How to manage shame by finding its roots

 
 

Shame can make you believe that you are not smart enough, good enough, attractive enough, are unlovable and are deserving of suffering. Shame is the feeling that you, in some way or another, are wrong. It is something you’ve been incubating for decades. If you were repeatedly given a label, stigmatized, made fun of or stereotyped- these are the seeds of shame and they can become the lens through which you see yourself. How can you start to manage shame?

Find the root. Think back on when your problems started. What was going on then? Who were the big influences in your life? What messages, labels or stereotypes were you given by those around you? What negative beliefs about yourself did those create?

Get real with yourself. Who are you? What are your personality traits? What are your strengths? What are you good at? What do you enjoy? Also- what are your shortcomings? What do you find hard to do? List these WITHOUT judging them. Remember: they do not change your value or worth. Those weaknesses are not the whole of you and if you can see them for what they are- known road blocks- you can work around them. Acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses. This isn’t about labels, its about knowing how you function.

Evaluate the source. For each negative belief you have about yourself identify the person(s) that helped plant it. Who would you have to be to make them happy? What interests, political beliefs or personal values would you have to have? What would you have to dress like or look like? Now, compare this person to the person you are. Do you actually want to be that person?

I once had a supervisor that made me feel like I was a complete mess- that I was strange and couldn’t do anything well enough. When I reflected on who I would have to be to actually be enough for her I found: I would have to wear feminine clothes, ditch the jeans, stop swearing, drop my love of all things creepy, become organized to the point of near obsession, judge people based on their appearances and make friends accordingly, I would have to try to “fit in”.

The person I just described is the literal opposite of who I would ever want to be. Once I realized that, I realized that my “not being good enough” for her meant I was, in fact, being good enough for me.

Re-brand your ‘failures’. Often when we fail at something we see that as the final and ultimate proof that we are not good enough, smart enough, et c for that particular task or skill. The reality is that ‘failures’, or misses, are a natural part of learning. Without misses you never improve. This is true for skills like sewing or woodwork but it is also true of skills like managing stress, being social, even having healthy relationships.

Get help. Maybe you find that you can’t find the root of your shame or you even identify what you feel shame about. Maybe you can but the thought is so devastating that you are terrified of going there. Maybe your shame is tied to your sexual orientation or gender. Pushing it off only means that the shame has more time to consume you. It is time to get help. Find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and get some of this garbage off of your back.

Guilt and shame are so closely related they can be hard to separate. Guilt is the fuel that keeps the shame cycle alive.

Click here to get to my blog post on managing guilt.

Need Help Dealing with Shame? Stop Avoiding It.

 
 

Shame: by its nature it’s something we avoid looking at it at all costs.

Instead we relegate it to the locked chest in the back of our minds. Then we cover the chest with a blanket so we can’t even see that. The problem: while it’s sitting there it’s slowly but constantly eating away at our sense of worthiness. It never stops. On occasion when we are feeling particularly undeserving the chest bursts open Jack-in-the-Box style so we can use that shame as evidence proving our worthlessness.

So, how can you manage shame? First- let’s tackle guilt. This is a kind of shame we attach to something we did or did not do.

Meet yourself where you were at. You are looking at it as you are now- with years of learning separating who you are now to who you were then. That’s not how life works.

Be your own therapist here- ask yourself: what was really happening for you in that moment?

  • What were your initial emotional motivations?

  • What were you feeling? Fear? Sadness? Anger?

  • Could you think straight?

  • What DIDN’T you know and what resources DIDN’T you have?

What does this look like in practice?

Here is a personal example (yep, even your mental health professional struggles with shame). When we lost our first dog I felt entirely responsible for it. I had taken him to the vet for allergy issues and he was prescribed monthly steroid shots. I was hesitant but my vet assured me his life would be so much more comfortable- so I caved. After a few months he had a seizure- I rushed him to a late night ER and then back to his usual vet in the morning. I heard nothing. So much time was wasted. Finally I asked my vet where he would take his dog in this situation. Then I packed that pup up and we were gone. He was in so much pain. We found out too late that the steroid shots had caused an avalanche of problems. If he was going to make it his life was going to be a hard one. I fought for that chance anyway but he never came home.

The guilt consumed me. Finally I asked myself: what was really happening?

  • What were my initial motivations? I just wanted him to be happy and I trusted my vet.

  • What was I feeling? Terrified, desperation, overwhelmed, confusion.

  • Could I think straight? Not at all. I was in a state of pure, unrefined panic.

  • What didn’t I know? Everything. I’m a therapist- I don’t know anything about pet medicine. And I definitely didn’t have the wherewithal at the time to do research let alone be able to process it.

Looking back on myself in that way I realized: I did the best with what I had at that time. All of my ‘mistakes’ came from a love for my dog, sheer terror and a lack of knowledge. Now I know: always get 3 opinions. Get pet insurance. Never be afraid to fire your vet. But, I can’t look at myself then and say “you should have known these things”. Of course I didn’t- that nightmare was how I learned them.

It was not my fault that this happened. That is not how it works.

This happened and I responded the best that I could at the time. It is no different for you. The thing that you are ashamed of- where were you really at? Were you scared? Could you think straight? What were your emotional motivations? What knowledge do you have now that you didn’t have then?

The only way to really deal with shame is to humanize yourself, a kindness we rarely afford ourselves.

While guilt and shame are separate they are very closely tied to one another. Guilt is related to something you have done or not done. Shame is a core belief that you are not good enough or are inherently wrong. Up next we tackle shame. If you want to know when that drops follow me on facebook and keep an eye out.

Source: www.JessicaJarmanLPC.com

How to Make New Years Resolutions (that don't make you feel awful)

 
49899968_537156386785414_4485725158895517696_n.jpg
 

Every year around this time people make resolutions that make them feel terrible about themselves. There is an easy way to make sure your goals don’t fall into this category-

When you think about them- Do you get excited? Do you feel lighter?

If the answer is yes: boom. Your goal is a good one.

But pay attention if your goal makes you feel heavy. If it makes you feel like right now you are not good enough and just need to be a little bit better.

THAT, my friends, is a garbage goal.

 
carousel.jpg
 

Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Timely.

Let’s say your goal is to wear more gender affirming clothes in public this year. The SMART version of that might look like this:

I am going to wear at least one article of visible gender affirming clothing in safe public settings at least once a week.

Specific: I specified that my goal is to wear visible clothing. Up to you and what gets you excited (its OK if its in that fear/excitement right before the roller-coaster drops way).

Measurable: What is more? At least once a week.

Achievable: Yes. I am not setting a goal of fully transitioning or always presenting as my identified gender in all situations. Perfection or All or None = never a good goal.

Relevant: Does this really help me? Am I excited about it? Yes! I can’t wait!

Timely: When or how often? At least once a week.

Some thoughts to end on:

Don’t try to choose more than 3 goals. If you choose too many you start to get to the maybe not so achievable zone. Also, do them at separate times in the year- not at the same time.

Identify any specific skills or resources you need to meet your goal. Add those to your 2019 goals. Still have no more than 3! You can always add more later once you have hit a goal.

Holiday Survival Guide: Don't Drive on Empty

What is the #1 thing you can do now to make sure you don’t turn into an emotional puddle for the holidays?

Self care, naturally.

I know you just made a face at that. I don’t even need to see your face to know your face.

tumblr_pib3kkjXhF1sga7ujo1_500.png

Your ability to deal is not static. The amount of emotional reserve you have makes or breaks you, literally.

If you never fill the gas tank your car is going to break down. I know you know where I am going with this. Your ability to emotionally deal uses emotional reserve. If you don’t fill that tank- you guessed it. You are going to break down. My guess is that it’s happened to you before (because it has happened to all of us- probably several times)

So what is your ratio?

I want to know. Or, more specifically: I want you to know.

How often do you pull from your emotional reservoir in a day? Now- how many times do you put back into your emotional reservoir? There you have it, your ratio.

Draws to Refills

Don’t Have the Time for Self Care?

Know this: you are the only one that can refill your tank and if you don’t you’re setting yourself up for a really bad time. Find little things you can do here an there as you go through your day and build them into your routine.

Everyone is going to have something that works different for them. Think of things that might work for you and do a few of them for 15 minutes a day. I know it is a trope but go back to your ratio and decide for yourself if it needs tweaking.

Source: www.JessicaJarmanLPC.com