Much of who we are as individuals has to do with how others perceive us. This means that, although we may not realize it, one facet of our identity is related to the image we project, the way others react to seeing us or interacting with us.

Shame is a relevant psychological phenomenon that has to do with the above. Thanks to its existence, we worry about what others will think of us, so that in many situations we will be less likely to become socially isolated. However, in certain contexts shame ceases to be a help and becomes an obstacle, something that distances us from what we would like to achieve and leads to an extreme form of shyness.

In this article we will see some keys to lose the shame and dare to take a step towards what we have set out to do, despite the fact that it means having a social exposure that initially causes respect.

Overcoming Shame

The following steps must be adapted to the particular circumstances in which you live, but it is not enough to just read and keep these ideas in mind. We must combine the change of beliefs with the change of actions , because if we only keep the first one, probably no change will take place.

1. Get used to exposing your imperfections

It is impossible to maintain a perfect image or to have others constantly idealise us. Everyone makes small mistakes , falls into misinterpretations, and is exposed to uncomfortable situations. The tension generated by trying to maintain this illusion can generate a very high sense of ridicule and a great fear of feeling ashamed.

So we must learn to own our own imperfections and show them to others without fear. In this way, the paradox is given that they are reduced in importance by recognizing their existence.

2. Mark yourself objective and oblique

If you stop to think about whether or not you should do what makes you nervous about making a fool of yourself, you will automatically create excuses that will allow you to throw in the towel and give up at the slightest opportunity, even if it is not reasonable to change your mind that way.

So, make commitments to yourself and, if possible, to others. In these cases, setting limits helps to expand the margins of one’s freedom , as it makes it easier to take the step and do something that was a challenge and that, once done, will not be so hard to do again.

3. Surround yourself with uninhibited people

The social context matters a lot. For example, anyone who has been through an acting class knows that in the first few days, watching others lose their shame makes you let go of yourself much more in a matter of minutes, even doing things you never did before.

This same principle can be applied to small day-to-day habits outside the profession of actors. If we get used to being surrounded by people who are not obsessed with the public image they give and express themselves spontaneously, we will tend to imitate those patterns of behaviour and thought, even though our personality continues to influence us .

4. Work on your self-esteem

If we believe that we are worth less than the rest, it is easy to end up assuming that there is something wrong with us that should be hidden from others, since in a matter of seconds it can leave us in evidence.

Therefore, one has to work on one’s own beliefs to make them fit a more just and realistic view of oneself . Bearing in mind that those with low self-esteem tend to blame themselves for things that happen to them by accident or by the influence of others, the focus should be on learning to see one’s limitations as a product of the circumstances in which one lives (and has lived in the past) and the decisions one makes.

5. Distancing

It is often beneficial to take a step back and distance oneself from what one is experiencing in the present; that is, to see it as a third person who is not directly involved in what is happening would see it . In this way it is easier to stop thinking about what they will say and lose the shame.

It’s often helpful to stop obsessing about what others are thinking and to focus on what is objectively happening, just like watching a movie or playing a video game. However, only on those occasions when shame is near, since in other situations, this has negative effects by depersonalizing others and making empathy more complicated.

Bibliographic references:

  • Broucek, Francis (1991), Shame and the Self, Guilford Press, New York, p. 5.
  • Fossum, Merle A.; Mason, Marilyn J. (1986), Facing Shame: Families in Recovery, W.W. Norton, p. 5.