Shame is that feeling you have when you feel you don’t deserve to feel good about yourself. It’s the feeling you have when you think you’re damaged, flawed or broken in some way as a human being. If the shame is deep enough, you fear you will never measure up. The sad thing is, there will always be people who will try their best to shame you into their way of thinking or to control you in some way.
Here are five things you need to know about shame and self-worth: (Two things you should know about yourself and two things you need to know about others if they try to shame you.)
You are not your behavior
When you were a child there were countless times you did things that frustrated, disappointed or even angered your parents. In their best attempts, it’s hard for parents to respond to a behavior without giving the message, “You’re a disappointment to me” or “You’re bad” rather than “What you did disappoints me” and “What you did was bad behavior.” Know that you are not your behavior. You (your essence) are more, much more than your behavior, as important as behavior is.
Your inner worth never wavers
Never confuse your behavior with your inner self. Your core self, your essence and your inner worth doesn’t go up or down depending upon how you behave. Your self-worth is constant. More than that, if you want to change or improve any behavior, it’s easier to do so when you come from a place of respect and honor for yourself. Trying to shame yourself with criticism or self-rejection will only make it easy for you to find a way to punish or unintentionally sabotage yourself.
Nurture your self-respect based upon your constant inner self-worth and you’ll find it much easier to change any behavior you want. That’s true if you want to “lose weight,” get a better job, increase your income or get along better with others.
You have a right to your dignity
No one has a right to assault your dignity and worth. Not your boss, your life partner, your friend, or even you. They have a right to talk with you about your behaviors but they also have a responsibility to do so in a way that supports your worth as a person. No one has a right to call you a name or to attack your dignity:
“You’re lazy.” “Can’t you do this one simple thing I told you to do?” “Don’t question me, just do it.” “Don’t forget, I can easily replace you—and I might do that if you don’t shape up. “If you wanted it badly enough you’d find a way to do it.” “What’s the matter with you?”
You can protect and defend yourself
Standing up to someone attempting to shame you is far easier when you believe you deserve to stand up for yourself. If you feel “less than” the person shaming you, you’ll feel like you deserve their disrespect. The only solution is to know you have a right to be treated with respect.
Then you can say, “No, I’m not lazy. The problem is you want me to do something I don’t want to do. We can either work it out or not, but you need to change how you’re talking with me.” When you respect yourself you can say, “There’s nothing wrong with me but there’s plenty wrong with how you’re talking to me.” When you know your worth and expect others to know it as well, you’ll be able to protect and defend yourself against shame attacks on your dignity and worth.
Bonus Tip: Shame Proof Yourself
Nurturing your self-worth is a life-long practice. Here are eight ways to build your shame resilience:
• Read a few pages from a book (or listen to an audio book) that helps you see yourself to be the amazing person you are. Begin this habit today and if you miss a day or a week, pick up where you left off.
• Attend a webinar or seminar that will help you deal with “difficult people.”
• Remind yourself daily, “I am not my behavior—I am much more than that.” (Tape that to your mirror where you will see it every day.)
• Focus on and celebrate what you like and respect about yourself.
• Learn to replace self-criticism with supportive and empowering self-talk.
• Limit or get rid of relationships that tear at your sense of self-worth.
• Stop trying to be worthy of your own respect by being “good enough.” Know you are good enough now and use that positive energy to change any behavior you’d like to.
• Meditate for three minutes a day upon a loving and affirming thought about yourself.