I am afraid of rejection.
Others will not love me if I’m truly honest.
I am not as interesting as people think I am.
When I am richer, thinner, or wealthier then finally, I will be enough.
For some, shame is situation dependent. You tripped on a first date. You feel embarrassed, you feel shame. That’s natural. But for others (and myself, years ago) shame wasn’t an idea or a response. Instead, it was a cancer. “I am not enough” wasn’t a thought, but a shadow. And that shadow had the power to follow everything I said and everything I did. It shaped the vowels at the edges of my sentences and nipped away at the security of my being.
The Foundation: Replacement, Part 1
This is the foundation of all the steps to come.
Shame has to stop in the only place it rules: your mind. This means memorizing nutritional ideas and repeating them when shame triggers. This means repeating them enough that when junk food thoughts come into play, you act in the opposite direction. It’s rolling over them in your head until they are muscle memory.
Watching your thoughts is arduous. But here’s the good news: people change how they think, see, and perceive, everyday. They change the narratives that lead them. And whether it’s the CEO who realizes that she has to spend more time with her daughter or the stay-at-home mom who realizes she is actually doing “okay” in this life, people change all the time. Stories aren’t the truth — they are an interpretation of it. Here are the basics:
1. Progress and Perfection
Progress, any progress, is better than expecting perfection. Building shame resilience, working at it, chipping away at the core — it’s better than doing nothing at all. And being okay with that, being okay with progress in and of itself is the first step to progress itself. It’s glacial, it’s a struggle. But it’s ultimately doable.
No one is perfect. So start and move onward. Whether it’s exercising self-love or simply grasping the idea that you are enough, you need to begin now.
2. My Truth is Worthy
It’s sobering to understand that the truth of your life is the only truth you’ll have. It’s all you own; all you are. What do you do when you wake up? How do you treat those around you? How do your thoughts feel? What do you think of your spouse? What do you think of your life?
So here’s the question: are you comfortable sharing that truth? Are you comfortable living by and telling your closest friends that, hey, this is my life?
Because you have to start by admitting the smallest of flaws. What makes you feel unlovable? What do you tell yourself that makes you feel shame? Write these down and say them out loud. When you do it and they’re met with understanding, they lose power.
No matter what happens to you, you are entitled to your truth.
3. Be Selective and Spend Time on Life-Design
If the world’s a stage, then set it by your own decor. What do you want to do with your life? Because this is where shame cuts deep — it says “I can’t do this” because “I’m not enough”. But the variables in your life aren’t at the mercy of a coefficient; they’re at the mercy of you. So realize that you get the chance, the opportunity to change your life.
Is one of your friends an emotional vampire? Slowly stop returning calls. Does one of your friends step on your aspirations? Address it, head on. Do you want to start Yoga? Pursue it, regardless of what people think.
When you act on your own terms and not those of others, you grow and actively secure faith in yourself, simply by action alone.
4. How to Handle Hateful Thoughts Against Yourself
A thought is a sentence. We have them because a thought attempts to take our life and reveal a shade of the truth. But, many times, thoughts are poison. That’s why it’s important to change the narrative of your thoughts and make it empowering.
If you can change perception, why wouldn’t you want to make that perception positive? Imagine the things you say about yourself. Imagine all those words and their negativity. Would you say that to someone else? Most of us wouldn’t. So why — even if it feels harmless — would you say it to yourself?
Write these down, say these out loud and you’ll notice they lose power. Know which thoughts in your head — specific sentences you use, specific patterns you bring up—you use to keep yourself from not feeling enough. Then when they come up in your head, will yourself to think differently.
5. Test the Validity of Your Shame
Most shame thoughts are not true. Let’s take mine for example:
You can’t be a writer because authors have fancy writing degrees”
At the keyboard, this doubt stopped me cold. But first, let’s look at it rationally with a thought experiment. First, project this thought onto someone else, maybe even your kid. Imagine telling your child “Baby, you can’t be a writer because only people with accomplished degrees in writing can be writers and you just can’t do it without one”.
When the standard is projected on to someone else, the silliness is barely palpable. Would you have the audacity to step on your child’s potential and aspirations? If not, why would you have the gall to do it to yourself?
Because not only is it a disservice to yourself, but the logic doesn’t hold up. There are countless college dropouts who wrote books. Living by this shame sentence – the very one that stopped me from writing — wasn’t just hurtful to potential, but negligent of the truth. Test your shame thoughts, however they look. How do they hold up? Because I guarantee you, they won’t last long.
The Key: Replacement, Part 2
Everyone has some shame.
Flaws can be attractive. I love people with flaws.
Is love contingent on being perfect? Perfect people are boring because they are fake.
You are learning and growing – what can you learn about yourself or your life? What can you do differently to grow.
These thoughts are real, these thoughts are sexy. These are nutritional thoughts. I remember when I first showed my parents my writing. There was no woman with fancy writing degrees behind the words because it was just me and me alone. But the crazy part? It was enough. No matter what happens, you have to believe that at your core, you’re enough. And then progress.
“Shame is like everything else; live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture”
— Salman Rushdie