Breaking the Silence

Website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association's Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.

Shame, the Giant

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By contributing blogger Jenise Wilson

Have you ever had a day where you feel as though you are not good enough? You swear you can sense people believe you are not good enough based on the looks they give you or the way they are acting. Sometimes it’s as if the voices never stop telling you how worthless, pathetic, and unimportant you are. Fortunately, and unfortunately, there is a term for this, and many people struggle with this very issue. The very issue I am talking about is shame.

Shame is that relentless voice telling you that you are bad, and is often the breeding ground for depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses. We try to drown out the shame through perfectionism or hiding…or both. Unfortunately, those coping skills do not work, and they persist in a negative spiral of self-loathing and self-hatred. It’s an unhappy way to live, there is no way to dodge shame. Shame is a universal emotion that everyone experiences. That perfect neighbor with the perfect children and perfect house experiences shame. The perfect coworker who is the boss’s favorite experiences shame.

The nasty part about shame, is that it wants us to dwell in our insecurities and uncertainties alone, versus speaking up and talking about the things that are troubling us. We are tricked into thinking that “it” is our only friend, when, in reality, shame is an enemies attempting to sabotage hard work and dedication. When we talk about the shame we feel, with the right people, we no longer give shame the power it thrives on. Everyone experiences shame, so, why not talk about it? Why not bring the issues to light to overcome and live a healthier, self-loving life? To start fighting shame, we need to care about one another, and have compassion for ourselves and those around us.

Even more importantly, we need to start talking about the shame we experience. We need to start talking about the “I am not good enough” moments, to recognize their invalidity and realize our worth. Start by finding a good support person or persons. People you know will be there for you and not make the shame worse. Not everyone can be that person for us, and that is ok. The important part is identifying that person or persons, whether it’s a family member, friend, coworker, or therapist. Start talking about those “I’m worthless” moments, and start finding compassion for yourself. Understand that you are not alone in this battle against shame, and start to rise against it. Time to find some friends, and let shame stand alone.

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