Getting Ahead of Shame

Posted June 25, 2012 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five

Last week we talked about identifying our negative self-talk and shame voices in “Tackling Negative Self-Talk: Are You Lying to You?” I asked you to pay attention to often you have shaming thoughts. Did you keep track? The number tells you just how hard you’re going to work to get ahead of shame. Was it low? You’ve got less work to do. Was it high? Let’s practice getting ahead of it today.

Now that you know what shame looks like, you’re going to start naming it in your head. As you head into the gym and start to question your capability, you now have a choice. You can stop the thought by saying, “No thanks” or “I see what you’re trying to do and it’s not working” and head over to start lifting weights. You can also replace the thought of, “I can’t do it” with the thought of, “I choose to do it anyways”. A colleague of mine works with women who have body image concerns and when they discuss the horrendous things they say to themselves about their bodies she tells them to follow it with, “That is not ok. I choose not to believe this.”

Good news and bad news. Let’s do bad first. Shame doesn’t go away. Good news? We can be so far ahead of it that when it does come around, we’re easily able to see the lie and get rid of that thought. One way some women do this is to yell in their heads, “Shame Attack!!!!!” This may sound silly and we each need to find our own way to stop the lie in action.

Here’s the step-by-step breakdown.

1. Identify what shame sounds like to you.
2. Notice how often they’re happening.
3. Stop them in action. (Suggestions; “Shame Attack!” or “This is not ok. I choose not to believe this”)
4. Bonus step! Replace them with their positive counterparts. (Suggestions: “I am enough” or “I do deserve this” or “I am beautiful”)

If you try this out, let me know how it goes. If you’d like help identifying what your shame might sound like, let me know. If you want to do some brainstorming about what your replacement thoughts might be, let’s get thinking!

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”