Note: This is the second of a two-part series.
Feelings of shame and personal inadequacy can be transformed into feelings of self-love and self-caring. The negative feelings can end. Here’s how, according to Pat and Ron Potter-Efron in the book The Secret Message of Shame (New Harbinger):
- Ask yourself the following questions: When do I feel shame, strong feelings of inadequacy or when I don’t fit in? What triggers those feelings? Where in my past did these feelings come from? How do I defend against these feelings when they occur? What’s keeping me from feeling pride, wholeness, self-worth? How is low self-esteem—or fears about how good I am—affecting my connections with my intimate partner, my family, how I’m perceived at work and in my relationships with others? Which inner messages (I’m no good, I’m defective, I’m not good enough, I’m unlovable, I don’t belong or fit in and I shouldn’t exist) most affect me?
- People who feel inadequate, defective or unlovable often have lost interest in themselves. They don’t know who they are and they don’t care. Why should they when they believe that they are basically defective or inferior? Who wants to find out more and more about their flaws? Rekindle in yourself. That means being curious about who you are, where you’re going and what makes you tick, and it becomes your personal responsibility to seek out meaning in your life. What can you do that fills you with pride? What would you most regret failing to do in your life? On a day to day basis, what activities feel most valuable? How are you contributing to the world in ways that help you feel good about yourself?
- Approval. Recognition. Attention. Nurturance/TLC. Connection. Guidance. Respect. Affection. Value me. Value what’s important to me. All of us need all of these. But when we don’t get them—or get enough of them—those same needs can trigger our feelings of inadequacy, not belonging or not feeling worthy. And some people react to that by flying into a rage. If you have developed a shame/rage connection, you have done so to defend yourself against feeling worthless, small, weak, inadequate or defective in some way. What if someone said something you could take offense at, and instead of getting ready to blow up, you politely checked out what that person intended? Over time, you would gain more self-worth if you could separate your fears of inadequacy from other people’s words or behavior.
- One way to get rid of excessive shame is become overly critical of others—to humiliate them before they humiliate you. To find out how much of this describes you, answer these questions as honestly as you can: Do you enjoy being “one up” on others? Do you generally feel superior to those around you? Do you prefer to control your husband/wife/friends/children? Do you tend to pick at other’s faults? Are you known as hard to please? Do you feel better about yourself when others fail? Do you believe a good offense is the best defense? Do you criticize others but resent being criticized? When you’re mad at somebody, do you see them as bad? Do you feel morally right and justified is saying hurtful when you’re angry? Was there anyone in your life who has treated you in these ways?
- Right before you fly off the handle, learn to take a time-out right then.
- Cherish honesty—your own and others—instead of power.
- Have some kind of backup available. That means someone you will be able to talk with if necessary, and a list of at least 10 positive things you can do when feelings of inadequacy or shame threaten to take you over. Put the following kinds of things on your list: things you usually like to do; things that give you a sense of hope; things that are creative; things that help you relax; things that take you into safe natural settings.