Shame is often referred to as “the toxic cousin of guilt. Guilt says “I’ve done something bad”. Shame says “I am bad”. Shame may show up in some of these ways: feeling inferior, defective, flawed, worthless, phony, and unlovable. For codependents, shame can lead to control, caretaking, and dysfunctional, nonassertive communication. Shame creates many fears and anxieties that make relationships difficult, especially intimate ones. Many people sabotage themselves in work and relationships because of these fears. You aren’t assertive when shame causes you to be afraid to speak your mind, take a position, or express who you are. You blame others because you already feel so bad about yourself that you can’t take responsibility for any mistake or misunderstanding. Codependents are afraid to get close because they don’t believe they’re worthy of love, or that once known, they’ll disappoint the other person. The unconscious thought might be that “I’ll leave before you leave me.” Fear of success and failure may limit job performance and career options. When we feel guilty, we are looking outward and seek to reverse the harm we caused. When we feel ashamed, we turn our attention inward, focusing on the chaos churning inside us and are unable to recognize what is going on around us. Authentic parental connection, unconditional love and attunement from the day you are born is a foundation for self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-love. Too many of us don’t get that. Instead, we get ignored, rejected, criticized, judged, belittled, controlled and manipulated and grow up into adults that feel undeserving, inadequate, angry and inferior…all leading to shame. I perceived everything through a shame filter, even when it wasn’t intended that way, it distorted my perception, created a manic hypervigilance to my environment and blocked authentic connection with myself and the people in my life. Compassion is the anecdote to shame. Healing requires a safe environment where you can begin to be vulnerable, express yourself, and receive acceptance and empathy. Then you’re able to internalize a new experience and begin to revise your beliefs about yourself. It may require revisiting shame-inducing events or past messages and re-evaluating them from a new perspective. Usually it takes an empathic therapist or counselor to create that space so that you can incrementally tolerate self-loathing and the pain of shame enough to self-reflect upon it until it dissipates. When we step back from momentary experiences that trigger shame and observe it without self-loathing, we are strengthening our capacity for self-reflection. Toxic parents shamed the real you into oblivion. Awareness and acceptance will expose the “you are not good enough lie” that we were told by people who didn’t know better. When you bring compassion to your daily thought process, you’ll be empowered and liberated by a shift in your thinking and well-being and you will feel less isolated.