Welcome to the first section of our course, “Overcoming Shame: A Journey From Childhood to Adulthood.” In this section, we will dive deep into understanding the concept of shame.
Shame is a powerful and universal human emotion. It can be defined as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. It is a self-conscious emotion that leads us to feel small, worthless, and powerless. Often, people confuse shame with guilt, but they are different. Guilt says “I did something bad,” while shame says “I am bad.”
Shame often goes unacknowledged and unspoken, but recognizing it and understanding how it works are the first steps to overcoming it.
Remember, as we progress through the course, take care of yourself. Reflect on your feelings, take breaks when you need to, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you find the process too overwhelming.
Take a moment to think about your earliest memory of feeling shame. Write about the incident in as much detail as you can remember. Try to recall what made you feel shame and how you reacted to that feeling.
When I was around six or seven, I remember a school event where parents were invited. I was really excited about my mother coming and seeing me in my new school uniform. But she had to work and couldn’t make it. At that moment, I felt a profound sense of shame, as though her absence was a reflection of my worthiness. The other children’s questions about why my mother didn’t come only amplified my feelings of embarrassment and shame. This experience made me feel different and lesser than the other children, a feeling that I carried with me for a long time.
In my early teenage years, I recall a time when I didn’t make the school football team. I felt humiliated as it was a big deal among my group of friends, all of whom were selected. I remember feeling intense shame about my abilities and my self-worth. I started believing that I was not good enough, not just in sports but in other aspects of my life as well. This one incident led to a constant struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem.
As a child, my family was not financially well-off, and I often had to wear hand-me-downs from my older siblings. One day at school, one of my classmates pointed out that I was wearing a shirt that my older brother used to wear. Everyone laughed. I felt so much shame in that moment – shame about my family’s financial situation, shame about wearing used clothes. That incident affected me profoundly, making me extremely conscious and insecure about my appearance.
This exercise might bring up some uncomfortable feelings, but remember, it’s okay to take your time with it. The purpose of this exercise is not to dwell on the past, but to better understand your experiences of shame.
In this section, the main takeaway is to understand that shame is a universal human experience. We all feel shame at different points in our lives. However, it is not an indication of your worth or value. Throughout this course, we will learn that shame can be managed and eventually overcome.