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15 Strategies for Overcoming Shame on Your Mental Wellness Journey

Written By Samantha Carter

Shame is a deeply painful emotion that stems from feeling unworthy or defective, and it can have profound effects on our mental health and wellbeing. Whether it arises from past traumas, societal pressures, or internalised beliefs, shame can be a significant barrier to personal growth and healing. That’s why we’re exploring the root causes of shame and providing you with 15 strategies to help you process and overcome this challenging emotion to further help you on your mental wellness journey.

Understanding the Root Causes of Shame

Shame can be triggered by a variety of factors that may include any of the following root causes.

Trauma and Abuse

Experiences of abuse, neglect, or other forms of trauma can leave individuals feeling deeply ashamed of themselves and their experiences. In fact, a significant body of research has found a compelling relationship between shame and PTSD sufferers, a common diagnosis of people who have undergone different kinds of trauma and abuse.

Social Stigma

Societal norms, cultural expectations, and prejudices can also contribute to feelings of shame, particularly for marginalised or oppressed groups.

Family Dynamics

Another precursor for shame is negative or critical family environments, including dysfunctional relationships or harmful parenting styles that can foster feelings of indignity in children and adolescents.

Internalised Beliefs

Also related to family dynamics is how internalised messages of unworthiness and inadequacy can contribute to chronic feelings of shame. These kinds of internalizations, often stemming from painful childhood experiences, can take immense effort and time to overcome.

Comparison and Perfectionism

In today’s world of social media and reality TV, it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison trap. However, comparing oneself to others or striving for unattainable standards of perfection can further fuel feelings of inadequacy and shame.

15 Strategies for Overcoming Shame

While there is no quick fix to overcoming shame, it is incredibly important work to undergo if you aim for mental and emotional wellness. We hope that the following 15 strategies prove helpful on your journey to understanding and overcoming shame.

1. Cultivate Self-Compassion

Practise treating yourself with kindness and understanding, recognizing that everyone experiences moments of shame and imperfection. Harvard Health recommends trying things like comforting your body, writing yourself a letter, giving yourself encouragement, and practising mindfulness as practical ways to incorporate self-compassion in everyday life.

2. Challenge Negative Self-Talk

Notice and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself, replacing them with more realistic and compassionate self-talk. It’s easy and natural for our minds to want to focus on the negative/bad (it’s a survival mechanism).

Instead, invite yourself to start observing anything big or small that’s positive about yourself. Perhaps you’re having a good hair day or you noticed how kind you were to a stranger. Those things matter, so start taking stock of them.

Also, just because complimenting yourself on a good day counts as positive self-talk, does not mean the opposite is true. In other words, don’t put yourself down on a bad day. We all have them.

3. Practise Mindfulness

Cultivate present-moment awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by allowing shame to arise and flow without judgement. Like a cloud passing by in the sky, observe your internal landscape with curiosity and an open-heart as you welcome the opportunity to learn more about your inner world.

The important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong perception or experience. However, certain perspectives can be problematic to our mental health and well-being. Therefore, the first step to overcoming challenging viewpoints and behaviours is by first becoming aware of them which can be accomplished through a regular mindfulness practice.

4. Seek Therapy

Consider seeking support from a therapist or counsellor who can help you explore the root causes of your shame and develop effective coping strategies for managing it. Because every person’s mental health experience is unique, so, too, are their needs. Working with a therapist allows you to personalise your shame-squashing techniques to allow for deeper healing and resolve.

5. Journaling

Expressing your thoughts and feelings through journaling can help you gain insight into the underlying causes of your shame and identify patterns of negative self-talk. This, in turn, can help you discover parts of yourself that may need “reparenting.” By exploring the depths of our mind through writing, we can learn to uncover aspects of ourselves we may not have previously been aware of.

6. Build Supportive Relationships

Part of shutting down shame involves surrounding yourself with supportive and understanding friends, family members, or social groups who can offer empathy, validation, and encouragement. If you find you consistently feel bad around someone or in certain situations, ask yourself why you feel the need to continue spending time there and challenge yourself to new activities instead.

7. Set Boundaries

Building supportive relationships requires establishing clear boundaries. It’s important to prioritise your own needs and wellbeing. After all, the most important person you can let down is yourself (this is when we experience shame most profoundly). By setting healthy boundaries, you can pave the way for a better relationship between yourself and shame.

8. Practise Self-Care

Another way to shed some shame is by engaging in activities that nourish your body, mind, and spirit. This can be anything from exercise to meditation, to hobbies or spending time in nature. The more we tend to ourselves, the more confident we will be, and therefore, the less likely we are to experience shame.

9. Challenge Shame Triggers

By identifying specific situations, people, or triggers that tend to evoke feelings of shame, you can begin to develop strategies for managing or avoiding them when possible. These can be especially insightful realisations to share with a therapist or trusted friend.

10. Reframe Shameful Experiences

Explore alternative perspectives or interpretations of past experiences that evoke feelings of shame. You can treat it as a story writing exercise where your prompt is to reframe a negative experience in a hyperbolic way, being as oppositional and dramatic as you can imagine. In doing so, you may begin to investigate how your worth and value are not defined by these moments.

11. Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, strengths, and successes, no matter how small they may seem. In doing so, you can learn to counteract feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt with self-appreciation and love.

12. Practice Forgiveness

Another thing that can help you release shame is practising forgiveness for perceived mistakes or shortcomings. The important things to remember are:

  • Everyone makes mistakes.
  • You are doing your part by acknowledging the feeling of shame and investigating its validity to release it and correct any disparaging thoughts and/or behaviours.
  • Everyone is deserving of compassion and understanding.

By practising forgiveness, you can begin to experience the joy of the freedom it provides.

13. Seek Alternative Mental Health Interventions

Consider exploring alternative mental health services or interventions, such as art therapy, deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, mindfulness-based practices, ketamine-assisted healing, massage therapy, yoga, and more. Taking a holistic approach to healing from shame can increase the likelihood of success.

14. Educate Yourself

Learn more about shame and its impact on mental health by reading books, articles, or resources written by mental health professionals or experts in the field. This can help you gain new perspectives and release outdated beliefs you may hold about yourself.

15. Reach Out for Help

If shame continues to significantly impact your mental wellbeing and quality of life, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help from a therapist, counsellor, or mental health provider. They can offer personalised support and guidance tailored to your unique needs and circumstances.

Say Goodbye to Shame

Shame is a complex and deeply ingrained emotion that can have profound effects on our mental health. However, we don’t have to let it rule us. By understanding its root causes and implementing strategies for processing and overcoming shame, you can cultivate greater self-compassion, resilience, and healing.

Remember that you are not alone in your struggles, and there is support available to help you navigate the challenges that shame brings. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and explore alternative and holistic approaches to mental healthcare to support you on your journey to health and wellness.

Your Wellness Journey with All Points North London

Here at All Points North, we take a holistic approach to mental healthcare. We believe that by focusing on the individual’s unique needs through personalised treatment plans combining traditional and alternative therapies, we can help our clients reach deeper levels of healing.

If you’re interested in a free therapy consultation and/or would like to learn more about the many different mental health services we provide, call 0203 984 7699 or complete the online contact form today.

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