Shame, A Restrictive Emotion

January 18, 2019
Those who experience shame usually fall into the trap of refraining themselves from doing what they want to do and, instead, live their lives according to other people’s expectations.

“What will they think of me if I explain how I really feel?”, “I hope they don’t ask me, I’d hate to have to answer that in front of all these people”, or “I can’t speak in front of a large audience because I get too nervous” are very common expressions of those who live in shame.

Avoiding standing out, despising being the center of attention in any situation, rejecting invitations to certain activities… All of these things are synonymous with this restrictive emotion. Shame wants us to become invisibleWhat else hides behind this emotion? Let’s delve deeper into this.

Shame, A restrictive emotion that paralyzes us

Shame is the enemy of visibility. It’s a difficult emotion that makes us hide who we really are out of fear that others won’t like or accept us.

According to psychologist María José Pubill, a person who experiences shame lives in constant fear of others discovering their weaknesses, weaknesses that pretty much represent who they are as a person.

More often than not, a person develops this restrictive emotion due to an experience in which they felt or were made to feel uncomfortable. Those around them may have made them feel abnormal.

As a result, the individual now avoids seeming imperfect in front of others. The disapproval and reject made them develop so much fear that they now resort to protecting themselves to avoid getting hurt. This, in turn, frustrates them greatly since they feel they’re not able to be who they want to be.

Woman hiding her face in shame.

However, experiencing this restrictive emotion implies two aspects. First off, shame is always accompanied by feelings of guilt and fear. Second of all, a person who feels this emotion resorts to perfection and control to overcome their feeling of inadequacy. However, said mechanisms do nothing other than hinder their personal growth.

Shame and self-esteem: Are they related?

Shame represents a great fear of being oneself, of showing who one truly is. Like we stated above, this restrictive emotion wants its victims to become invisible to others. The individual fears criticism and doesn’t want people to think they’re worthless. Therefore, experiencing shame implies a lack of self-respect and tolerance which ultimately leads to low self-esteem.

Shame wraps the person up in a negative and self-deprecating shield. This explains why those around them may consider them fragile and weak. We must note that a shameful person doesn’t like being seen that way. In fact, they want to avoid showing their weaknesses in the first place. However, their fear of humiliation is so great that they just decide to endure.

Being ashamed is not feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. It means walking down a path of self-hatred. This doesn’t allow the individual to take control of their own destiny and realize how valuable they actually are.

Those who experience this restrictive emotion put their self-value in other people’s hands. The reason for this is that they’re only able to see who they are through other people’s eyes. They live their lives through other people’s opinions. Anxiety goes hand in hand with shame because the individual is always worried about not fitting in.

Sad woman being a victim of this restricitive emotion.

Cast your fears aside to become visible

Although this emotion is considered very complex, it’s possible to make it disappear. How can we defeat shame? Or rather, what can we do to become visible and value ourselves?

The first step is recognizing and accepting that you feel shame, that this restrictive emotion is part of your emotional universe. Then, you should reflect on its consequences, on how much it affects your life, the way it limits you, and the things it keeps you from doing.

If you do it sincerely, you’ll realize that you’ve become invisible to your eyes and that you value yourself according to a scale established by others. You must stop doing this and instead focus on moving forward in the direction that you want, regardless of what others may think.

The next step is getting to know yourself. You must connect with the deepest part of your being and understand why you are the way you are. Don’t be scared to make yourself visible.

This isn’t an easy thing to do, especially if you’ve been hiding your true self for a long time. The good news is that it’s never too late to give yourself a chance to become your own best friend.

Figuring out what situation made you become this way is also helpful. The starting point can lead you to understand the depth of your wound, which is none other than believing you’ve failed those around you.

A woman looking at herself in a mirror.

A very powerful exercise is to look at yourself in a mirror without thinking about what others believe of you. What do you see? Who are you? What are your traits? What do you need?

The idea is to free yourself from expectations, from those mental traps that keep you from being your authentic self. You’re not better nor worse than anyone else. Comparing yourself to others will never make you feel valid.

In some cases, we may be angry at the person who made us feel bad in the first place. You should try to let that all out by writing about your feelings and thoughts on the situation. Better yet, you can write that person a letter to tell them everything you’ve always wanted to say. This exercise will allow you to relive the embarrassing moment and remember exactly what you felt so you can let go of all those negative emotions.

As you can see, experiencing shame means a lot more than having a bad time. This restrictive emotion induces us to be slaves to other people’s expectations, to despise ourselves and, ultimately, to become invisible. This is why learning to connect with ourselves is so important.