Shameful Feelings: A Guide to Understanding and Coping with Shame

Shameful Feelings

Shame is a feeling that can be truly discomfiting and hindering. It has often been described as a sense of being exposed or evaluated, leaving individuals with a sense of insignificance, worthlessness, and powerlessness. Although shame is often mistaken for guilt, they are not the same. Guilt stems from the feeling of having done something wrong, whereas shame is a feeling about oneself. In this article, we will delve deeper into the realm of shame, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of its underlying causes and effects, as well as practical techniques to tackle it and prevent its recurrence.

Understanding Shame

Shame can be triggered by numerous experiences such as traumatic childhood experiences, criticisms, and rejections. It can also stem from internalized negative beliefs, for example, feeling inadequate or invalidating one's needs and desires.

When shame strikes, the body may respond with physical symptoms like blushing, tremors, or sweating. Simultaneously, negative thoughts and self-talk may occur, such as "I am so foolish" or "I'll never be good enough." These physical sensations and negative thoughts can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and solitude.

Common triggers for shame include being judged or rejected, making a mistake, or falling short of expectations. Shame can also stem from minor events like forgetting an appointment or losing an item.

Coping with shame

1. Recognizing and acknowledging shame
The first step in coping with shame is recognizing when it is present. This can be difficult, as shame often causes us to want to hide or avoid dealing with it. However, acknowledging and naming the feeling can be an important step in working through it.

2. Challenging negative thoughts and beliefs
When we are experiencing shame, it can be easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. It's important to challenge these thoughts and beliefs by asking ourselves questions such as, "Is this thought really true?" or "Is there another way to look at this situation?"

3. Practicing self-compassion
Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with the same kindness and understanding that we would offer to a friend. Instead of being critical and harsh with ourselves when we make a mistake or experience shame, we can practice self-compassion by acknowledging that we are human and that everyone makes mistakes.

4. Reaching out for support
Shame often makes us want to isolate ourselves, but reaching out to a trusted friend or family member can provide a sense of connection and validation. Talking about our feelings with someone we trust can also help us gain perspective and gain a better understanding of the situation.

5. Seeking therapy or counseling
If shame is something that you find difficult to cope with, seeking therapy or counseling can be beneficial. A therapist or counselor can help you understand the underlying causes of your shame and work with you to develop effective coping strategies.

Preventing shame from recurring

a. Building self-esteem
Building self-esteem can be an effective way to prevent shame from recurring. This can be done by focusing on one's strengths, setting and achieving goals, and surrounding oneself with positive influences.

b. Setting healthy boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries can help prevent shame from recurring by reducing the likelihood of being in situations where one feels judged or rejected. This can include setting boundaries with friends, family, and co-workers, and learning to say no when one feels uncomfortable.

c. Learning to communicate effectively
Effective communication can help prevent shame by reducing misunderstandings and conflicts. This can include learning to express one's needs and wants assertively, as well as actively listening to others.

d. Building a support system
Having a support system in place, such as friends, family, or a therapist, can provide a sense of security and validation. This can be especially helpful in preventing shame from recurring, as it can provide a sounding board for thoughts and feelings and can help to reduce feelings of isolation.


In this article, we have discussed what shame is, its causes, how it affects the body and mind, and effective strategies for coping with it. We have also explored ways to prevent shame from recurring in the future. Dealing with shame can be a difficult and ongoing process, but with the right tools and support, it is possible to work through it. It's important to remember that shame is a normal human experience and that everyone experiences it at some point in their lives. If you are struggling with shame and would like additional support, there are many resources available. This can include reaching out to a therapist or counselor, joining a support group, or reading books on the topic. Remember that you are not alone and that help is available.