A Symptom of Shame: Constant Self Improvement

This quote was shared with me yesterday: "a symptom of shame is to always think of yourself as a work in progress and that you've never fully arrived."

I feel this really hits home. And so this post is dedicated to sharing some of what I've observed about how shame operates:

Shame feeds on isolation and secrecy. Shame loves when we don't talk about it.

Shame is a little workshop we keep in a basement that is used to fix all the things that are broken about us in total secrecy. This way, we have control over when we show these parts to anyone else. And in general, we hold off on showing any of these parts until we feel they've been put back into perfect working order. Shame and perfectionism are two sides of one coin.

Shame with money makes us feel like we need to solve our money issues and never admit how much debt we're in.

Shame with our health asks us to not bother the waitress, our friends or our family about our diet or food allergies. And so we eat foods that make us feel awful so as to not take up space with our needs.

Shame with sex asks that we never speak about our needs with a partner. It also prefers we not connect to how we don’t know our own needs because there's shame in that too.

Shame is the feeling that there's a piece of who we are that burdens others, and therefore must be hidden.

And one more thing - shame is a very common experience for people who belong to family trees that include addiction, trauma and/or abuse on one or more of the branches.

In other words, you may not have personally experienced these issues, but if they're in your family, you're more likely to have a close relationship with shame.

The simplest tool we all have to transmute shame is to talk about it. To talk about shame is to take these hidden pieces out of secrecy and into the light.

Here's the exciting part of doing this. You may discover that the parts you were hiding are not broken after all. And they don't burden the people that matter.

What's something you feel shame about? Consider commenting about it below, not only because it's healing to access it, but you're practically guaranteed to help someone else who relates.

Art by @fredericforest

Nick Werber