around you, and people looking down at you.
When you know that you’re feeling low on spirits, low on self-worth, not feeling good enough…
…realise that its shame.
Collect those moments under the umbrella of shame awareness, and make sure that you know that you know.
See if you can pin down exactly what the underlying fear is.
If it helps, say to yourself the start of this sentence, and see what “feels” like a correct answer.
“Its almost as if I believe that…”
“Right now I deserve to…”
“Its almost as if I believe that…”
“I am a person who…”
“If I felt better about myself, I would probably…”
“I would rather…”
“People who don’t have moments like this are people who…”
“If I had more… then I would …”
I won’t give examples because I don’t want to influence you like that, but I’m sure your mind will give an answer or two that feels true (even if it isn’t, rationally!)
Doing this will help you start recognising patterns, in the kinds of beliefs you hold about yourself and how often they emerge.
How do you feel about public speaking?
Public speaking is a powerhouse of shame-based threats – which is exactly why its the most common phobia!
Because so many people worry about not being good enough, being ridiculed, being flawed, making mistakes.
If you feel frightened at the idea of public speaking, then imagine being invited to deliver a public presentation on something.
It might be a good way to become aware of how you feel shame.
I know its an unrealistic expectation whilst you’re browsing the web, but try to remember this little exercise for when you’re falling asleep tonight. Imagine that you’re asked to do something that scares you – not something that risks your life, but a social situation that would make you feel really nervous. Like you might get found out for not being good enough – not at some certain skill but just for being who you are. It could be public speaking, but you might have a better example. As you lay there with your eyes closed, try to imagine in every detail what it might be like, and become aware of how you think, feel and act in your imagination.
You might think “pah! I won’t learn anything from that!” but you might be surprised!
If you don’t fancy doing that, then just keep a “mind’s eye”-out for for situations where you become aware of feelings of shame. Then become more mindful of exactly what you experience.
Once you start becoming aware of how you feel shame, you can become more aware of when its happening…
…then more aware of how you feel shame.
Another positive cycle that you can create, growing more and more self-awareness.
Then, you’ll soon be in a much better position to control the shame, and build much more shame resilience.
Its a process for sure – but getting those positive cycles spinning is what its all about.
Share your experiences of feeling shame
If you already recognise specific ways that feelings of shame happen in you, then please share them!
Others may be able to relate, or share their own specific ones.