Shame and Perfectionism

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The Complex PTSD Workbook: A mind-body approach to regaining emotional control and being whole


“Shame is often hidden underneath perfectionism. As a child, you may have internalized the belief that you had to act perfect because your parents couldn’t handle your authentic feelings. Or perhaps you believed acting “good” would stop the bad things from happening. In either situation, you may have had to hide your true feelings to avoid rocking the boat.

 


Perfectionism is maintained by critical self-talk that attempts to push down painful feelings. When the inner critic berates you for being lazy, stupid, or useless, you are again confronted with your shame. Let’s take a closer look at some practices that can free you from the cycles of shame and perfectionism:

 

• Explore your use of language: Dr. Siegel points out the difference between saying “I am bad” and “I feel bad.” The first statement reflects identification with a painful emotion, whereas the second statement allows for recognition of a feeling without being consumed by it.

 


• Avoid “shoulds”: “Shoulds” are one way of pushing perfectionism or perceived expectations on yourself and rejecting your authentic presence. You might say, “I should be over this by now,” “I shouldn’t make mistakes,” or “I should be strong.” When you say or think the word “should,” I invite you to step back and instead focus on self-acceptance.

 

 

• Imagine shame is a bully: Seeing shame as a bully can give you some space from the emotions and allow you to talk back! How do you feel when the shame bully puts you down? What do you want shame to know? If you have a hard time standing up to shame, you can bring in your ally from chapter 3 (here) for reinforcements. Who would stand up for you and protect you? What would you and your ally say to the shame bully?

 

 

• Experience the body’s sensations of shame: Often the most difficult part of healing shame is tolerating that felt sense in your body. Words can hardly describe the often intolerable “yuck” that accompanies shame. You might experience an encompassing sinking feeling or a vague sensation as though you did something wrong. A valuable practice for unwinding the somatic experience of shame is to return to the pendulation practice from chapter 4 (here). The goal is to slowly build tolerance for the physical discomforts that accompany shame. Once you can feel your body, you have greater choice about how to move and breathe. There is tremendous power in reclaiming your body from shame. Perhaps you find a posture that feels strong and capable, or maybe you place your hands over your heart in a gesture of loving kindness.

 

 

• Invite vulnerability: When feeling shame, it is common to hide your true feelings for fear of further embarrassment. Showing people how you really feel allows them to support you. Dr. Brené Brown’s research has shown that expressing one’s most vulnerable feelings is a sign of strength and facilitates health. She explains, “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Hello! I nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger award on this post. This might seem weird considering your topics but your message is extremely important and I at least find it very motivational! Go check it out and make an answering post ❤ Good luck with your blogging. With love, Alisa
    Here is the link: https://changedlife365.net/

  2. Thank you for your kind words

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