In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the real antidote to shame, and it’s not pride, empathy or self-esteem.
First a quick update:
Link Between Stress, Negative Emotions and Your Weight
Mental stress (worries, obsessive thoughts and over-thinking lead to digestive problems, ulcers and poor absorption.) Stress in the form of despair, hopelessness and helplessness affects your metabolism. Physical and emotional stress drains your adrenal system leaving you fatigued and again affecting your metabolism and thyroid – adrenal exhaustion.
20 Signs You Are Being Gaslighted!
Gaslighting is psychological abuse – manipulating someone to doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. It’s a common form of abuse by narcissists and sociopaths. Watch the video where I reveal and explain the 20 signs that scream you are being gaslighted.
Now, let’s talk about the real antidote to shame, and it’s not pride, empathy or self-esteem.
Shame is one of the most destructive emotions; it leads to anger, rage, fear, perfectionism, depression, addiction, cutting, self-loathing, self-sabotage, self-destructive behaviors, and abusive behaviors.
Shame is not the same as guilt; guilt, though, can lead to shame. Guilt is “I did something bad”; shame is “I am bad.” Shame is the belief that there is something innately wrong with you – you’re not good enough, there is something lacking or something wrong with you (your core essence in contrast to a behavior.)
Shame leads to hiding, isolation and disconnecting from others as a result of the fear of being exposed, ridiculed, and cast out.
What is the antidote to shame?
Many conflicting theories have been put forth, most of which reflect a lack of understanding about shame.
“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.”
― General Iroh (a fictional character in Nickelodeon’s animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender.)
Unfortunately, many people have publicly shared this misleading and damaging quote.
Pride is not the source of shame, and as I will explain, neither is humility the antidote to shame.
Shame is the result of a judgment made about one’s core essence. Shame originates with criticism, condemnation, ridicule and rejection of a person. A parent can say to a child, “You are stupid and useless” for making an error “Why can’t you be like your sister/brother?” or, a parent can say, “Pay attention and hold the plate with both hands so that you don’t drop it again.” Criticizing a person’s being instead of revealing the person’s behavioral errors leads to shame.
Unless the child is taught to distinguish between behaviors and who she inherently is, the child will also make interpretations and conclusions about her worthiness, concluding “I am bad, unlovable, wrong and unworthy.”
Again, pride (a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired) is not the cause of shame; judging oneself as unworthy, unlovable and innately flawed is the source of shame.
Humility cannot be the antidote to shame; humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance. A person who carries shame already believes that he/she is low importance – of such low importance that he/she doesn’t deserve to be loved or even seen.
Can self-esteem be the antidote to shame?
Self-esteem is how much you like yourself, how significant and capable you feel.
Self-esteem is a judgment – it is conditional – based on our success, achievements, and comparison with others. If I am ‘successful’, I feel good about myself and have high self-esteem. If I am “unsuccessful”, I feel bad about myself and have low self-esteem. If I choose to compare myself with others, I will see that there are so many younger, more beautiful, richer, and more successful people than me, and I will suffer from low self-esteem.
The desire and pursuit of high self-esteem can also lead to narcissism, distorted self-perceptions, unstable self-worth and anger towards anyone who threatens the ego.
Dr. Brene Brown who spent years studying shame, revealed that shame is commonplace, and she presents empathy as the antidote.
However, empathy is also not the antidote to shame.
Let’s compare sympathy, empathy and compassion.
Sympathy – feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune
Empathy – understanding and sharing the feelings of another person
Compassion – feeling someone else’s pain and distress, and wanting to relieve it
Dr. Kristin Neff is an associate professor in the University of Texas at Austin’s department of educational psychology. Dr. Neff has spent years researching self-compassion – the power of being kind to yourself – she is the first person to conduct academic studies into what is basically a Buddhist principle: being kind to yourself when experiencing suffering.
“The sense of self-worth that comes from being kind to yourself is much more stable over time than the sense of self-worth that comes from judging yourself positively [self-esteem.]” – Dr. Kristin Neff
Ultimately, Dr. Neff discovered that self-compassion is the real antidote to shame.
Self-compassion is “treating yourself with the same kind of kindness, care, compassion, as you would treat those you care about – your good friends, your loved ones.”
Compassion involves physical warmth, gentle/soothing touch, and soothing vocalizations.
This is the same principle as “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Show kindness, compassion, patience, care, concern, forgiveness, and so forth towards yourself, and then towards others.
Self-esteem VS Self-Compassion
Self-esteem measures and judges; self-compassion heals wounds and offers acceptance
Dr. Neff establishes 3 components to self-compassion:
1. Self-kindness VS Self-judgment: “Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.”
2. Common humanity VS Isolation: “All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone.”
3. Mindfulness VS Over Identification: “Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. This equilibrated stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, thus putting our own situation into a larger perspective. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be ‘over-identified’ with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.”
For decades, in my work with private clients and specifically in my “Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique” (SRTT), I have been using self-compassion (be kind and forgiving of yourself) to help set clients free from self-judgment and shame.
After identifying the original event where shame began, I take the client back to that event and let them watch the event as a third person. I help the client to identify and articulate every emotion that the child felt in and as a result of that event. Next, I help the client to accept all of those emotions as natural responses by the child. Next, I help the client to gain new understanding and wisdom about why the event occurred (the actions of the parent or instigator and, the actions and responses by the child.) This then leads to the next step of acceptance, compassion and forgiveness. Self-blame and self-judgment along with the faulty interpretation that ‘There is something wrong with me’ are all released.
If you carry shame and believe that you are worthless, then it is extremely difficult and challenging to show kindness and compassion to yourself. For that reason, I developed Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique (SRTT) to easily help clients release and neutralize shame without experiencing pain, suffering or resistance.
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist