I’ve just been writing my blog (www.maxineharley.com) about my own recent experience of shame – and the memory of my former pride – about my body (following public exposure in a communal changing area); and it got me thinking about shame and how powerfully it effects us all. Shame is the ever-present threat that lurks around just waiting for an opportunity to render us a failure, defective, useless, disgusting or worthless. It has the power to snatch away our energy and plunge us into the deep, dark pit of despair , and so we try many ways to avoid feeling shame (unless we have associated the pain of shame arousal with sexual arousal – which is a different blog subject entirely!), such as over-compensating elsewhere in our lives; being self-righteous and inducing shame in other people; or just numbing it out with ‘mood-altering’ substances. If the searchlight of shame is focussed upon us, then our sense of competence, potency, and the impact we believe we can have on others and in our environment can count for nothing – if we allow this to happen.
We can’t ever completely remove shame – in fact we need a small healthy dose of it to keep us behaving like decent citizens, most of the time. What we can and must do however is to get it into perspective and not allow ourselves to feel inappropriate guilt or shame – despite our own past family, or media, conditioning.
On the spectrum of shame we also find humiliation, embarrassment, self-consciousness and self-worth.
How do you rate yourself and how robust is this self-perception?
Your self-concept and self-esteem originally derived from your family, your childhood experiences and the sense and meaning you gave to these at that time – which may have left you with a fragile and easily damaged view of yourself, and what you deserve in life.
Men tend to derive their adult self-esteem from their work status, sense of competence, and success in the eyes of their peers; women tend to derive theirs from their social network, level of connections, and how well they are liked by others.
We are all worthy people – but often we just don’t see it or believe it despite the evidence that clearly exists – and which frustrated friends and partners will try to remind us of.
There are ways to firm up a shaky self-esteem, and to build and sustain a more confident and assertive way of being in the world, and of handling difficult people too – who are probably behaving in a controlling, superior, self-righteous and domineering way because they are attempting to avoid their own feelings of shame and inadequacy by trying to make someone else feel it instead – the classic behaviour of the ‘bully’.
There are several levels and styles of communication, as well as ways of becoming a more effective listener and speaker. We could all have done with learning these things in the classroom, but it’s never to late to learn how to be more confident, assertive and emotionally robust.
For more information about How to be more Confident please see our website and the 8-week group – for up to a maximum of 6 people – which costs only £12.50 an hour…..because, as they say in the TV ad (and how powerful is that?)…’you’re worth it!’