The Nature Of Shame

Here are some definitions of shame:

A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt or impropriety, or of having done something which injures reputation, or of the exposure of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal.
Reproach incurred or suffered; dishonor; ignominy; derision; contempt.
The cause or reason of shame; that which brings reproach, and degrades a person in the estimation of others; disgrace.

Therapist Mark Smith: “When we grow up with a critical parent, you can’t help but take that negativity in and that harsh voice they used on you becomes a voice you use on yourself. Many times in a fight, you’ll use it on your spouse and on your children…but the number one person you’ll use it on is yourself.”
“Another characteristic of shame is being overly sensitive.”
“People spiral with shame. You’ll start out with a negative thought and it just keeps getting bigger and it lasts weeks.”
“Shame follows you around everywhere you go and it won’t come off with a shower.”
“Another quality of shame is being painfully shy. We moved a lot when I was a kid and I was called painfully shy. What I was was ashamed and unsupported and unloved. When you’re wounded and damaged, you don’t shine brightly.”
“Another quality of shame is the inability to nurture yourself well, to make time to exercise and to rest and to have fun and to do things you love. Not spending money on yourself. You’re unable to do something nice for yourself.”
“The nature of shame is hopelessness and self-hatred and self-contempt, using that harsh voice to bludgeon yourself for making mistakes.”
“Not feeling comfortable with compliments.”
“Another nature of shame is extreme perfectionism and being unable to relax and be imperfect.”
“Part of the nature of shame is feeling unlovable. If you weren’t loved well growing up, you won’t be able to love yourself well.”
“Gravitating towards believing and cherishing negative feedback.”
“Part of shame is gravitating toward and putting up with negativity. People who are shamed will get into a job with a shaming boss and they’ll stay because it feels familiar. They are used to being treated that way and they put up with it. It doesn’t dawn on them to leave.”
“Another quality of shame is picking partners who treat you mean and abusively. It goes back to how you were loved growing up. It’s Mother Nature’s way of helping us to work on ourselves. When we’re twisted up on the inside, it determines your love life. Someone who was shamed growing up, when they’re 21 and at a party, they’ll pick the mean shaming chick because she sounds like your mother, like the way you’ve always been treated.”

“Shame scars create a sense of distrust of the universe. Paranoia. You have a negative way of viewing and interacting with the world. It feels like people are out to get you.”

“Shame scars can cause you to not see any positive or redemptive qualities in your spouse. You have a harsh voice that was pointed at you from your parents.”

“Shame scars can cause you to be defensive and dug in and viciously counter-attack.”

“It is so freeing not having to interrupt and to just listen. When you’re filled with shame, you have to defend yourself and to be snippy.”

“Shame scars can keep you from having friends, having fun, forgiving, from being able to love yourself. Shame scars can cause you to cut off your nose to spite your face.”

“Shame scars can cause you to medicate your pain with food, drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, iPads, computers. There are so many ways to numb out and to lose yourself.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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