Ever done something out of your comfort zone - given a speech, sung in public, taken a stand against something only to wake up the next day and want to die of shame?
This is what author and researcher Dr Brene Brown calls a vulnerability hangover - the backlash of shame that rushes in after doing something out of the ordinary, something that involved an emotional risk and resulted in you being more visible than usual.
Shame is a well practiced torturer, holding us captive and slowly destroying our self worth. It makes us feel inadequate, weak, stupid and unworthy. We become brainwashed by the power of shame, it makes us want to curl up and die and, defeated, we withdraw, giving up on the thing we value most as human beings - connection.
Dr Brown describes shame as needing three things to keep it strong: silence, secrecy and judgment and one thing to disempower it - empathy. Like bringing a candle to a darkened room, empathy dispels shame's fears and horrors and shows us the way to freedom.
In his book, 'If it hurts, it isn't Love' Chuck Spezzano sees life as a journey of self-discovery and healing. Any situation where we are suffering and not at peace is a sign there's something we need to heal - an old story, a poor self-concept, a judgment on ourselves or another.
So rather than trying to get rid of the feelings of shame, face them with empathy, remember you have just taken yourself out of your comfort zone and be proud of that. Take note of the inner critic's complaints - there may be some valuable feedback to glean from the vitriol, but keep your main focus on the positive and the memories of your success will re-surface.
It is important to remember that an attack of self-criticism always comes after a breakthrough. When you take a step up in your life and work at your learning edge, exploring new territory, there will be ups and downs, but developing resilience when you're knocked sideways by shame prevents lasting damage. If you are experiencing a 'vulnerability hangover' or an episode of self-attack here are things you can do:
- Look for a success you've had, no matter how small, and acknowledge it for yourself. It is just as important to celebrate your successes as it is to learn from your mistake.
- If you are giving yourself some strong criticism - what positive thing can you learn from this? Remember there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
- Get a fresh perspective from someone you trust. Be willing to reveal your vulnerability and change your point of view, shame will lose its grip.
- Celebrate again!
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