Yesterday’s post examined shame, how it develops, and how it can make us feel invisible. We also learned that the first step in being able to move past shame is to label it; seeing it as an emotion which doesn’t have to be tied to our self-identity.
We can begin to transform shame with self-compassion. Dr. Kristen Neff, a leader in the study of self-compassion, defines it as such:
“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.”
Once we label shame as a way that we have been triggered to feel, from here we can move to curiosity. We aim to replace judgement – “I am bad, not worthy, not deserving” with a more objective look at why we are feeling this way. Gaining an understanding of why we used shame as an adaptive coping strategy in childhood, can lead us to challenging our inner critical voice.
How do we do that? With kindness. It requires gentle reminders to ourselves, it is about self-care, it is about choosing actions that will lead to healing. When we focus on self-compassion as our overall goal, we can help uncover our true identity and put shame in it’s place.
To read more about self-compassion, visit Dr. Kristen Neff’s website (linked above.)
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@ballaschottner