Category: Regrets

How to identify feelings of shame

How to identify feelings of shame
Shame is the most toxic of emotions

The relevance of shame should not be underestimated, since it is the most toxic of emotions. Shame not only crushes one’s self-esteem, but it is also at the core of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Despite being potentially harmful to our psychological and emotional wellbeing, shame is rarely dealt with in a straightforward manner. Because it is so uncomfortable to talk about shame, it usually takes a reasonable amount of talking until most of us feel safe enough to relate our thinking and behaviour to deep feelings of shame, or the core beliefs that fuel them.

As emotional healing is all about feeling whole and connected, it is vital that you learn how to identify feelings of shame. As Brené Brown (2013) points out in her bestseller Daring Greatly, “Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither”. To help you name and shame your shame and deal with it as openly as you can, the following are common feelings and attitudes that are motivated by it:

  • Feeling left out, ignored, unimportant
  • Feeling defeated, vulnerable, weak
  • Feeling rejected, unwanted, not good enough
  • Feeling hate or disgust towards yourself
  • Avoiding social contact or being the centre of attention
  • Always believing in what others have to say about you, especially when negative
  • Feeling inadequate and embarrassed about what you have said and done
  • Finding it hard to accept the whole of you, especially what you do not consider a positive trait
  • Feeling crushed by self-criticism to the point of having thoughts of suicide
  • Refraining from saying anything in social gatherings or giving voice to your needs or opinions for considering them not important or interesting enough to others
  • Constantly worrying about what other people think
  • Not being able to say no or always doing what others want in order to feel valued in a relationship
  • Believing not to be liked or loved, as if it were a fact and not just a thought
  • Behaving in a certain way to gain the approval of others, even when it does not reflect the true you
  • Not having anything positive to say about yourself or your appearance
  • Putting the wellbeing of others before your own or believing it is your duty to care for others
  • Hiding or lying about your age, having a need to look younger
  • Feeling more comfortable with the thought of failure than that of success
  • Feeling like a bad or broken person, or believing that you are the reason why something bad has happened to you
  • Procrastinating or taking a lot of time to do something, so to get it “absolutely right”
  • Thinking that nobody feels the way you do or has experienced the things you have
  • Feeling different or less than others, as if you were not worthy of good things
  • Struggling to accept the good or believe in others’ love or interest in you
  • Minimising the harm done to you by an abusive relationship
  • Feeling you cannot do anything right or achieve what you would have liked in life
  • Staying in a broken relationship for not believing you could do any better
  • Being in denial about how you feel, or doing your utmost to hide your true emotions so not to be “judged by others”
  • Felling used
  • Taking things personally: immediately believing something is your fault/you have done something wrong when others are not as friendly or polite as you would have liked or expected
  • Not being able to take criticism objectively, feeling not good enough immediately after making a mistake or not being able to fulfil expectations
  • Using labels of negative connotation to describe yourself and your behaviour, such as stupid, ugly, fat, etc.
  • Having the habit of analysing your own performance, what you have said and done, in order to identify mistakes or errors in your judgement


Brown, B. (2013). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

Questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively

Excessive worrying feels very debilitating since it gets you stuck in rumination mode. Going over the same thought without dealing with it productively can be a mood killer. The best way forward for those who often find themselves struggling to let go of negative thoughts is through self-awareness. Start actively monitoring your thoughts. More importantly, begin to challenge them whenever they fail to lead you to any useful or creative solutions. Then, if you are new to CBT, use the questions below to help you problem-solve.

Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively:

Does my thought make sense from a realistic perspective?

Would this thought be considered logical?

What is the evidence for my thought/belief/evaluation?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of believing in this thought?

Would the intelligent and mature people I know agree with my thought? Why?

Am I am being too hard on myself?

Would I think/say the same about/to my best friend?

Am I being reasonable?

Is this situation as bad as I am portraying?

Are people as judgemental as I am imagining them to be?

Am I equating my thought with a fact?

How would I evaluate this situation 2 months from now?

Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?

Is this worry productive?

Is this criticism constructive? What – if anything – have I learned from it?

Am I only focusing on the negative?

Am I basing my thoughts on mind reading?

Am I exaggerating the relevance of this thought?

What is the worst-case scenario? What is the best-case scenario? What is the most likely outcome?

How is this thought affecting my mood?

Is it guiding me towards my goals or is it distracting me from them?

Am I using labels to define the situation in a way that does not do it justice?

Am I being overcritical?

Am I being fair?

Am I problem solving in an objective way?

How could I consider this problem more objectively?

Am I blaming others or myself for things that are – realistically – out of our control?

Have I considered all the facts before jumping to conclusions?

Am I taking things too personally?

How am I assessing my/others’ ability to handle this particular problem? Am I overreacting or being too negative?

It is worth reminding yourself that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts. As we tend to negotiate meaning via our internal dialogue, make it work for and not against you. If you display a biased inclination towards perfectionism and self-criticism, for instance, expand your perception investing in a more flexible attitude. Restructure your rigid beliefs so that they reflect a more compassionate and forgiving outlook. Use metacognition as a tool against automatic thinking and learn how to gain more control over negative emotions.

questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively
Challenging negative thinking is a great way to deal with unproductive worrying