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Self esteem and shame

Many clients seeking help for poor self esteem struggle with feelings of shame, which may lead to depression, relationship problems, addiction, and codependency. Shame can be the result of the guilt you feel when engaging in behavior you feel is wrong, such as lying, cheating or hurting another person. Resolving guilt involves understanding the motives for your actions, apologizing sincerely to those you have harmed, and making the effort to stop this behavior. With guilt, there is typically a belief that you can improve by correcting your mistakes and making amends.

This is not the case when your shame arises from a general sense of self-hate that you experience without understanding why. People who suffer this unfocused type of shame often experience it throughout their lives. Common causes are abuse and neglect that started in childhood. If as a child you feel unloved by your parents and caregivers, or sense that you were “never good enough,” it's typical to assume that something is wrong with you. This mode of thinking can continue into adulthood with a pattern of blaming yourself whenever something goes wrong. This shame and self-hatred can cause numerous problems in your life, including loneliness, poor self-care and unhealthy habits. It can be hard to accept compliments and personal success.

Changing these patterns takes time, but you can be successful if you explore unhealthy behaviors and the root of your shame. Fear of being judged, rejected or abandoned are common and may make it particularly difficult to seek help. The underlying fear that you will be rejected if others really know you is common, and you may perceive rejection even when it's not truly there. Some clients may feel shame that they're not able to resolve their own problems and need professional help. With psychotherapy you gradually share your life story and inner life as you become more comfortable with your therapist. It can be a safe place to take personal risks. Once you allow yourself to look at the shame you feel, to share it and understand it, you give yourself the chance to let go of it and change the way you think about yourself.

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