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Managing Feelings of Shame

Shame is an upsetting emotion that occurs when a person evaluates herself and comes to a sequence of bad judgments. It is acceptable and good to feel embarrassed after doing anything damaging or unpleasant on purpose, but there is a significant difference between appropriate emotions of shame ("I am ashamed of this horrible act that I have done") and chronic shame ("I am ashamed of myself because I am a nasty person"). In the first circumstance, the individual who erred can correct the situation, apologize, and make apologies. Because they believe they are a "bad person," the latter may feel completely powerless.

What Gives Rise to Such Feelings?

In several cases, these sentiments stem from negative fundamental beliefs acquired as children when those who cared for them made them feel horrible about themselves or blamed them for situations that were not their fault. They can also result from trauma, sexual or physical abuse, or more subtle kinds of abuse, such as verbal abuse or neglect, that left them feeling inadequate or troublesome.

Those who suffer from chronic shame may believe that they are inherently terrible and that they must live in order to minimize the negative influence they have on others. Those who live with this kind of shame frequently feel vulnerable and diminished in the sight of others, and they may also believe that when awful things happen to them, it is because they deserve it. While their sentiments of shame may be related to societal values such as dishonor, decency, and so on, they are also profoundly internalized.

Dealing with a persistent sense of shame is incredibly exhausting, and anybody in this situation is likely to have a variety of mental and physical symptoms connected with stress, such as, troubles with anger management, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, indigestion, addictions and/or unhealthy eating, and muscular aches and pains, as a consequence of the continual tension that they normally experience.

It could also be difficult for them to build long-term connections with friends or romantic partners since they may feel, either consciously or unconsciously, that they do not deserve to be loved. When someone tries to befriend or interact with them romantically, they may be rejected since the person suffering with chronic shame frequently thinks less of them for being drawn to someone so "unworthy."

Getting Over Shame

Various therapeutic treatments can assist individuals in overcoming chronic feelings of shame. Most begin by assisting clients in exploring the negative fundamental beliefs that are limiting them from healing their feelings of shame, while also addressing trauma from early events.

Therapists then work with subjects with chronic shame using a variety of strategies such as Positive Psychology, Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and others to address the underlying causes and develop a new, better, and more realistic way for them to see themselves, allowing them to move past this negative self-perception and into a healthier and more adaptable future.


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