We’ve all suffered through varying degrees of shame at some point in our lives. It conjures up feelings of humiliation, despair, embarrassment, rejection, and indignity—all at once. It makes you want to crawl into a dark hole and hide as you start to think of yourself as defective and unworthy. And sometimes, the longer you internalize these negative feelings, the harder it becomes to move forward in your life.
These five strategies can help you process shame in a healthy way so you can finally come out of hiding.
1. Revisit your self-image
Typically, we find it difficult to provide constructive criticism when observing our own behaviors as we tend to judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else. However, eliminating shame begins with looking at yourself square in the mirror and being completely honest about what you see. Ask yourself what it is you’re ashamed of and how it’s affecting your day-to-day life. Gauge what the issues are so you may either actively change your own mental picture yourself or work through them with the help of a professional.
2. Avoid negative self-talk
Self-talk is the running commentary you have in your mind that you don’t necessarily say out loud. Sometimes, you don’t even realize it’s happening or being destructive to your self-esteem. Shame can result from allowing negative statements about yourself permeate your internal dialogue. If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, here are a few tips to help you switch gears.
- Identify: Chances are, there are specific situations that trigger these hurtful thoughts. For instance, it could begin right after a relapse or when a parent or boss criticizes you or your work. Identify what activates your mind to spiral down this fault-finding route.
- Replace: When you are aware that your emotions have led to hurtful internal conversations, take a moment to swap these thoughts with a new, constructive mantra, or affirmation.
- Refocus: Every single person has good attributes. You may be a loyal friend or a compassionate listener. Perhaps you have a wonderful sense of humor. Your job is to learn what your positive traits are and make them the focus of your inner voice.
3. Learn from your mistakes
Shame emerges when we personalize the missteps we make in life. We wind up blowing them completely out of proportion and suffering in deep regret. Instead, rid yourself of the humiliation by viewing the situation as a learning experience. If your actions have negatively affected another person, approach them directly, admit to the behavior, and give a sincere apology without weaving in any excuses. Most importantly, plan how you will modify your behavior so you don’t repeat the same mistake again.
4. Realize the power of visual imagery
The idea of creating a vision board may not sound appealing to everyone, but a tangible representation of your aspirations and ambitions can be an influential tool for achieving your ideal life. A simple definition of a vision board is a dynamic collection of images, photographs, phrases, and words attached to a board that is placed somewhere you can see every day. It’s a daily, positive reminder of the life you want to live and who you want to become. Remember, your vision board will likely evolve along with changes in your life journey.
5. Find a healthy support system
When addicts hit their rock bottom, they realize they’re unable to cope with life on their own and often feel ashamed. This emotion can become so strong in an individual that it can be very difficult to survive without outside intervention. When shame takes over your life and restricts your daily behavior, it’s time to reach out to a support group or a mental health professional to help you deal with any underlying issues.
When you live in shame, you’re likely putting too much value on what other people think that you lose yourself in the process of trying to meet everyone else’s expectations. However, with a considerable amount of effort, you can break this habit and train your inner voice to believe in yourself instead. This can help you get rid of shame and start repairing your self-esteem.
If you or someone you know is seeking recovery from substance addiction, visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start your path to recovery today.