Does Shame hide in your home? The key word here is “hide.” Shame can only live in darkness, hiding. Once it is found out and exposed, all bets are off. It’s been caught, had, busted.
Shame is the biggest enemy of self-worth. It destroys the hope of being worthy of love and acceptance. It’s goal is to squash you and make you feel lower than a snake’s belly. And more often than not, it succeeds.
Psychotherapist and author, Beverly Engel says, “Shame is the most destructive of human emotions. Shame destroys a person’s self-esteem and sense of who they are and causes people really serious problems. It’s the core issue of addiction and can cause other issues like suicide,depression and anger. For those dealing with addiction there is a Austin rehab options for young adults which are recommended.”
Shame has been a familiar enemy in my life, and I have mistakenly welcomed it as if it were a friend. The path of destruction that shame leaves behind is beyond heinous. Self-blame, self-criticism and self-destruction are just a few of the bad fruit that grow from this monstrous tree. And if left unchecked, shame can lead to self-loathing — the mother of suicide.
For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why my daughter would literally shut down when I would try to have a conversation with her. It made me feel so frustrated and defeated as a parent.
Jenni happened to be over on one of these occurrences and noticed that what my girl was actually expressing was shame.
How could I have been so blind? You could see it all over her face and in her body language (remember, shame hides).
I quickly realized that the reason that shame had overcome her was because of my tone and how I was framing my questions to her.
WOW! This was partly my fault (not my proudest parenting moment).
“Okay, time to fix this,” I thought.
Since then, I have researched the snot out of this topic, and I continue to do so. I now realize that shame has been running rampant in my home for quite some time, but recently, because of the changes we have made are still making, it is exiting.
I have begun to make a conscious effort to speak to my girls in a way that reassures them that I was on THEIR team. And I am much more aware of my tone and facial expressions. This is very hard work, because it does not come naturally to me. I have a very militant personality, and am extremely direct, and I can be very harsh. But I’m a work in progress.
One of the things I discovered was that there is a very distinct difference between guilt and shame. Guilt helps us become aware of disobedience to a law or moral code. In other words, guilt is about what you do, while shame is about who you are.
I’ve had to change how I talk to the people in my house. I am more careful to stress that just because I may be disappointed with a particular behavior someone has displayed, I still love the person they are. Guilt says, “I made a mistake.” Shame says, “I am a mistake.”
We all make mistakes, and guilt is a normal and healthy emotion that alerts us of our misstep. Guilt helps convict us of wrongdoing, so that we can confess our mistake, apologize, make restitution and move on.
Shame, on the other hand, says we are inherently bad, unworthy and unforgivable. Shame tells us to put up a wall and hide who we are because the real person inside of us is bad. We learn to project an image of what we believe others want to see. Exposing our “real self” makes us feel too naked and scared. Shame leaves no room for vulnerability or authenticity.
When I had this chat with my daughter, a switch flipped. She suddenly smiled, and it was as if shame no longer had power. It had been exposed and found out for what it really was. She realized she was WORTHY. Worthy of forgiveness, love, self-respect, confidence and dignity.
One of highest costs we can pay in life is being the victim of shame. It will cost us relationships, acceptance, love and the sense of feeling connected.
How Can We Fight Shame?
We have to have constant conversation with our kids and continue to look for the signs of shame.
When we see our children hanging their heads, slumping their shoulders, face turning red and appearing as if they want to retreat, we can probably assume that they are struggling with shame.
Here are some questions to help identify shame. Is your child:
Defensive with others?
Have difficulty admitting when they’re wrong?
Critical of themselves and others, but don’t receive constructive criticism well?
Is their self-talk negative and condemning?
Are they a perfectionist?
Are they performance driven? People pleasing?
Do they fear closeness and intimacy, but deep down crave it?
Do they isolate by shutting down or stuffing their feelings?
Are they controlling or experience difficulty trusting others?
As parents one of the best things we can do for our kids is to be as vulnerable as possible, and that takes courage. By being vulnerable we model the example of transparency, and transparency exposes shame.
Tune into Parenting On Purpose with Jenni and Jody this Saturday at 10:00 ET. We have an awesome guest who is going to talk more about teaching our children the power of transparency and vulnerability. If you are local to Sarasota, you can find us at 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Everyone else can listen live streaming at WSRQ Radio.