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Subtle Ways Shame Erodes Your Life

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Shame associated with our own poor choices or abuses that happen to us are obvious. But dealing with shame can also show up in subtle ways that may seem normal.

The voice of shame showed up big time at staff meetings at work. I am a counselor and work in an office with other counselors. Even though I’ve been doing my job successfully for many years, I had an overwhelming sense that the other counselors were amazing and I was just a fraud. It didn’t matter how many clients found freedom or gave positive feedback. Feeling confident was difficult. I was experiencing shame; guilt says I did something wrong, shame says I am something wrong.

Here are some subtle ways I have recognized the voice of shame and how to defeat it to attain emotional health.

Type of Shame: Inadequacy

The voice of inadequacy accuses us that we are not enough. Shame told me that no matter what I did I would never measure up and that I would mess things up. Internal voices can twist things in our head and completely misrepresent us to ourselves.

How to Find Freedom: The methods I used to shut up those voices were to only listen to songs and watch TV shows that raised my self-esteem. I also wrote encouraging things on sticky notes and placed them on my bathroom mirror. I purposefully listened to compliments and took them into myself.

Type of Shame: Comparison

I’ve wasted a lot of time comparing myself to other people and trying to be someone I am not. Once I stopped trying to emulate the other counselors in my office, I was able to see the unique qualities I offered clients. I was then able to see clearly how those qualities positively affected people.

How to Find Freedom: Schedule a meeting with yourself and write down what unique benefits you offer people in your own sphere of influence. Then you can build on those qualities and make them bigger and better.

Type of Shame: Defensiveness

I used to observe myself self-defending or making excuses for myself frequently. I knew it was self-protective. What was I protecting? My self-worth? Probably. If our self-worth is intact, we won’t need to defend it.

How to Find Freedom: Self-worth can be built by learning a new skill or writing down positive qualities about yourself (like I did with the sticky notes on the bathroom mirror). I also suggest asking a trusted friend what they appreciate about you and finding quotes or bible verses that are uplifting for you to remember during a time of vulnerability.

Type of Shame: Hiding

One of the unhealthy ways I had developed to deal with shame was by hiding. I would hide by not speaking up at meetings. If I was quiet, I believed no one would notice me. Sometimes we hide in front of people by hiding our true selves and only showing the parts we deem acceptable.

How to Find Freedom: In order to overcome the shame at my office, I made myself respond and give opinions, even if those opinions weren’t popular. Overpower shame by going places, even if you are uncomfortable. Show your true self front of people. I found that the more vulnerability I showed, the more people respected and admired me.

Tell us! How has shame impacted your life?


How do you get the courage to try again when you fail at something?

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