Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
Feeling Ashamed: A Guide To Your Emotions
Published Dec 23rd, 2020 & updated on Dec 7th, 2021
Feeling ashamed? Yeah, it sucks. Even the word SHAAAME feels like a big, grey cloud over your head that follows you around wherever you go. It weighs you down, reminding you of all the ways you believe you’re undeserving of love or happiness. Sometimes, it can make you feel like you just wanna be invisible. You don’t wanna face your family, friends and loved ones ‘cause in your mind, the shame you feel is written allllll over your face. If you hide, you won’t have to put on a front that everything is fine. And being invisible would be better than letting other people see how humiliated, unworthy and alone you feel inside…
Pause. Believe us, we’ve all been there and have dealt with these super toxic thoughts. And we know how shitty it feels to carry shame. Instead of burying this feeling and letting it suck the joy out of our lives, though, we gotta address it. You’re probably thinking: mmkay, easier said than done… especially when your mind is telling you to run and hide instead of staring this feeling in it’s nasty face. But this is your reminder that you are NOT alone and we’re here to help. So let’s dive thru what it means to feel ashamed and how you can work through this painful, monster of an emotion. ‘Cause no matter how small you feel right now, we still think you’re awesome. And you don’t need to feel this way forever!
A Deeper Look At Feeling Ashamed
Here’s a quick definition of ‘ashamed’ for ya: “distressed or embarrassed by feelings of guilt, foolishness, or disgrace.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself!” Yeahhh, most of us have probably heard this a few times from our parents growing up. Typically, this expression is used to make us feel bad for something we did that was wrong, like lying about sleeping over at your friend’s house when you actually went to that big house party that your parents barred you from going to (sound familiar?). Psychologists have been separating feeling guilty and feeling ashamed for a while now, ‘cause even though the feelings are similar, their root causes are actually a ‘lil different.
Okay, let’s get this straight. When you feel guilty, it usually has something to do with feeling bad for something you did or said that caused harm to someone else. Like when you lied to your parents about going to that house party, you probably felt guilty AF about it. Not only did you go behind their backs, you ultimately broke their trust and made them feel disrespected. Also, there’s a good chance they were worried about your safety, too. And when they grounded you, part of you most likely felt a ton of guilt for what you did. ‘Cause you just wanted to have fun! Not hurt the people you care about.
Sooo then, what does it mean to feel ashamed, you ask? Feeling ashamed has more to do with worrying about how others will perceive you or evaluate your actions. You can feel guilty for hurting your parents by lying to them and causing them to hurt. But you feel ASHAMED by thinking they see you as a liar, ungrateful, or an all around piece of shit with no morals. Do you kinda see the difference now? Guilt = feeling bad about your behaviour. Shame = feeling bad about yourself.
Let’s think about other times in your life where you might feel ashamed. It could be that you’ve been dealing with acne. You don’t wanna be in any photos with your friends, and when you do take photos, you have to use a blurring effect or filter to hide the blemishes. Maybe you don’t wanna leave the house without makeup because… what if people notice and stare?! You worry that they will think you don’t care about how you look or take care of yourself, that you’re lazy or dirty. Instead of having a good time when you’re out with your friends, you wanna immediately go home and stay in bed where no one can judge you. Feeling awful and having super negative thoughts about yourself? Worrying what people will think? Yeppp, that’s feeling ashamed for ya.
There are so many instances where we can feel ashamed, big or small. Just because one example won’t seem like a big deal to one person, like having acne, doesn’t mean it’s not a huge source of shame and hurt for someone else.
How Feeling Ashamed Shows Up Mentally
Like we said, feeling ashamed leads to a lot of toxic thoughts about yourself.
I’m not good enough.
I’m not worthy of being here, everyone else must think I’m such a failure.
Why did they even hire me? I’m not cut out for this job.
I don’t deserve my partner, they’re wayyy out of my league.
I hate myself.
When feeling ashamed builds up and isn’t properly dealt with, it can lead to mental health issues including depression, anxiety and even PTSD. People who feel ashamed usually have a hard time reaching out to others for help. Instead, they’ll carry it inside and distance themselves from other people.
How Feeling Ashamed Shows Up Physically
Did ya know that feeling ashamed can also show up physically? Greaaat. According to PyschCentral: “Strong feelings of shame stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, causing a fight/flight/freeze reaction. We feel exposed and want to hide or react with rage, while feeling profoundly alienated from others and good parts of ourselves.”
If worse comes to worst, feeling ashamed can lead to other problems that affect your health including eating disorders, addiction and acting out aggressively. These symptoms are thanks to the low self-esteem, anxiety and depression that shame can bring on.
5 Ways To Cope With Feeling Ashamed
Sooo, we have a better idea of why we feel ashamed and what it really means… now what? It’s time for the best part (in our humble opinion): diving thru it. Here are ways to work past this feeling, brought to you by the amazing mental health professional on our team!
Feeling ashamed can be hard to dive thru on your own. Try writing out exactly how you’re feeling and what made you feel this way. Taking the time to journal our thoughts can give us the clarity we need to move forward!
2. Reach out for support
Your friends and family are there for a reason! When you need to talk through how you’re feeling, lean on the people you trust. Sometimes just having someone to listen to us and validate how we’re feeling makes all the difference.
3.Engage in something soothing and comforting
Spend time with your pet by cuddling them or taking them on a walk. Touch something comforting like your fave cozy blanket. Brew some tea or your drink of choice. Do whatever makes you feel calm and safe!
4. Give yourself a pep talk or utilize a helpful statement
Say positive things to yourself out loud: “I will get through this. I am strong.” Maybe write these thoughts down in a journal. Even if it feels kinda silly, there’s no shame in comforting yourself. We 10/10 recommend it.
5. Comfort yourself like a friend
If you don’t have someone around who can be there for you right now, be there for yourself as best as you can. Remind yourself that everything will be okay. This feeling is temporary, and you can get through it.
We hope this not only helps you have a better understanding of feeling ashamed, but also how to deal with it when this feeling comes up in your life. It’s not an easy one to deal with, that’s for sure. But we know you can get through this!
One last thing! Here’s a great quote for the road from Brené Brown (author, researcher and expert on shame): “Shame cannot survive being spoken and being met with empathy.”
You heard her!! Let’s own how we feel ashamed and show ourselves some empathy.