“You should be ashamed of yourself.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that. I was raised on shame, and it definitely shaped my life in ways that I didn’t fully understand for a very long time.
It left me with this vague feeling of being flawed. Whenever I did something well, I felt as though I was a fraud, and sooner or later, someone would figure that out.
Many people believe that shaming a child makes them acknowledge their guilt, and guilt, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Guilt is a response to a wrong we have done that we realize we should acknowledge and make amends for.
Shame, however, sticks to us, it becomes us, and it defines us. So while guilt is associated with an action, shame is associated with us, and a bad action means we are a bad person.
Our first inclination is to hide and hope that no one finds out how awful we are. Shame can become toxic, destructive, and crippling:
1. We Lose Ourselves
If we are raised with shame, it’s often over the smallest things, such as we are talking too loudly or our choice of clothing is inappropriate. It teaches us that we can’t be ourselves, that there is innately something wrong with us. We keep hoping we can eventually get it right, but that never works, because we can’t be someone we’re not. So we never really learn who we are.
2. Trauma Derails Us
Many of us are raised in either an environment of substance abuse or as victims of physical, verbal, or sexual abuse. We are put in a position of believing that if we just act the right way, the adults in our lives won’t subject us to their hurtful behavior. We end up feeling responsible for how other people behave and how we are treated by other people, taking the blame for whatever goes wrong.
3. We Become People Pleasers
Since we already have such a low opinion of ourselves, we do everything we can not to disappoint anyone else. We keep everyone happy so they can’t see our flaws. The problem with people pleasing, however, is two-fold. First, we are so busy doing what everyone else wants us to do, that we don’t have any time or energy to pursue our own goals. Second, we feel like even more of a failure because of it.
4. Failure Takes Over
Having failed repeatedly at achieving our goals, we belittle ourselves while resenting the achievements of others. Both our personal and professional relationships suffer, and sometimes end, as a result.
5. Depression Sets In
We reach a point in our lives where we feel as though life simply isn’t worth living anymore. It affects our ability to function. We find ourselves just going through the motions of living until we slowly grind to a halt, unable to sleep, work, or eat.
6. We Go Off the Rails
The emotional pain gets so intense that we may become physically ill, withdraw from family and friends, or begin drinking or using drugs to dull the pain.
I went off the rails, and that’s how my addiction started. If I had understood the psychology behind the way I felt, I could have avoided the pitfalls that shame creates in our lives.
Remember, shame is not who you are. It’s a misconception you have acquired over time. When you are able to recognize how shame has influenced you, you are able to confront it, conquer it, and become your true self.
If you or your loved one needs help and would like to make a full recovery, please call us today at (877)-447-4977 and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about the treatment options that best fit your needs.