The Problem with Shame


Our culture uses shame as a source of motivation. The question is, does it work?


What is shame? Shame is what we feel about ourselves. When we feel shame, it is because we believe we are defective or inferior. Shame is often confused with guilt which is what we feel when we have done something wrong or behave in a way which we think is undesirable. This differentiation is important as so often we find ourselves thinking we are bad as a person when we have done bad. However, this is not the case.


Sadly, shame is often used as a form of motivation. But does it motivate? When we believe we are defective, motivation is lost. After all what is the point of trying if I am defective?


An example of this in my life is how I felt about my weight. Culturally, I felt pressure to be slim and medically, pressure to lose weight. As I could not move the weight, I believed I was defective. There was something about me which was bad because I was not slim. After all, to my mind everyone else was slim, they could lose weight. Instead of changing what I did to take care of myself, I thought I was bad because I was obese.


I now know that my obesity did not make me defective. For me, understanding the reasons behind my food addiction and inability to lose weight gave me relief from the shame. Motivation came from the discovery that my behaviour did not mean I was a bad person. When I realised I was not bad because of my size, I found love and acceptance for me and, I could give myself permission to care for myself. Because to my mind there was no alternative, I ate instead of seeking other ways to comfort myself and connect with others.


Are you feeling ashamed? Are you being hard on yourself? Give yourself a break. You are not what you do.


In love, Jenny

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