7 Ways Shame May Be Corroding Your Life

Shame has the power to crumble the most powerful and successful person at any given time. The importance we put on how others perceive us can render us completely defenseless against personal attacks or failures.

While guilt and shame are often used interchangeably, guilt is in fact a healthy emotion that allows us to recognize a good behavior versus a bad one and build consciousness to avoid future mistakes. Shame, on the other hand, the belief that YOU are bad or flawed, will eat away at every bit of your confidence without giving anything good in return.

Shame also carries serious risks. As Brené Brown, said in her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability: “Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders.” Even if shame has not damaged your life or your self-worth as much as listed above, the potential is there.

Whether shame comes from something you did, or something someone said, here are some ways shame may be affecting you:

1. Low Self-Esteem

Shame has the tendency to greatly reduce your self-esteem, sometimes making you feel worthless to the point of not being able to see or appreciate any of your qualities. For example, you may have failed at a task or responsibility at work, and because of it you suddenly think you are worthless for any kind of job.

2. Difficult Relationships

Thinking that you are never good enough, or less than what you should be, will make any kind of relationship difficult. As your self-worth declines, shame may even push you to blame others for your pain. For instance, the thought of not being lovable may trigger you to blame your partner for not loving you. In this situation, no matter what your partner says or does, you will find yourself unable to accept or believe his or her love.

3. Depression

When shame overpowers your life, the risk of losing control and falling into depression increases considerably. The lack of self-esteem eventually prevents you from thinking or feeling anything positive about yourself, affecting all aspects of your life, leaving you at the mercy of a persistent mood disorder that is difficult to get out of.

4. Superficial Self

If shame brings you down to the point of feeling empty inside, or invisible to others, you could unconsciously turn to superficial compensation or gratification such as: extreme focus on looks and appearance, and/or becoming a relentless people-pleaser in order to get smiles and praise, when in fact, this false-bravado may only make you feel more frustrated and unlovable.

5. Isolation

Faced with shame, you may be tempted to isolate yourself from other people or social situations for fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected. Sadly, avoiding social interactions only feeds the fire of shame and inadequacy, making it harder to face your fears as time goes by.

6. Aggressive Behavior

Repressed shame can easily destroy lives by festering inside you and giving way to revengeful thoughts or actions towards yourself, or others that have wronged you.

7. Shaming Others

In some cases, shame may aversively push you towards unhealthy behaviors that will shame others, such as severe or constant criticism and controlling tendencies. In this case, not only are you suffering from shame, but your behavior may spread shame to others as well.

We all have felt shame at some point in our lives and most certainly have said something that could have caused shame in someone else, but, as many researchers say, keeping the shame well hidden inside is not the proper way to deal with it.

It is important to allow yourself to feel and process all of your emotions without judgment. Seek out a trusted friend, family member, or therapist to talk help you talk about and process feelings of shame. Once acknowledged and accepted, these thoughts and feelings have a tendency to disarm themselves naturally, empowering you with courage to continue on your path, leaving shame behind.