How to Know if Shame is Fueling Your Personal Growth

I know something wonderful about you: you value growth.
In fact, you’re self-aware and thoughtful, you care about how your actions impact others, and you see the importance of doing personal development work.

But I have to ask you: what drives your growth?
Is it curiosity? Conscientiousness? Passion? Excitement?

I hope so!

But if you’re like I was, I wonder if you’re also sometimes driven by shame and internal pressure?

There was a time when 90% of my personal growth was fueled by shame.

I strove to be a healthier person so that: 

  • I didn’t draw criticism or judgment. 
  • I could keep the “embarrassing” parts of my sensitivity under wraps. 
  • I felt worthy of love and acceptance.

It was like having a critical parent running my life.

Instead of lovingly drawing me towards wholeness, this inner critic shoved me harshly towards how it thought I should be.

It won’t surprise you to hear that this didn’t work well. Instead of flourishing, I was crippled by anxiety, shame and self-doubt.

If you’re not sure whether your personal growth is fueled by shame or love, here are some of the sneaky ways that shame shows up:

  • Perfectionism (the need to do everything perfectly, “Right”, or without mistakes)
  • Control (rigid and unrelenting standards for yourself)
  • Doubt and people pleasing (looking to others to give you feedback on how you “should” be)
  • Criticism (your Inner Critic pokes at your attempts, missteps, and humanity)
  • Worry (fear that you’re “not doing it right” or that something will fall apart if you don’t get your act together)

If, looking at that list, you realize that some of your striving is fueled by fear and doubt, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s more common than you realize.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

How to cultivate self-love instead of shame

These days my self-criticism and perfectionism have taken a back seat to acceptance and self-love.

Operating from a place of self-support instead of rejection changed everything:

  • I can make mistakes without crippling shame or judgment.
  • I feel free to heal and grow.
  • I let people see the real me, warts and all.
  • I love and accept who and how I am.

If you’d like to move in the direction I did, start with these simple steps:

  1. Recognize that you’re (sometimes/often) driven by shame and fear. We can’t change what we haven’t fully recognized.
  2. Acknowledge that you want to do it differently. See if you can name what you’d like instead (ie. “I want to grow from a place of self-love and acceptance”)
  3. Create a mantra and start using it (ie. “I’m worthy of love and acceptance” or “It’s okay to be a messy human” or “It’s okay to be fully me”).
  4. Ask your Inner Critic to step back. When you hear the critical part of you, say something like, “Thank you for trying to help me. This isn’t the type of support I need right now; I’d like you to step back. I’ll let you know if/when I need you in the future.”
  5. Connect to your Highest Self and ask, “how can I approach myself with love and kindness today?”

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Therapeutic Center for Highly Sensitive People
Brooke Nielsen Yang, LMFT, MFC #0001325
brooke@therapyforhsps.com I (720) 739-0206