13/06/2014 08:39 BST | Updated 12/08/2014 06:59 BST

The Psychology of Shame


The roots of the word shame are thought to come from an older word, meaning 'to cover'. Which makes sense. It can feel a lot like wanting the earth to swallow us up, or that desperate desire to run away and hide under a rock when shame hits.

But what exactly is 'shame'?

In her now infamous TED talk, Brene Brown talks about shame as being a sense of 'not being good enough'. A fear of not being worthy of real connection. We've all felt it. Even the most successful people have admitted to 'imposter syndrome' or not feeling good enough. Brene's research into shame found that those who were able to be 'vulnerable', be their authentic selves and those able to live 'wholeheartedly', were less likely to experience shame.

Those of us who have a tendency to be overly judgmental, compare ourselves to others, work too hard, don't play enough, are scared, and find it hard to be our authentic selves are the ones who are more likely to experience 'shame', this sense of not feeling good enough, or of not fitting in.

Do you recognise any of these traits? Huge numbers of us have a problem with accepting ourselves and seeing ourselves as worthwhile. This often ties in not only with low self esteem and confidence, but perfectionism, anxiety and even procrastination and motivation issues.

The key to achieving this may be around being able to accept ourselves and, as self-helpy as it sounds, love ourselves more. Knowing that we're good enough, that we are worthwhile and that we deserve love and acceptance may be the key to becoming our most authentic and possibly, happier, selves. No mean feat perhaps, but something worth working towards.


Here are some techniques to work on to overcome shame;

- How do you speak to yourself? Get into the habit of noticing and noting down the things you tell yourself, then work on turning it around and speaking to yourself in a more encouraging, accepting and kind way. How would you speak to a best friend? Speak to yourself like that!

- We can sometimes focus on the worst case scenario or put ourselves down; perhaps as a self protection method to mentally prepare us for if things do go wrong or for failure. However this just has the effect of reinforcing feelings of shame. Recognise self critical thoughts for what they are and remember that just because you have a thought, doesn't mean it is true.

- Hypnotherapy can help you to get to the root of where this thinking comes from, helping you to move on from it and gain a more healthy and positive self image.

Understand that mistakes are an essential part of life and learning. It's ok to make mistakes, it isn't a personal reflection on you. Every day you are learning, adapting and changing and getting better and better all the time.

- Work on developing your self esteem; Each day, write down 3 things you do well, 3 things you like about yourself and 3 things that you are looking forward to.

Beware of perfectionism, especially when working on yourself. Don't use a lack of self esteem as another stick to beat yourself with. You will never be perfect, since a perfect human can never exist. Just do your best and accept yourself as you are.

Talk to me about how hypnotherapy can help you to feel more worthwhile, calm and confident.

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By Chloe Brotheridge