Shame and Self-Criticism

The Psychology of Shame and Self-Criticism

Shame and self-criticism are feelings that often plague our day-to-day experiences, and all-too-often stunt our ability to function at our highest levels. Drastically impacting the way in which we live our lives, studies have shown that shame and self-criticism appear to mutually enhance one another, and in turn are associated with psychopathological symptoms. Commonly associated with stress, anxiety, and depression, shame and self-criticism are clearly important to tackle, especially during a time in which social media is having such a profound impact on our self-image and self-worth.

It goes without saying that the experience of shame can be deeply unpleasant, usually connected to the breaking of social norms or values that we believe in. Shame is, therefore, thought to promote the maintenance of social relationships and groups. Shame is sometimes described as a self-conscious emotion, and involve unpleasant feelings, bodily concerns, negative thoughts as well as socially avoidant behaviour. Moreover, shame is distinct from guilt; with shame, tend to have a broad, global negative perspective of themselves (e.g. ‘I am a bad person’) and a sense that others hold negative thoughts and feelings about them.

In comparison,  guilt tends to involve a sense of  ‘I did a bad thing’ and comes with a genuine concern about the impact of this on someone else, and a desire to make amends. Although these feelings turn up together sometimes, we know that a lot of the time our feelings of shame and self-criticism are unwarranted, or perhaps go a lot further than they need to – and make us behave in detrimental ways that are not healthy or constructive.

Self-criticism is considered as a personality trait wherein people tend to over-evaluate themselves in accordance with their own aspirations and social status. All of us can be critical of ourselves at times, although for some people, this tends to happen more frequently and in a more hostile or unpleasant way.  This self-criticism can easily fall into producing feelings of shame and self- hatred, and a lot of the time this becomes prolonged and unwarranted. It is important that we take active steps towards gaining perspective on our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and allow ourselves some well-deserved understanding and kindness.

Combatting Shame and Self-Criticism

Luckily, effective therapies for the treatment of shame and self-criticism do exist. For example, we provide tailored therapy in London, as well therapy in Edinburgh. Balanced Minds focussed on providing Compassion Focussed Therapy, or CFT, and aim to promote self-compassion, mental well-being, and happiness. We also have a variety of books, audio, and videos available that can help, as well as evidence based courses that reduce shame and self-criticism.

If you are interested in CFT from our therapy centres in Edinburgh or London, please contact us today.

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