How to Cope With Shame

Strategies for coping with shame that can help you get out of the shame cycle.

Shame can be a devastating feeling that never seems to go away. It’s that pestering embarrassment and sadness that never lets you feel validated. It’s a feeling that’s corrosive, shameful, and difficult to overcome. It often starts in childhood, continues to adolescents and keeps rearing its ugly head well into adulthood. If you’re feeling shame, it is difficult to alter your thinking, but there are proven ways to help cope with the shame you feel.

Shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. It’s important to note in this definition that that shame can be felt if a wrong or foolish behavior merely is perceived. In other words, you don’t have to actually do something wrong or foolish to feel shame, if you just think that you’ve done something you deem as “wrong” or “bad,” these feelings are enough to trigger your shame response.

Coping with shame is an intensive exercise that requires hard work. After all, shame is often instilled within us in our early childhoods, so it’s a painful emotion to overcome. One of the best ways to overcome shame is by being kind to yourself. Often small errors or temporary lapses in judgment cause shame to rear it’s ugly head. Being mindful of your thoughts and remembering that everyone makes mistakes can help you feel more resilient. Additionally, this practice can make you feel more confident and happy, allowing you to be more compassionate to yourself and others.

Another way to help cope with shame is to challenge your negative thoughts with positive ones. Working to consciously replace feelings of shame and anger with those of positivity will help the overall emotions of shame dissipate and lessen over time. This practice will also let you feel emotions genuinely and allow yourself to be loved authentically. A significant aspect of shame is not feeling adequate, so this practice will make you realize how much you truly matter to those around you. Just as with any skill, practice makes perfect, so it makes sense that working to overcome your negative, shameful thoughts with positive ones will take some time and dedication. However, this hard work will pay off in spades. Overcoming shame is a challenging goal to achieve, but one that will be well worth the effort.

If you’re having consistent issues with coping with shame that are affecting your daily life, it’s imperative that you seek help with a trained psychologist. Their expertise, knowledge, and skill in dealing with issues regarding shame are second to none. Their support can get you out of the shame cycle and well on your way to feeling much more like yourself again. Finally, don’t feel ashamed to feel shame! This emotion is something that begins early in childhood and is difficult to overcome as it’s such a powerful feeling. Be kind to yourself, practice positive thinking, and get the help you need and shame will be a thing of the past.

Dr. Takos is a Newport Beach Psychologist specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults suffering from depression, anxiety, and trauma-and stressor-related disorders.