Can Shame Be Your Friend

Posted on June 11, 2016

Allowing Ourselves to Be Imperfect
We spill a glass of water in a restaurant and people turn around to stare at us. We feel that uncomfortable surge of shame as we imagine how we’re being perceived negatively. If we tend to carry toxic shame, we may curse under our breath and tell ourselves how dumb we are. “I wasn’t paying attention! I feel badly about myself!” This is a paralyzing, destructive shame that freezes us. Bringing some gentle mindfulness to the situation offers the possibility of repair and healing. We can notice the shame without getting swept away by it. If we can hold on to our self-worth during that embarrassing moment, we can remind ourselves that we’re an imperfect human being.

Being Mindfully Gentle with Ourselves
Such healthy shame can get our attention. Perhaps we notice this instructive shame as we’re about to say something hurtful or send a nasty email. Or, if we’ve violated someone’s dignity with a harsh word or insensitive action, we can apologize and find some way to repair broken trust. Such friendly shame may help us become more empathically attuned to each other. Gradually, we can respond to others with greater wisdom and love, without needing the shame to remind us to be more sensitive.

Shame tells us when we’ve strayed into a self-centered stance that disconnects us from the tribe and threatens our collective well-being.

I invite you to notice shame as it arises—probably many times a day. Is it the toxic variety that diminishes you? Or might there be a redeeming aspect to it? A small dose of friendly shame is sometimes a healthy thing—useful for personal development, repairing broken trust, and building a healthy community and society.

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Source material from Psychology Today

Mental Health News