What is shame? Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that you are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. We often mistake our feelings of shame as guilt. Guilt is when you believe your behavior is wrong or flawed, not you.
Understanding what shame is and is not is the first step. Recognizing our shame triggers is the next step. We need to look at the concept of unwanted identities. Unwanted identities could be…I am so dumb. I cannot get anything right. I am fat. I am worthless. I am unlovable. When we see ourselves as less than, it is the shame speaking. We may be strong in some areas and struggle in others. What makes us vulnerable to shame in these areas are the “unwanted identities”. Dr. Brown explains, our family of origin provides us with the most powerful messages and stereotypes regarding identities and values. Essentially, she is saying that these negative shame-filled messages do not just suddenly pop up out of nowhere. There is usually a long pattern of use. Sometimes that pattern is obvious and other times it is so subtle we often miss it.

We all experience shame around multiple aspects of our lives. Dr. Brown writes, “Recognizing our shame allows us to find the space we need to process the experience and gain some clarity before we act out or shut down”.
Dr. Brown lists twelve categories where women struggle the most with feelings of shame. Note, I grouped the categories of motherhood and parenting together.

• Appearance and Body Image
• Motherhood/Parenting
• Family
• Money and Work
• Mental and Physical Health
• Sex
• Aging
• Religion
• Being Stereotyped and Labeled
• Speaking Out
• Surviving Trauma

What feelings of shame are present there for you? Brene Brown stated that “The next step is to try and uncover the source of these triggers…If we look at our unwanted identities, three questions that can help us start to uncover the sources are:
*What do these perceptions mean to us?
*Why are they so unwanted?
*Where did the messages that fuel these identities come from?

Until next time….
Change. Discover. Transform.
Carla Carter, Ed.D., LCPC, CMPC, EMDR Certified

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