Rise on your terms: how to overcome the shame in healing


“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
~ Dr. Brené Brown

The challenge in healing is a battle with shame. And it starts with shame for the fact that you need healing in the first place.

Healing is not often enough thought of as ‘regular maintenance’ (which it is), or else, in moments of crisis, as an enlightening, inspiring enhancement of existing wellness. The word comes up and you start thinking of incompetence, failure, broken-ness, unworthiness, weakness, and limitation.

You will ask what you did to deserve whatever it was that hurt you. You will start to blame yourself for irrational and hurtful behaviors others are responsible for, even though it’s not your fault. You will often conclude you experienced negative consequences only because you’re not smart enough, attractive enough, wise enough or whatever else enough.

So let’s clarify this right off the bat: You are not in need of healing because you are weak, incompetent, or unworthy. Healing only exists in a space of great strength and courage.

It’s a process that affirms dignity, authenticity, and wellness. Healing isn’t a band-aid or some other kind of cover-up. Its about cleansing, honest self-reflection, acceptance of flaws, self-compassion, recognizing and mindfully nurturing the positive elements in yourself and your life.

We all need constant healing, as much as we need to bathe, eat and sleep. When you give yourself permission to heal, and focus on your wellness, you are embracing vulnerability, which is the bravest thing you can do. Especially in moments of crisis, when healing requires more focus and effort than usual.

As far as deserving injury or taking responsibility for other people’s hideous words or behaviors, yes, it is true that we all make mistakes and manifest shortcomings that don’t exactly serve us, others, or whatever given situation.

However – and this is a BIG however – no individual in possession of a modicum of self-respect, emotional maturity, and a moral compass is going to ultimately be dismissive, abusive, deceitful, irresponsible or outright cruel. These are the things that destroy relationships, poison families and wreak havoc in professional contexts – not your vulnerability.

I don’t like using the term ‘normal’ but I will here. Don’t confuse the unfortunate prevalence of serious dysfunction in today’s society with what is ‘normal’ in the sense of healthy. ‘Normal’ people care, value honesty, understand responsibility, look to cooperate, will show empathy, are aware of needs beyond their own, and value what they bring into their lives.

It’s essential to understand that shaming yourself for an emotional investment where you were met with a pattern of dysfunction others are unwilling to recognize, examine or fix, no perfection on your part (even if there was such a thing), and certainly no amount of effort can ever be enough. Nobody can meet unreasonable, ever-shifting standards or play by rules designed to create failure.

The very fact that you are so willing to blame yourself, and are preoccupied with how you might do more or better, is the best proof of your healthy thinking, strength and courage, despite any negative contribution or mistake you might also own.

As far as rising on your own terms out of a crisis where the healing process is more intense than ‘maintenance healing’, the shame challenge is that everyone and their grandmother is going to volunteer commentary regarding what you should have done, known or chosen, and what you should do, know and choose now. You will be incessantly told how you should think, what you should feel, and for how long.

The strategy here is to focus on the clear distinction between guidance and manipulation. Guidance (and associated support) offers perspectives for change and enthusiastic, non-judgmental assistance. Iron-clad recipes and guilt-mongering (even the subtle kind) serve someone else’s purpose, and reflect someone else’s issues. Someone looking to support you will not put you down or chain you to their rules. Seems obvious, but in reality it’s often hard to see the difference.

You will rise, in your own time and on your own terms after a crisis. You’ll be even more vulnerable and therefore stronger. Even more self-aware, generous and humble. You will change and grow in a context of authenticity and compassion. Your boundaries will be reinforced, not by selfishness or brutality, but by even more respect and appreciation for yourself.

Your very struggle with shame over competence and self-worth exists only because you are brave enough to be vulnerable, to wonder, to ask the hard questions. And the healing process you’ve taken on above and beyond routine maintenance, is also proof of your courage, competence, and maturity.

Remind yourself of all this often. Shame is persistent. But success and wellness are on your side.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Absolutely wonderful! The need of ‘constant healing’, helps ‘focusing on wellness’, motivating the ‘rising on your own terms out of a crisis’.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.