Overcoming Toxic Shame with Self-Forgiveness

People often talk about the importance of learning how to forgive others for their mistakes. Yet, have you ever thought about the fact that you also need to forgive yourself? It is normal to be harder on yourself than you might be someone else. After all, we are all on a journey to live a better life, and you know yourself well.

While it is important to watch for the mistakes that you make so that you can learn from them, there comes a point when you can become your harshest critic. Self-blame leads to terrible feelings such as shame and guilt that can seep into your life and cause you to begin to doubt all of the good qualities that you can share with the world. 

Learning more about what shame is and how you can overcome it by learning to forgive yourself gives you a chance to move beyond those negative emotions and become your best self. Living a quality life means learning to accept yourself.

Understanding Shame

Self-shame happens when you judge yourself negatively for a variety of reasons. In some cases, you may feel shame blend with a sense of guilt over doing something wrong. Some instances of shame arise from circumstances that you may not be able to pinpoint. For instance, people that have experienced childhood trauma and abuse often carry a strong sense of shame that exists from being told that they were not good enough for so many years.

The issue with shame is that it triggers a fight or flight response within your body’s nervous system. Once it becomes internalized it can be a paralyzing emotion that causes you to engage in negative behavior patterns. Overcoming shame begins with recognizing that it is causing you to be held back in life.

Take Note of These Toxic Shame Symptoms

Normal shame is an emotional response that usually disappears within a few hours or days. Usually, the feeling disappears once you have made things right or figured out what you will do differently next time. In some cases, however, shame becomes internalized. Toxic shame hides beneath the surface of your everyday thoughts in your subconscious. If it is left unaddressed, it can go on for years, and your sense of failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of the most common toxic shame symptoms include the following:

  • Experiencing shame-based beliefs such as telling yourself you are stupid or selfish
  • Being unaware of the source of your shame
  • Dealing with childhood trauma that you believe is your fault
  • Having anxiety about experiencing shame again
  • Telling yourself not to bother trying to do better because you will fail
  • Engaging in reckless behavior or self-harm
  • Trying to numb your negative feelings with drugs or alcohol

Learn How to Deal With Shame

Being able to recognize that you are dealing with the residual effects of long-term self-shame on your life is the first step towards healing. Now, you must also learn how to deal with shame in positive ways that allow you to let go of self-doubt. You can do this by starting to view yourself with the same compassionate stance that you do other people. Like everyone else in the world, you are capable of making mistakes that do not define your self-worth. Once you accept that you have both strengths and weaknesses, you can begin the process of practicing self-forgiveness.

Discover the Power of Self-Forgiveness

Forgiving yourself for the things that happened in the past and will happen in the future causes those negative emotions to disappear. You can learn how to forgive your mistakes by giving yourself a reality check. Ask yourself how you would react if someone else did the same thing that you did or made a self-blaming statement. If you would express kindness to someone else, then you should also do so for yourself. Forgiveness frees you from being bound by issues such as low self-esteem.

Stay On Guard for These Signs of Shame

You will also find that overcoming shame is a continuous process. You will need to continue to watch for the signs of shame in your life that signify that you could be reentering a downward spiral. For instance, feeling like you need to drink or do drugs again is a sign that you may be feeling a low sense of self-worth. When you begin to see signs of shame, talk to someone about your feelings. Surrounding yourself with people who reinforce positive feelings of self-worth helps you to stop the negative cycle of self-blame before it begins again.

Are you in recovery and ready to end the cycle of self-destruction that toxic shame has brought into your life? Reach out to our team at NRthythm so that we can help you learn the powerful benefits that forgiveness brings for your happiness.

We are here to help those affected by Covid-19. If you need support during this time, book a teletherapy session or an online wellness check-in with us.

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