How to deal with self-imposed shame
I received so many poignant "me too's" in response to: Why I Didn't Leave And Why I Choose To Use My Voice Now).

There's one I want to share, specifically because the reader asks about how to deal with self-imposed shame:

What a wonderful read that was! Thank you. I hear you, you expressed it very well, and I wholeheartedly relate. I certainly feel ashamed that I betrayed my body and dishonored myself unwittingly because I simply didn't know any better. I'm ashamed I was used for gratification when all I was seeking was connection. I'm still not at peace with that. When I realize what I allowed, what I was complicit in, knowing deep down that I was prostituting myself for a false promise that was never actually made, I feel sick. The feeling of shame shows up and then turns out to be anger. No wonder so many women are waking up and are very very angry. I have not experienced half the trauma others have and so I now have a better understanding of their fury. Any advice for dealing with that self-imposed shame?

Dear You...

I'm going straight to Brené Brown's work to answer your question:

The antidote to shame is to meet yourself with compassion and empathy.

In her groundbreaking book, Daring Greatly, Brené says that, when you stay quiet, your shame grows exponentially. “It will creep into every corner and crevice of your life,” she says. The antidote is empathy. She explains that by talking about your shame with a friend who expresses empathy, the painful feeling cannot survive.

"If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive," she says.

(For more on empathy and how it is different than sympathy, watch this short, effective, and humorous video.)

So what might that look like in action? What if you're sitting by yourself and there's no one around to express their empathy?

Try this:

Take a deep breath.

Unlock your shoulders.

Soften your eyes.

Close them if you wish.

Relax the muscles in your face.

Take another deep breath and think about your younger self...the self who let herself be used. The self who was, perhaps, desperate for love. The self who was confused and who took false promises to heart while at the same time knowing, deep down, that they were false promises.

Place your hands over your heart.

Now ask her what she most needs from you now. Listen to what bubbles up and don't dismiss it. Don't judge it. Just listen and notice.

And let me know.

Much, much love,

Karen

“Shame is the tool of oppression. It can’t be the solution for justice.”~ Brené Brown


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