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I’ve spent my life ashamed of a lot of things.
Of being different growing up.
Of having bad mental health moments.
Of making poor life decisions.
Of hurting others and myself, over and over again.
But shaming myself for these things never fixed anything. In fact it made things way worse.
And I’m betting it’s been the same for you.
In logical terms, shame simply doesn’t work as a long term mental health strategy.
To understand why that is, we have to look into the history and mechanics of shame itself.
The Mechanics of Shame
Shame is one of the 8 wired emotions we’re all born with. It is intertwined with what’s known as our global self evaluation and our self esteem.
If many of the interactions we have as very young people are negative, we tend to have a lot more shame than others. And with that shame comes a negative self evaluation, or a general feeling of wrongdoing about ourselves.
This is what makes shame a really unproductive emotion. Because it’s not the same as guilt or accountability, which are productive and goal oriented. It’s just mental punishment.
Grace is the Antidote to Shame
And the antidote to it is a little thing called grace.
Grace is reminding yourself on your worst days that you’re human.
Grace is giving yourself a break when the world bombards you with reasons to hate on yourself.
Grace is understanding that you deserve kindness and love regardless of your behaviors.
Because you’re not your behavior. You’re a person. And people are flawed, fragile things. Nobody knows how to do life right.
We’re all doing our best. Grace reminds of that in our darkest days and pulls out into the light.
Most times we expect grace to come from others and it would be a lovely world if we all could be that unconditionally understanding. But alas, that’s not the case.
Producing grace yourself might also seem just as much of a pipe dream. It’s so hard to see the light when you’re at the bottom of a pit of despair.
However, learning to cultivate grace and self compassion yourself can be done. It just takes baby steps like any other part of the healing process.
So ask yourself, what small step can you take today to cultivate grace?
If you’re stuck, here’s a few ideas to get you started:
1. Take yourself on a date to get your favorite food
2. Do something fun you’ve been missing out on
3. Be kind to yourself when you feel you’ve made a mistake
4. Drink water
5. Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it
6. Take stock of your Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/stop-automatic-negative-thoughts
7. Give yourself a hug
8. Consider how you would treat yourself if you were your friend or child
9. Eat, especially when you don’t feel like you deserve to (this is an experience I often struggle with)
10. Read up on radical self compassion and consider joining a Brene Brown group on FB (there’s several so I’d suggest checking them out and joining one that fits you).
And above all else, remember you’re a human being who makes mistakes just like the rest of us. Give yourself some love to cushion the fall.
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