How Shame Affects The Most Important Relationships In Your Life

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The Shame Antidote in Relationship
Love, Self

You can get free.

There is a powerful force at work in many of our lives and it brings damage to many relationships. Shame. If you are living life through a lens of shame, it will negatively impact your relationship!

Let’s define it in really practical terms, then look at how it affects our partnerships.

Shame is the thinking and feeling that we have when we see ourselves as ‘less than’ or inadequate in some way. It is usually comparative: "I am less than my brother. He is smarter than me." Insecurity may be obvious or we may compensate and appear arrogant or superior.


Let’s take a closer look at what it is and where we get the shame lens from.

Where do we get it?

  • Parents and grandparents sometimes make us feel bad about our performance or behavior, thinking that this will motivate us to be or do better.
  • Teachers may dish out doses of shame in order to try to encourage performance.
  • Society uses shame — via advertising, media, social media — to make sure we know where the lines are and that there are consequences for coloring outside the lines or with the "wrong" colors.
  • Workplaces sometimes both subtly and overtly use shaming to increase engagement and productivity.

How do shame messages get sent?

When we are being taught to feel shame it comes through outright physical, psychological and spiritual abuse. It comes through sarcasm, negative body language messages and by not having our opinion taken seriously.

We can learn shame from authority figures who withdraw emotionally from us or use the ‘silent treatment’. This list is endless. Any time when we are not taken seriously or made fun of is an opportunity ripe for us to draw shame-based conclusions about our self.

What are the symptoms?

Shame is not always obvious. It can show up as:

  • Jealousy
  • Competitiveness
  • Possessiveness
  • Easily giving up
  • Not trying when there is a fear of failing
  • Negative self-talk
  • Blaming and criticizing others
  • Shaming other people
  • Lack of trust

RELATED: How Shame And Control Unknowingly Destroy Your Relationship (And How To Fix It)


How shame affects relationship looks like this.

Imagine living with someone who is exhibiting this list of symptoms. There can be a lot of energy in a relationship trying to convince, prove and reassure the person who uses the shame lens.

When one of both partners live with significant levels of shame, it is hard for trust to grow. This is because one or both people do not realize that they are truly worthy of being loved.

In an attempt to make sure we don’t get abandoned, we use behaviors that have the opposite effect. Our need to control in order to feel safer ends up pushing people away.

In order to truly be loved, we have to let go of manipulative patterns and be vulnerable.

How can we fix it?

The flip side of shame is self-compassion. It is forgiving ourselves, accepting our humanity, and letting go of the need to be "perfect" or measure up to some unrealistic arbitrary standard.

If shame is part of your reality, you likely learned to think that way when you were quite young. Some of your core thinking about your value and worth is off. Possibly way off. At your core, you are not convinced that you are worthy of being loved just as you are.

Your path to wellness and freedom requires changing your thinking. First, it is thinking about yourself but you will see that this immediately means changing your thinking about the people in your life too.

The following TED talks from Shawn Achor, Brene Brown, and Kristen Neff are great resources and my absolute favorites. They help us understand the path to freedom and happiness.

One listen doesn’t undo years of faulty thinking. Listening often and learning to make a habit of self-compassion meditation will go a long way to get you on the journey to freedom!


RELATED: How To Heal The Painful Trauma And Shame That Make You Feel Worthless


Marilyn Orr is a relationship coach with Luv Life Coaching, passionate about equipping couples with the tools for real and lasting intimacy. Is Luv Life Coaching an appropriate next step for you? Take their online questionnaire to find out.

This article was originally published at The Luv Life Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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