Barbara On Healing Shame or Low Self-Esteem

Another thing I’ve learned from helping people grieve and my own grief process is that while we are in the thick of it, our self esteem drops. Another word for low self-esteem is shame.

This is an inevitable part of grieving. In contrast to guilt, which makes us feel bad for doing some-thing wrong, we feel shame for being something wrong or bad. Thus, guilt seems to be correctable or forgivable, whereas there seems to be no way out of shame.

Shame is universal to being human. If we do not work through it and then let go of it, shame tends to accumulate and burden us more and more, until we even become its victim. I had to write about shame in my book, The Natural Soul, because of my own experiences and because our patients share their bundle of shame and grief with us so often. What I’ve learned along the way is that there is a way out.

Talking about our shame or low self-esteem to safe others is a way to alleviate it. Support groups are also a safe place to express this type of pain. Be aware that, as long as we are in the grieving process, we will have an underlying sense of low self-esteem. It’s a part of grieving that seems to stick around until the end of the process.

My experience and the experience of others I have helped most often shows an increase in self-esteem when we have completed our grief work. We don’t return to the same life because we are not the same person as when we started. Life is different because we are different. There are sometimes hidden gifts we receive in our life from the losses of our past, and in the event of the loss of a loved one.

Charlie and I both hope that, as you work through your shame and feelings of low self-esteem, that you will be compassionate toward yourself, and understand that you are doing important and healthy work that can both increase your self-esteem and help you to leave suffering behind.

Have you had experience working with shame and low self-esteem?

Click the word "comments," below, and share your experiences and thoughts.




1 comment:

Richard said...

Hello, it seems to me that a way out of shame and low self-esteem is through accomplishments, recognizing the results of our efforts. Whether you start small with "I am breathing and breathing is good" or "I got out of bed today" or you set some arbitrary goal and give yourself credit for whatever part of it you achieve. Goal - run a marathon, accomplishment so far - walked halfway down the block. Getting halfway down the block is still a viable accomplishment, feel free to hold it warmly to your chest.

I've had days where I've had to force myself to smile into a mirror. Sometimes doing so would cause me to smile honestly in return, at myself. Whether I returned my own smile honestly or not I would still get a moment's reprieve from the depression.

There have also been times when I refused to smile into a mirror. My best understanding of me is this, in those moments I wanted the depression more than I wanted relief. It's strange to consider it now, but I think it's true.

In the movie "What the Bleep do we know?" there's a party scene that illustrates this concept. It resonated within me pretty strongly. And it goes on to say that a sense of self-love is the way out. The movie is dramatic and visual about this, because it's a movie, but in truth any tiny little piece of self-love is valuable.

I hope this helps, Richard.