We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of, but shame doesn’t have to be bad. Social psychologists believe that a healthy dose of it—when rightfully felt—is crucial to our survival. It encourages behaving in socially appropriate ways. As a result, we can maintain our relationships and repair them when necessary.
While shame can be productive, chronic and unnecessary feelings of self-directed shame can be exhausting and paralyzing. This type of shame is often rooted in feelings of inferiority, inadequacy and defectiveness and do not match reality. Shame can cause withdrawal and feelings of loneliness and rejection, and parents with these feelings tend to pass them on to their children.
It’s crucial to distinguish between feelings of shame and guilt. The latter relates to doing something wrong. Shame involves feeling fundamentally bad or defective about one’s self, regardless of the circumstance.
Overcoming shame and rebuilding self-esteem takes time and patience. Here are three strategies to get you started: