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In this third episode of Wellness Wednesday, Beth Gustin, LPC and Robin Ennis, LCSW, CPC, talk about Shame and how one may navigate the feelings of shame in a healthy way.
Robin Ennis on the web at www.robinennislcsw.com
Beth Gustin, LPC, NCC, EMDRIA Approved Consultant, CAGCS, PLGS
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Wellness Wednesday: Navigating Shame in a Healthy Way with Beth Gustin and Robin Ennis
From the Blind Abilities studios, it’s Wellness Wednesday, with your hosts Beth Gustin and Robin Ennis.
So welcome. We are back with episode three of Wellness Wednesday. I’m Beth Gustin and I’m here with Robin Ennis and we are going to be talking about a challenging topic that I think needs much more conversation and that is shame.
Yeah. Shame is definitely a big topic that I dive into with a lot of my clients, and I believe that it’s very relatable and universal. I feel that at some point we all have experienced shame, and so it’s just trying to figure out how to navigate it in a healthy way where you’re not tearing yourself down.
I agree with that, and I think there’s a big misconception that shame is- it feels very horrible. It feels horrible, but I’m glad you pointed out how universal it is because everyone does experience it, and I think it’s helpful to kind of distinguish what shame is versus what guilt is, and we’ll talk about guilt next week, but in my experience, I define shame as that feeling of something is wrong with me. In some way I’m flawed, in some way, there’s something wrong at the core of myself. Whereas guilt more is that, you know, I’ve done something. So there’s a very big difference in those two things and we’ll dive more into guilt, like I said, next week. But I think defining kind of what shame is is a good place to start.
Right. And you said it perfectly, you defined those two, I couldn’t have said it any better. With shame it really is about a negative self-perception of yourself forming that judgment on who you feel like you are as a person. And so there are different types of shame to me that you know, we can talk about as well. And so for me, the first type of shame is the embarrassment, right? So being out in public or you know, something happens, you know, whether you’re public speaking and you accidentally drop something or forget the words to a speech or whatever it may be, that causes you that sense of embarrassment and you start to have that negative self-judgment of yourself, that inventory of what’s wrong with you and how come you can’t do this? And I’m definitely starting to go down a rabbit hole in terms of that.
Absolutely. I think that spirals so quickly for people who are experiencing shame because it goes from oh my gosh, I did this humiliating thing. All of a sudden you’re going, I’m a worthless, no good, terrible, horrible person. Everything is wrong with me. And our brains can take us there in a split second. It does not take much. Especially if we’re feeling very steeped in shame or cloaked in shame.
Right. And if you keep going down that spiral, it’ll keep you from wanting to engage in that activity or whatever it may be again, because of that fear of, well, that’s gonna happen again because I’m not good at it, or I should just give up altogether. Another aspect of shame, I feel, is the feeling of being isolated from other people or being left out of groups. And this really happens in workplaces, school, whatever it may be, but feeling like something’s wrong with you and that people don’t like you versus thinking that something’s wrong with the other person for leaving you out to begin with.
That’s a good point, and I think that that can definitely lead to extreme isolation. Again, not wanting to go out in public or even socialize with friends because we have this belief that they don’t like us. And we might even be able to pinpoint why they don’t like us. We just have this feeling, W\well, people don’t like me, I know I’m not liked, I’m not worthy of being liked, I’m not able to be liked. I’m not capable of being liked. It can feel like that.
Right, or even if you can pinpoint a reason, like with bullying, knowing that people don’t like you or that particular group doesn’t like you. It doesn’t mean that the whole world doesn’t like you or that everybody doesn’t like you. One situation can feel like the whole world feels that way, and that’s why it’s important to be able to branch out and talk to other people who are going through similar situations as you so that you know that you’re not alone, and it really is not just limited to you as a person.
I think that’s one of the key, like I could say coping skills of working with shame is really trying to surround yourself with the people who do value you, and who you do feel valued by. It may only be one person that you have in your circle, but start with that one person and try to spend time with them. I’ve encouraged my clients, this might sound kind of odd, but if you’re really feeling there’s nothing likable about you, if you have one person you can trust, it doesn’t hurt to say, here’s how I’m feeling. Can you tell me what you see in me that you like? What do you see in me that makes you want to be around me? What is it that draws you to me? And those questions can be really hard to ask and make you feel really vulnerable. But when we are so surrounded by our shame, we need to hear initially from other people the positives about ourselves until we can believe them ourselves.
Right. Exactly. I really like that. Having that close person and that person that you feel safe with in talking to. Also too, going to, again, a support group with other people who may be feeling, having those same feelings, again, that can help you create a community and knowing that you’re not alone with your feelings or even going back to the person that you talked to about asking them what they like about you. I bet that could lead to a dialogue of them talking about areas that they felt shame. You’ll be surprised about the impact that open dialogue can have on you, but as well as a person that you’re talking to. There’s one client that I have, they weren’t necessarily talking about shame, but they wanted to have an open dialogue with each of their family members about a particular topic. And based upon their openness to talk about their own feelings and their own journey, it opened up the door for their family members to explore their own mental health and to explore their own coping strategies. So again, you’re definitely not alone with the feelings that you have.
And if you feel like you don’t have anyone you can talk to, please go talk to a therapist, because that person could also become that initial person for you to reflect back what they see in you. Because every single one of you out there has a lot of good qualities and positive traits. And all of you are resilient and shame does not have to stick to you like glue. It can definitely be peeled away and no longer present in your life.
And it may feel like it sticks to you like glue because you’ve had it for so long. You know, shame can really derive from our childhood, it really starts with how secure we feel within our own environment, within our own skin. And so if you have a lot of trauma or a lot of separation from close relationships, that can impact the way that you view yourself and other people. And so if you have struggled with shame, struggled with self-deprecating thoughts for your whole life, just realize that it takes time to undo and give yourself patience and grace when trying to tackle how to unravel the level of shame that you feel.
It also can go back even further if we think about how we were treated as infants. So I don’t wanna blame parents here or caregivers here by any means, and I wanna point out that if we were shamed for having a dirty diaper, for example, we may not have the words to verbalize that ‘cause we were too young, but we know that we didn’t feel good emotionally or mentally. Or if we were ashamed because we had an accident, you know, we peed our pants in, I don’t know, preschool or kindergarten, and we were shamed for that. Those experiences can start what I wanna call the avalanche of shame. Again, I’m not placing blame, it’s no one’s fault because we all bring our own stuff to this life that we live, and some of us have done the work and some of us haven’t, and we’re all starting with what we have and where we’re at, but just having that compassion for yourself around this is your life experience. Here’s what it’s currently causing you, and you now have the power to make a change in your life so you don’t have to feel the way you feel.
Yep, yep. Exactly. There’s an actress, I believe her name is Brie Larson. She used to- well, I think she still is, Miss Marvel from the Disney show or the animated world, but she teamed up with somebody else to create a documentary called Growing Up. And so in that documentary it tackles different areas, whether it be grief, relationships, work, but it’s all centered around the common theme of shame. Each episode talks to a young individual, a young adult, navigating a certain issue and how it’s impacted their self-perception and caused them shame along the way. And so I believe that, again, like we mentioned earlier, just normalizing feelings, and that I believe that this documentary and other documentaries or talks out there does normalize shame and it shows you that you’re not alone. But also too, it gives you coping strategies in addition to the ones that we mentioned on how to be able to navigate such a big, tough, overwhelming topic. And so if you are interested in checking out that show, it sounds pretty interesting. It’s gonna be on Disney Channel Plus. I never got the plus channels. Seems like a lot of those channels are, they’re just coming out with these pluses where you have to subscribe, but it sounds like a good, if you’re able to, it sounds like a good show to tune in to.
I wasn’t familiar with that one, so thank you for sharing that.
Other final thoughts on shame before we wrap up this episode?
Just another thing about shame is we talked about the embarrassment and then the feeling left out. Another one that I feel like this happens to a lot with people who have some type of trauma is that perfectionist attitude, so that expectation. And when you feel like you haven’t met your expectations or somebody else’s expectations, and that level of shame can also increase. And so I just wanted to throw that example out there too. And again, can’t emphasize this enough, but being gentle on yourself and nobody’s perfect. We’re doing the best that we can, and just realize that you are human and you are trying, and give yourself credit for what you have accomplished.
Absolutely, and don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
And then we’re back next week with guilt. Everyone’s favorite topic.
Exactly. And when we introduce and talk about guilt, you’ll see the difference between guilt and shame, ‘cause as Beth mentioned, it can be mistaken to be one and the same, but they are different. Thank you for tuning in and like we mentioned before, we really invite you to ask questions or you know, if you have any ideas on topics that you want to hear from us, we definitely would love to know. We wanna hear what’s going on out there.
That, and we are open to future topic suggestions. So if there’s a mental health topic you’d like to have us talk about, drop a line. All right. We’ll see you next week. In two weeks, I guess it’s-
Yeah. Well, until next time.
You can send Beth and Robin a message at 612-367-6093 or by email at email@example.com. They’d love to hear from you.
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