When you find it difficult letting go of guilt, you could be dealing with shame.
Shame is particularly difficult to overcome because it causes people to feel as if they’re flawed at their core.
Letting go of guilt and shame can be challenging, but it is possible! Read on for expert insights on how to let go of shame.
Let’s dive right into it.
1. Name It
Your relationship with shame will change and start to play a less powerful role in your life by doing this:
- Think back and determine when you started feeling this way
- Assess how shame feels in your body
- Process those emotions either alone or with someone else
2. Embrace Acceptance
Accept things you can’t change about yourself. You are who you are and that’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with you.
Some studies have shown that acceptance can help individuals step out of a cycle of shame and move forward
Talking with someone who will understand without judging – a family member or therapist. In the end it’s your inner thoughts keeping you locked in the room with shame.
Allow someone else into the room to assist in looking at it from a different light. This often allows you to understand nothing is wrong with you and maybe you judge yourself worse than others judge you.
In other words when your voice is heard and you’re seen just as you are, letting go of guilt and shame opens the door to a new sense of self-acceptance and self-worth.
4. Make Your Inner Voice Kind
Adding to the thought that we judge ourselves harsher than others judge us, try to reframe your inner voice.
Think about it in terms of “would I say this to someone else” and if not, don’t say it to yourself. Shift your inner dialogue to one of kindness.
5. Self Soothe With Movement And Massage
Reducing unworthy and unlovable feelings you’re carrying can help to self-soothe your body through dynamic movement practices like yoga and dance.
Self-massage, tapping, and comforting touch while speaking kindly to yourself can help release shame.
6. Give Up The Pursuit Of Perfection
Trying to be perfect in any one part of your life is an unrealistic expectation for anyone and it sets you up to low self-worth and even shame when you don’t measure up.
The idea of perfection is a social construction produced by the media and society suggesting we can be perfect if we look, act, and think a certain way, however reality proves these expectations wrong.
7. Avoid Rumination
Rumination of any negative emotion, like guilt and blame, can lead to inappropriate levels of shame and self-loathing.
Research has even suggested that ruminating on the negativity of shame can lead to depression, social anxiety, and increased blood pressure.
8. Be Compassionate With Yourself
If you feel yourself in danger of ruminating, nurture self-compassion and kindness. Be your own best friend.
Instead of berating yourself and engaging in negative self-talk (i.e., “I’m stupid and worthless”), treat yourself as you would a friend or other loved one.
Research shows numerous benefits, including:
- Mental well-being
- Increased life satisfaction
- Decreased self-criticism, and more
When you feel an urge to ruminate, write a compassionate paragraph to yourself instead that expresses an awareness of what’s going on inside you.
Recognize you’re simply human and deserving of love and support. Even just 10 minutes of this expression of self-compassion can make a positive difference.
10. Avoid Focusing On The Past
For many people, shame makes them feel paralyzed. They feel anxious, fearful, depressed, and have low self-worth.
It’s important that you let what has passed be in the past. It can’t be changed or undone, but you can choose how your past affects your present outlook and future.
Forge ahead to a better life, letting go of shame.
Read all the Reasons Why My Past Does Not Define Me.
11. Be Flexible
Avoid responding to your experiences with “all or nothing” thinking or judgment. This only creates tension between expectations we hold for ourselves and what’s actually possible.
Living on Earth isn’t black or white but shades of grey. There are no true “rules” for life, people behave and think differently and live their own variation of the “rules”.
12. Let Go Of Outside Influences
If you have negative thoughts in your head, it’s possible people around you are contributing to those negative messages about you, even close friends and family.
In order to let go of shame and move forward, minimize “toxic” individuals who bring you down rather than lift you up.
13. Cultivate Mindfulness
Research has shown that mindfulness-based therapy can facilitate self-acceptance and help reduce shame.
Mindfulness is a technique that helps you:
- Learn to observe your emotions and thoughts from a detached perspective
- Open yourself up without reacting, rather than avoiding it
- Acknowledge and experience the shame so you can let it go
- Become aware of negative self-talk that often goes with shame, like
self-condemnations, comparisons with others, etc.
The task is to acknowledge and recognize you feel shame without getting caught up in it and giving power to the emotions that arise.
Learn about Emotional Reactivity – Ways To Be More Mature here.
How Do You Let Go Of Shame And Regret?
When there’s a sense of something missing, and you’re ready to break free, you finally realize your deepest desire actually is to improve your experiences and fill a greater vision for yourself.
You’re ready to let go of the vicious cycle of:
- Fear of the unknown
- Feeling like a bad person for where you’re at
- Needing help
- Regret of past choices
This is all natural and there is absolutely no reason to let them stop you.
The following are steps to move you through fear, shame, and regret so you can take the leap of faith into your highest self:
- Ground Yourself In The Now. Accept where you are and shine a light on anything not serving your good.
- Start Visioning a super clear vision for yourself. What could something better look like? Focus on this vision daily to help you align your thoughts and actions with that vision so every part of you can work together for your best interest.
- Make A Decision. Move towards your vision no matter what.
- Be Honest With Yourself. Write down your thoughts and emotions. Be brutally honest with yourself. Then burn it. This releases those fears out through your body, onto the paper, and into nothingness.
- Make It Bigger Than Yourself. Where do the ripples touch when you make this change? When you realize you have a mission beyond yourself, every choice you make is made with intention and each step becomes a little bit easier.
- There Is A Silver Lining. Everything you’ve been through brought you to this moment. All your past choices, molded so you could choose to become your best self.
- Find A Cheerleader. Open up to those you trust about your new direction. Get a coach to support and guide you—someone who’s been there and understands.
Trust your experiences. You can release the shame or regret now because they were the catalyst that brought you to this turnaround.
What Are The Stages Of Shame?
Shame is common in situations where someone feels like they are in the spotlight or under a microscope.
It can take many forms. Here are some common stages:
- Wanting To Disappear
You want to bury your head and disappear — anything to pull out of connection with the world.
If you’ve ever wanted to avoid returning a phone call, backing out of a date, or calling in sick for a job interview, you probably felt some amount of shame.
It can be easier to blame someone else than to think you may have done something wrong. Anger helps you avoid your own feelings of shame.
For example, when a parent yells at a teenager and the teenager runs to his room and slams the door, the teenager being angry is really covering up his own negative feelings.
- Self Blame
Blaming yourself and holding guilt for things unrelated to reality.
For example, if a teacher corrects you or gives you criticism, you respond by thinking, “I am such an idiot. Why did I even take this class? I should quit.”
Substances like alcohol, drugs, food, sex, etc. to give you temporary diversion from the painful world of the stress in your mind could lead to more problems.
If those substances get in the way of living, you may feel even more shame for using them, causing an endless cycle.
How Do You Deal With Low Self Esteem And Shame?
High self esteem means:
- Valuing yourself
- Knowing you’re worthy
- Respecting yourself
- Having confidence in your opinions and abilities
- Knowing you matter
- Able to take constructive criticism without it feeling like a personal attack
Feeling unworthy is propelled by shame. It often appears as the small voice in the back of our mind telling us we are unworthy.
Not being slim enough, rich enough, smart enough, good looking enough, or simply “not enough”. Low self-esteem stops us from daring to be more.
Viewing someone’s behavior of shame can be misinterpreted as:
- Trying to gain power over others
- Being aggressive
- Keeping secrets
- Seeking approval and belonging
Recognizing these behaviors is just as important for people to know how to deal with before it.
How Do You Deal With Feelings Of Shame?
You cannot control what other people will do or the ways society may attempt to place shame on you, but you can control your response to it. The power is within you to internalize it or reject it.
There are ways of developing shame resilience according to Brené Brown.
- Recognizing, naming, and understanding your triggers
- Identifying external factors that led to shameful feelings
- Connecting with others to receive and offer empathy
- Speaking about your feelings with others
The goal of shame resilience is to help someone experiencing shame feel the opposite emotions instead. These include connection, empathy, freedom, and power.
When feelings of shame arise:
- Take a moment to engage in a mindfulness or grounding technique. This can allow you
to replace that emotion
- Provide time to breathe, center yourself, and then proceed
- Allow yourself to do what you need in that moment to face and cope with it
- Engage in journaling, writing, or walking to process what happened, why you feel this way, and if it’s helpful to carry moving forward
How To Heal Shame
Shame convinces people they’re better off keeping it a secret, but the only way to heal this is to expose it and connect with others so you feel less alone.
When you feel shameful, regardless of what it might be for, answer these questions honestly to help you begin to heal.
- Was this a mistake, or something I do all the time?
- Is this really something I should feel bad about?
- Are my emotions about this situation productive?
- How would I respond to a friend who was dealing with this?
- Am I letting myself feel bad for not meeting a societal standard I don’t even value?
Your answers can help you see where you’re stuck and how to pull yourself out of it.
How To Overcome Toxic Shame
Toxic shame is feeling you’re worthless. It happens when other people treat you poorly and you turn that treatment into a belief about yourself.
You’re most vulnerable to this poor treatment during childhood or as a teen. When you feel toxic shame, you see yourself as useless or, at best, not as good as others.
Toxic shame comes from constantly being told or treated like you’re not enough. It results in negative self-talk that stays with you often unconsciously.
Having sympathy for yourself is key to the process of overcoming toxic shame and changing the way you think. You also need self-awareness, mindfulness, and patience. Try these tips:
- Become aware of how you speak to yourself. Try to observe your own thoughts but not react to them.
- Face the root of shame. It’s important to understand and examine your feelings. Find the cause in order to move forward.
- Have compassion for yourself. Everyone has flaws and makes mistakes. Even if it seems like your mistakes were huge, accept that you’re only human. Learn from the past, don’t get stuck in it.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness and meditation can work wonders as you learn to observe your thoughts. Feelings can force you to react, so it can be very powerful to just notice your thoughts and question them.
- Recognize when you’re feeling shame. Mindfulness can help alert you to when you feel shameful. If you are, mention it to a friend or partner. It lives and thrives in dark places, so shine a light on it and watch it fade away.
- Seek support. A support network can give you an outlet to talk things out when necessary and boost your sense of belonging.
Healing Shame Exercises
In order to release shame, drag the shameful stuff into the light.
Here are 5 healing exercises to help.
1. Open Up To A Trusted Loved One
This one might feel scary. It takes a massive amount of courage to open up to a loved one or mental health professional about something we hold shame around.
However, when we do this with someone we love and trust, it goes away especially if you clearly communicate what you require of them.
Is it reassurance? Validation? A hug? Be clear so they can support you in a way that feels good.
2. Online Forums
Online forums and social media can be fantastic ways to connect with other people who may be experiencing something similar to what you’re experiencing. Community is an antidote to shame.
When shameful feelings show up, affirmations help you speak back to it.
Try one of these affirmations: “I am whole and lovable;” “I am allowed to make mistakes;” “I am allowed to show up in my full, imperfect humanity;” “I am enough.”
4. Inner Child Work
Visualize that shameful voice as a scared younger part of you. Visualize someone you feel compassionate with if that’s easier. Then, imagine that person feeling the way you are.
Imagine what you’d say to them. Some self love that sounds something like, “I know you’re going through. I still care about you and love you. You’re safe with me.”
5. Accept That You Might Not Get An Apology
Waiting for an apology from the person who hurt you will slow down the process of letting go.
If you’re experiencing hurt and pain, it’s most important to take care of your own healing, which may mean accepting that the person who hurt you isn’t going to apologize.
How To Let Go Of Shameful Memories
Think about what happens to your body when you recall a memory that carries shame. Your body slumps, sinking your heart into the back body. Your gaze drops and your brow furrows.
Emotions move through the body. Because it’s a negative emotion, it can seem scary to process.
Rather than feeling them, people just try to shut these emotions out, which can disrupt the process of releasing them. Let yourself feel them without getting caught up in them.
It may require a mental health professional, but fighting them can leave you stuck and eventually sick.
Dealing With Shame In Therapy
Most people experience shame at one time or another within their relationships, and because it can lead to discomfort and other mental health issues, it is important to overcome these feelings.
Those with depression, social anxiety, and low self-esteem are particularly susceptible to the negativity of shame. They may feel like their darkest secrets are being analyzed by others.
Others may feel guilt and blame themselves for trauma or abuse they’ve experienced in relationships.
Both individual therapy and couples therapy are amazing ways to begin healing.
Therapy is a focus with intentional space where a professional will see, hear, and support you because they believe in you and want you to be your best self.
When a client goes into a shameful state in the session, it’s a good time to use tools of mindfulness and grounding.
This is a time:
- To be curious about what the client may be feeling or experiencing
- To help the client notice sticky or heavy feelings; self blame, guilt, etc.
- To recall someone’s voice or a memory of feeling shamed or discounted
Sharing their vulnerability with the professional can be very healing. It is important:
- The counsellor acknowledge how brave the person is being
- They understand the value of sharing something so vulnerable
- The therapist shows compassion for the client
- The client learns to be compassionate toward themselves
Little by little more of the person is recovered and welcomed back. The truth is, good therapy helps you step outside of shame and more fully into a better world.
You don’t have to do anything alone! Make this easy for yourself and seek support in every way possible.
We hope to hear from you ✅ and that you felt supported reading this article on how to let go of shame. Now, your first step is to share it with friends to help them in their lives.