How to Manage Shame
Are you ashamed of something you did? Shame comes in many forms: some of us experience it most when we’ve let down someone we love. Others are ashamed by public embarrassment — a poor work performance that led to getting fired, for example. And still others grow ashamed when they let themselves down. Maybe it was a goal that was not met or a personal project that failed to gain traction.
Whatever the cause of your shame, there are tools and techniques to move past it. One of the most power tools, in fact, is journaling. Picking up a journal — we prefer an online journal, as it is easiest to write in — and working through feelings of shame is one of the most effective ways to remove shame from your life.
If you’re experiencing shame about something you failed at, keep reading for a few of our top-tier shame-reduction journaling tactics.
1. Freely express your shame
That subhead might look a little intimidating. You might be thinking: express my shame? Shame is meant to be hidden, shoved away and stored where no one can see it… right?
Absolutely not! Shame is a manifestation of embarrassment and self-loathing, and as such we want to hide it from others, but that is not the answer. In fact, keeping our shame to ourselves is what feeds it — we let it grow and grow, until other things creep in: depression, anxiety, disgust and self-resentment.
In contrast to what you may believe, expressing your shame freely and openly will help you remove it from your life. Writing about it in a journal will help you externalize that shame, allowing you to treat it as a separate entity — instead of making shame synonymous with your sense of self.
Additionally, by writing down your shame, you will inadvertently be practicing for when you choose to share your shame with others. Wrapping your head around what you are shameful about will give you the tools, words and techniques to express your shame. When you do, you may find yourself surprised by what friends and family have to say — you might find that you are not the only one experiencing these feelings, and that others are grappling with them, too.
We are only human, after all — and sometimes it takes others to show us how human we are.
2. Give yourself permission to fail
Okay, so: you failed at something, and now you feel shame for failing. That is normal and human. All of us do it, and yet failure is still so hard to accept — that’s where the shame comes in, and so the cycle begins.
To help you out of the fail-shame cycle, try this: open up your journal and ask yourself, “What is the worst thing about failing?” Really think about it — ask yourself if it is okay to fail sometimes, and if it is worth the amount of shame you are carrying. Ask yourself: “Am I redeemable for what I have done?”
Perhaps most importantly, ask yourself: “What would I tell a friend who failed in the same way I did? Would I treat them as harshly as I do myself?”
Chances are, you probably would not. You would likely give them permission to fail. After all, it’s only through failure by which we learn, right? Giving yourself permission to fail will open the keys to a whole new world of self-forgiveness. Being gentle on yourself for failure is one of the best pathways through and out of shame. So, if you haven’t done so already, open up that journal and answer this simple question: “What is the worst thing about failing?”
3. Share your journal with someone qualified
You might have already shared your thoughts with friends and family. Perhaps you have even expressed your shame to your significant other or spouse. If so, that’s wonderful — but even if you have, it may not necessarily be enough. Sometimes it takes a trained, outside perspective to give you the kind of feedback you need to move on.
If you find yourself trapped in a “shame-cycle” that’s impossible to break, outside help may be what you need. If journaling has helped you so far, you might be interested in a two-way journaling service, such as The Journal That Talks Back. How does it work? Simply put, you write about feelings of shame through prompts that responders read and reply to in near-real time. These people are trained and qualified to help you move past your shame in order to improve your overall quality of life.
There’s no pressure, and no judgment — only tried-and-true results.
Conquer shame with confidence
Shame reaches us all. No matter what made you feel it, just remember — you are not alone in this. Shame simply proves that you are human. No matter who or what you turn to in order to work through feelings of regret, shame or failure, you deserve to move beyond it toward a bright and shame-free future.