Shame is a powerful and often destructive emotion that can seep into various aspects of our lives, leaving a trail of turmoil in its wake. It’s that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach, the persistent voice whispering that you’re not good enough, that you’ve done something wrong. But what many don’t realise is just how profoundly shame can negatively impact a person’s creativity and overall well-being. In this blog, we’ll explore the insidious nature of shame, its causes, and offer compassionate suggestions for those struggling with this emotional burden.
I’ve wanted to write about shame for some time because I know people who are experiencing shame. It is robbing them of peace of mind and negatively impacting their creativity and I hope these words might offer some comfort and some practical ideas.
The Many Faces of Shame
Shame can rear its head in countless ways, and it often stems from situations, behaviours, or choices that were once enjoyable or seductive but now haunt us. Here are a few common triggers:
- Past Mistakes – Regrets about actions taken or opportunities missed can lead to shame. For instance, someone might feel ashamed of engaging in an affair of the heart, ending a meaningful relationship or making a poor financial decision.
- Social Comparison – Comparing oneself to others, especially in the age of social media, can evoke feelings of inadequacy and shame. Seeing others’ ‘perfect life’ while feeling stuck in one’s own life can be emotionally taxing.
- Unrealistic Expectations – Setting impossibly high standards for oneself and then falling short can result in shame. This can manifest in various areas, such as career achievements, physical appearance, or personal goals.
- Societal Pressures – Society often dictates what’s acceptable and what’s not. Deviating from these norms can make individuals feel ashamed of their choices or identities, whether it’s their career path, sexuality, or cultural background.
The Paralysis of Shame
Shame doesn’t just stop at making you feel bad; it has a profound impact on creativity and decision-making. When shame takes hold, it can lead to a range of emotions, from fear and embarrassment to outright terror. These emotions can act as barriers, stifling one’s ability to think clearly and creatively. Here’s how:
Shame breeds self-judgment, causing individuals to doubt their abilities and worthiness. This self-criticism is a creativity killer, as it makes people hesitant to take risks or explore new ideas.
I remember a session with a client who came into coaching to discern a way forward with their career but lying at the heart of their turmoil was a secret that was shrouded in shame.
Shame disrupts our ability to see ourselves clearly. It causes us to doubt ourselves and to harshly judge ourselves.
People often withdraw when they’re burdened by shame. This isolation can prevent them from seeking support or collaborating with others, both of which are essential for creative endeavours.
Shame often leads to a cycle of negative self-talk, where individuals constantly berate themselves. This constant mental chatter can drown out any creative spark or inspiration.
So, how can we combat the suffocating effects of shame and nurture our creativity and overall well-being? Compassion is the key:
- Be Kind to Yourself – Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you’d offer to a friend in a similar situation. Remember that making mistakes is part of being human.
- Sit with Your Feelings – Allow yourself the time and space to process your emotions. It’s okay to feel fear, embarrassment, or even terror. These feelings are valid and part of the healing process.
- Challenge Self-Judgment – When the inner critic chimes in, challenge those negative thoughts. Replace them with affirmations that reinforce your self-worth and potential.
- Seek Support – Don’t hesitate to lean on friends, family, a coach or therapist for support. Talking about your shame can help release its grip on your life.
- Practice Mindfulness – Engage in mindfulness exercises to calm your mind and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This can help you detach from shame’s hold.
- Go Slow – There is a tendency in us to want to fix things quickly by making decisions that will alleviate our suffering and others who may be impacted by our actions. In our haste to move on we may make the wrong choice and delay healing or renew the cycle of shame.
In conclusion, shame is a heavy burden that can dim the brightest of creative lights and rob individuals of their well-being. However, through self-compassion, acknowledging and processing your feelings, and seeking support when needed, and taking time to be intentional about choices, it’s possible to break free from shame’s paralysing grasp. Remember, you are not alone in this struggle, and there is always a path towards healing and renewed creativity.