How To Take the Shame Out of Your Biggest Problem

Think of a circumstance you wish did not exist in your life right now. Something you cannot change in this moment. For most of us, this is easy. It's something heavy on our minds.

Perhaps life has thrown you a serious punch: the death of a loved one, an illness, injury or disability, the loss of a job or relationship, infertility, betrayal, a mental health diagnosis.

Or perhaps you are riding the stressful waves of everyday life: relationship discord, family drama, an unrelenting boss, a job that sucks the life out of you, unwanted weight, debt.

Notice what your mind makes this situation mean. Does your mind make it mean something about you? That you really messed up, are deeply flawed and somehow different from everyone else?

Our minds love to take a circumstance and make it mean so much about the kind of people we are.

Here is something to try.

Take your problem and see it through this lens: as a natural disaster. 

I learned this tool years ago from Dr. Christine Carter when she mentioned accepting her divorce as more of a natural disaster than something she could stop from happening. Her thinking went like this: I am what I am and right now I am getting divorced. The best I can do right now is to be present in this situation, and deal with it as it comes. 

What happens when you see your problem as a natural disaster?

You take the shame (and blame) out of the problem.

Brene Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we've experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

Shame is not productive; it doesn’t help us improve or take effective action. It keeps us hiding and can lead to unhelpful behavior.

A natural disaster just happens. It can result in great loss and pain. But it doesn’t have the added meaning about the nature of the people involved.

Without shame, self-compassion and acceptance (essential steps in healing and problem-solving) come more easily.

When we offer ourselves a healthy dose of compassion (This is normal; I'm not the only one) and accept our situation instead of fighting and railing against it, we gain presence and take the most effective action.

We can ask ourselves:

"What do I want to stand for in the face of this?”

So stand tall, shoulders back. Love your people and do what you need to do. Don’t waste your gifts because you are caught up in a shame storm of unworthiness.

Show up for your life as the person you want to be (regardless of circumstances). That is all anyone can ask.