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Healing SHAME


By Jenn Bovee, LCSW, CRADC, CCHt, The Mental Wellness Center

Last month’s article focused on what shame is and what it looks like. Brené Brown defines shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” For example, many people have such deep shame surrounding their appearance and body image they can’t even begin to see themselves accurately. This becomes the filter through which they see and experience the world around them. I would be remiss if I did not recommend that you consider meeting with a mental wellness professional that is trained and skilled in working with shame issues. However, here are some ways to heal shame issues on your own.

The biggest issue with shame is that it is very personal. For some people, it’s actually very uncomfortable even reading about shame, let alone assessing where they are at on their own healing journey. It’s uncomfortable work and not for the faint of heart. The actual requirement to do the work necessary to heal your shame issues is simply courage and compassion. If you are going to attempt to heal your shame issues, approach the following with empathy towards yourself and towards the shame.

My recommendations for laying the foundation for healing the shame issues in your life include the following:

Commit to healing:  I’m a fan of setting up healthy parameters to work within during these types of missions. Some examples include setting aside thirty to forty-five minutes each day to work through these suggestions. Staying on top of fueling your body, hydrating your body, and getting plenty of sleep are all prerequisites. This is not necessarily a fun process, but it will be totally worth it. Setting yourself up for success is an important part.

Identify the story: What are you telling yourself? At the end of the day, it’s really less about the awful things people have told you and done to you. The issue with the story is that it’s what you are repeating to yourself. When the world around you quiets down, what are you reinforcing to yourself? When you make a mistake, what do you tell yourself? How are you treating yourself on a regular basis?

Develop compassion for yourself:
For many adults, this is not our default. While we are typically able to interact with other human beings and exhibit great amounts of compassion, sadly, we rarely demonstrate anywhere near the same level of compassion towards ourselves. Some suggestions on beginning to develop compassion include implementing active gratitude, practicing radical forgiveness (specifically of yourself), intentional kindness, and removing yourself from the bully role towards yourself. My favorite technique in this is to begin believing in yourself the way your dog does!

Where is shame living in your body: This is something that I regularly talk to my clients about because it’s a huge piece of the healing process. When we have those experiences that bring up shame, it’s crucial to begin to recognize where that shows up in our body. In the beginning, this can be an overwhelming and odd sensation. I typically have my clients focus on the following questions in order to begin noticing where shame shows up in their bodies: if shame had a color, what color would it be? If shame had a sound, what would it sound like? If shame had a shape, what shape would it take? These questions allow you to begin noticing when shame shows up for you.

Create a commitment to self-care: There’s a huge correlation in our world between people who have high amounts of shame, and those that frequently neglect themselves. I don’t believe in dictating to people what self-care looks like. Self-care is sometimes doing whatever is right in front of you, and many times it’s doing whatever you need to in this moment. Developing a platform of self-care is to commit to doing something very small every single day. While the likelihood of doing this 100 percent is quite low, if we relegate self-care to a specific day of the week or even worse, a specific day of the month, it’s very easy for other priorities to take over. If you can begin doing something small, free, and affirming for yourself everyday it sets the stage for you to make better decisions for yourself over all.

If you missed last month’s article on shame, you may read it online at, or contact Cheryl at

For more information on any mental health issue, you may contact The Mental Wellness Center at 309-807-5077 or e-mail Their office is located at 202 N. Prospect, Suite 205 in Bloomington. They are invested in empowering you to return to — or achieve, possibly for the first time ever — a state of complete mental wellness.