“Something is wrong with me.” Is engraved at the entrance of this hall.
Feeling inadequacy to meet our own ideals and standards is something we have inevitably felt at some point in our lives. Self-consciousness is floating the whole hall ready to steal moments of our lives and leave as quickly as it came leaving us flooded with feeling of unworthiness, regret, disconnection. Most prominently here dominated the lack of self-trust.
When dealing with shame there we disregard our own experiences and fail to trust in ourselves which can lead to a plethora of other mental health issues including lack of assertiveness, self-shaming and not knowing how to set boundaries as well as harming our self-esteem.
We welcome the hall visitors that are us, the youth not properly dealing with our mental health, passing these self-shaming moments as fleeting things that occur but never really seeing the impact that shame has on our lives and health. So, it is time we took a walk and talked about it.
Psychologists define shame as a dynamic with two parts. First it arises when someone is hurt in any way though some kind of violence (physical assault, neglect, violence of words and criticism, or any other micro-aggression suffered by people being marginalized through popular culture. And second, this violence being witnessed by others whose actions trigger the shame dynamic by denying that the assault happened, dismissing its significance as though the victim is exaggerating or blaming the victim by asking what they did that provoked the mistreatment.
Shame is sheathed in our every day lives because when we stumble upon it, we usually do not admit it. It can shut us down or/and develop in destructive patterns because it is linked to addiction, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, aggression, violence and bullying.
Accordingly, in our relationships with people we come across situations when we are hurt by other people because their patterns of behavior are harmful and emotionally toxic and our lack of self-trust that originates from the emotion of shame leads to think “How come I am so sensitive?” or “Maybe I am not understanding where they are coming from”.
This is a state where our assertiveness is completely lacking. We need to be assertive in order to be able to set healthy boundaries, attempt to make things happen, act in a way that we ourselves respect and are free to reveal ourselves.
When feeling shame, we don’t believe our own experience. Our psyche tells us that there is something wrong with us and we look for this fix by getting rid of the indicators of this behavior. In counseling or every day life we do not speak about the hurts and abuses that we have suffered, we report our pathologies, aspects of our personality we deem as “sick” and causing us problems with normal functions. Feeling shamed through this pattern leads to us disavowing and invalidating our true experiences and looking at the world through the what-is-wrong-with-me lenses.
The way we turn this around is by starting to recover our own experience, start to believe ourselves and in ourselves and stop blaming ourselves for our suffering. The most important path of not experiencing shame is by setting boundaries.
One of these boundaries is resisting assault. It might be sexual assault that we find ourselves blaming ourselves for. The way we dressed or provoked certain behavior. Or in our social environment small assaults called microaggressions.
Microaggressions are everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults weather intentional or non-intentional which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
Setting boundaries by resulting assault is difficult and it takes abundant courage to deny or dismiss these assaults.
Another important boundary is resisting advice or counsel. This is important because we are surrounded by well-wishing people who give us advice, counsel or want to help us with suggestions or resolutions. This can be overwhelming and even though with right intention the vulnerability we disclose is being smothered by the helper’s need to feel needed and caring. We are reaching out for a witness only to be left with the feeling of our difficulties are not being seen.
The most important boundary is learning to say NO. This is most important yet the most difficult to achieve in most situations we are pressured into. We are constantly asked to give our time, energy, care or other things we are not prepared to give. An example of this is being asked to go out with friends that we know are hurting in some way our mental health and we go despite knowing this. When this happens, we have failed to set a boundary. We may not see it as a huge deal yet in the long run is more hurtful to us. And it leads to another form of shaming, which is blaming ourselves for getting hurt.
Another helpful boundary to set is eliminating people from our inner circle to another less trusting space. This is difficult because some people are habits to us despite them being harmful in some way to us. But when we set a boundary and distance and surround ourselves with people who are not micro-aggressors or harmful in some way towards our mental health but are helping us bloom and are healthy and we are setting boundaries.
This walk through the hall of shame is helpful to reexamining who we are and what is harmful in our life and what kind of boundaries we need to be setting in order to protect ourselves. The moment we start breaking up with feeling like something is wrong with us is the moment we are on a way to mentally healthy place.