Shame and the toll it takes…

If you’ve read some of my blogs you’ll know that I subscribe to the theory that we all fall into one of two buckets when it comes to our core vulnerabilities – shame or fear. These are the things that drive us, the things that fuel our thoughts, the things we can forecast steps ahead. Will it hurt me emotionally or will it hurt me physically. Though what I’ve realized is that within each of these categories, subcategories exist. For shame, someone can be petrified by the thought of looking bad, manifesting in not being pretty enough, not having enough friends, not being thought of as successful enough, smart enough, capable enough, and so forth.

This blog is dedicated to analyzing how shame plays a role in the lives of those who it’s their core vulnerability and when it manifests as a strong need to never being wrong and never making mistakes. Just a perspective for consideration…


When it comes to making a decision for a group for these people this can be scary, what if they are wrong and make the wrong decision? Depending on how mature the person is and how much they’ve worked on overcoming their fears, this could be down right frightening. To the point they feel put on the spot, they feel the world is against them, they feel backed into a corner, and overwhelmed with the responsibility of having to make the decision. Even if it’s as simple as – should we walk to the store or take the car? They may have a complete melt down or tyrant at the very thought of having to make a decision, petrified in the outcome.

Being responsible for something, whether it’s just being asked to drive or being asked to plan a portion of something, to a shame driven person this can be absolutely terrifying. What if they plan it wrong, what if they do it wrong? To them the very thought of looking bad is beyond anything they are comfortable with. Being put in a position where they view a possible outcome could be looking bad, is just not an option. They’ll avoid it like the plague, passing responsibility to others, bowing out, throwing a temper tantrum, you name it. To a non-shame driven person it may not make sense, it may just seem like a wild emotional overreaction, but to the person experiencing it, it is very real. It feels like a full on attack.

As a coping mechanism these people can often seek outward decision making, appearing open to any solution/activity/etc. From the surface they may just seem like easy going people that go with the flow. Though the undercurrent is one driven by shame, from lack of confidence that they could fail so they seek decision making from others. Where should we eat tonight? I’ll ask a friend. Should we take the bus or the train? I’ll ask a friend. What video chat app should I use? I’ll ask a friend. What TV should I buy? I’ll ask a friend. This way if the decision is wrong, it’s not their fault, it’s someone else’s fault. It’s a protection mechanism that allows them to make decisions without accountability. A safety net.

Sadly, the end result of this is that their dependence on other people to be accountable for their decision making and the scape goat every time they do something wrong can create a toxicity for the relationship. It turns them into a helpless victim, fueling their lack of confidence, which can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. This can be intensely conflicting for someone who has a core value of consideration and conscientiousness as their shame often drives them to a lack of consideration. The internal conflict can be so intense, depending on how much they have worked through their shame, they may be able to keep this in check, realizing their emotional response may be elevated due to their vulnerability being triggered.

Although these people are prone to overreacting when put in a spot of decision making, of being quick to blame others and deflect anything that might make them look bad, they often are so overwhelmed in their own emotional reaction to understand how it’s hurting those around them. Though everyone is plagued with challenges in life, and no challenge is better or worse than another. We all have them, no matter how different they are. I believe the important thing is to understand what your vulnerabilities are and not let them drive you as it’s often the emotional irrational ugly side that comes out when a core vulnerability is triggered.

People often ask me how I work on mine and what would it even look like to work on a core vulnerability. First, I am no expert, and there are lots of great articles on the Internet on this topic so I’d definitely recommend starting there. Though for me, it’s been going head first into the vulnerability. Jumping into the deep end and not allowing myself to lose my logical rational bearings. Seeking opportunities to trigger my vulnerabilities so I can practice self-control. Is that always easy, no. Has it taken me decades to get to where I am today, yes. Do I ever give up trying, no. Do I fail regularly, yes. Though I keep jumping and some days/months/years are easier than others. My underlying philosphy is in loving ourselves, believing in ourselves and being ever so patient with our journeys.



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