The fear of being flawed and not good enough isn’t something that people are readily able to admit to themselves. Most people never make that breakthrough, for others it can take a lifetime.
Here are four good reasons why shame creates strong feelings of denial:
1) Its simply too scary.
Feelings of shame really are the ultimate core of human anxiety – the fear of not being lovable, of being broken, of being disconnected. Even reading about shame can be a really uncomfortable experience as things come to light. When I first cottoned on to the concept, and just how far-reaching through the psyche shame can be, I hated it. All sorts of excuses and denials were leaping out, trying to stop me from going further with my self-awareness. But I’m glad I did!
2) We generally lack the awareness to know the feelings
It can take a long time to explain to somewhat what feelings of shame are, and how to recognise them. Without learning about it, in a safe way that doesn’t feel threatening, its very difficult to be able to pin the feelings down. They might just feel like “mild anxiety” or “feeling a bit low” or “not up to it”.
3) Pride gets in the way
In Britain, there’s still this thing of the “stiff upper lip” where its considered a weakness to admit or express bad feelings, anxiety or concerns. You’re supposed to just “get on with it”, regardless of any huge disabling issues that might be ruining your life.
The last three reasons can all result in unconscious denial – you aren’t even aware that you’re denying the feelings. Your mind is looking after you on your behalf, hiding the feelings deep down.
Instead though, you’ll get the other effects of the shame energy leaking out – energy drain, anger outbursts, sorrow, depression, nervousness, defensiveness, apathy, withdrawal and many more.
4) Lacking a trusting relationship
Talking about feelings of shame requires a lot of courage, confidence and trust. You also need another person to be able to admit the feelings to – who needs to have empathy and genuinely care about you. Without that, its unlikely you’ll ever want to admit such feelings.
The result of this is a more conscious denial – you’re aware of the feelings, but you hide and deny them from people unless it feels safe (which could be rarely, or ever). Instead, you might choose to write in a journal instead, for example.
Do you have an experience of shame denial?
If you recognise any denial traits in yourself or others, write about them and share your story!