Health and Wellbeing Shame: Scarcity Series

Last article we talked about the scarcity mindset which is the mindset of  worry about not having or being enough. There are three components of the scarcity mentality: shame, comparison and disengagement. This article will be taking a brief look into shame. Now you might think that shame doesn’t effect you because you haven’t been sexual assaulted, but shame is so much more than that. It effects everyone at a very subconscious level. We will be exploring how shame effects our health and wellbeing and ways to overcome it.

Let’s first start by defining what shame is because shame is not a emotion we use very often. In fact, it is felt a lot more than we give it credit. Many times we credit a different emotion, when the root is actually shame. So here’s the definition: “shame is regarded as being a negative emotion that arises when one is seen and judged by others (whether they are present, possible or imagined) to be flawed in some crucial way, or when some part of one’s self is perceived to be inadequate, inappropriate or immoral.” …”shame variants include a wide array of negative self-conscious experiences such as embarrassment, humiliation, chagrin, mortification, feelings of defectiveness or low self-worth.” (Doezal, Lyons p257).

Ok now let’s get out of the defining stage and get to the real life examples. Shame is the feeling of embarrassment when a guy thinks of himself or is thought of by others to be too skinny or small. It is the feeling of low self-worth because you can’t attain a fitness goal. It’s feeling that you are lesser than because you are out of breath. It is the feeling of defectiveness when you lose another race. It is that deep sense of lesser than when you can’t push out that personal record on your one rep max. Shame is felt in the doctors office when you hear about your medical inadequacies or age.

Everyone feels it regardless of your health. It is a painful emotion that is hidden from consciousness. And your body and mind are made to cope with these painful emotions hidden or not. Many coping strategies are: avoidance, numbing behaviors may manifest such as: alcoholism, addiction, and eating disorders. Stress, anxiety, anger and depression are some other emotional manifestations. Any sort of hiding who you are or the facts about your reality is a coping mechanism. (Have you ever told your coach you feel fine, when you really weren’t. Because I have.)

The body is a marvelous thing. It will natural try to cope to the “shame pain” in a emotional context. It also biologically adapts. “An increase in what has been termed ‘social-evaluative threat’, or threats to self-esteem or social status, directly correlate with increased anxiety and heightened biological stress responses. The biological response to stress includes the release into the bloodstream of the individual of various hormonal and chemical mediators including the steroid hormone cortisol and immunologically active substances called pro-inflammatory cytokines (PIC). This response is similar to the ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanism, which is an adaptive response that tells our bodies to flee when we are faced with physical danger. However, chronic or maladaptive elevations of these agents, resulting in immunological or endocrine dysregulation, can be harmful to health.” (Dolezal, Lyons p260) The excess and prolonged release of cortisol can result in weight gain, heart disease, and decreased in immune function. So shame can actually be hindering you from reaching your health goal. Not to mention shame can also affect your recovery as an athlete. “A positive affect appears to induce a reduced inflammatory response…thus promoting faster recovery and leading to overall better health outcomes” (Dolezal, Lyons p261).

That’s a lot of information that I threw at you. But I am done identifying the problem. What is the solution? Here we go…

I wrote a blog recently that gives four steps that I based off of Brene Brown’s Shame Resilience Theory.  Here they are with more helpful tips.

  1. Be aware of shame talk. What are the things that you tie your self worth to? Is it your job or being an athlete? Why? What are your goals and aspirations and why? These questions will help you figure out the subconscious shaming that you are either putting on yourself or that is being placed upon you. If you have a memory of someone making fun of you for being too big or too small, it is safe to say you are feeling shame in this area. You might be hearing shame talk from others or even yourself. It is vital for you to be aware of these shame talks in order for you to go through the process of overcoming the shame. Just remember this requires a level of self awareness that is honestly scary. Don’t be afraid, pray that the Holy Spirit would guide you through this process. He is not afraid of your mess or your thoughts, why should you be?
  2. Know the truth of your identity in Christ and how your desires fit with that. The most important story you tell yourself, is the story you tell yourself about yourself. As a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been given truths about your core identity. For instance we are children of God, accepted, beloved, and so much more.  Know and research what God has said about you. I know it’s hard to internalize these truths but ask the Holy Spirit to help you truly believe these things. Also we have all been crafted and designed with different dreams and desires. All in which we need to use to benefit the body of believers. We are all important. Everyone’s contribution is important. Do not feel lesser than because your dreams or desires or gifts are different. They are needed. (Ephesians 4)
  3. Tell someone about the shame that plagues you. This is not a fun step but it’s an important step. James 5:6 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Healing is important, you are worthy to be healed and made whole. God says so.
  4. Be aware and on the look out for shame to pop up. Unfortunately shame doesn’t completely go away, it is a shape shifter. So constantly being on the look out is important. The Holy Spirit will help you see it, if you ask and listen. Although it takes a lot of courage to ask and listen, it will be worth the freedom and accomplishment to wack the shame mole.

Whether it’s shame that takes form in health or relationship, shame is a painful and silent killer. It is striping each one of us from all that God has made us to be and do. Luckily we have Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection to save us from the true bondage of shame. God doesn’t shame the believer, he lifts us up to accepted and loved children. Be sure that you are not shaming yourself into bondage. Don’t believe the lies that you or others have placed upon you. Believe what God says about you. Be courageous and fight to overcome the constant shame. I will do my best to do the same. It is a pleasure writing to you guys. Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gotham Books, 2012.

Dolezal L, Lyons B Health-related shame: an affective determinant of health? Medical Humanities 2017;43:257-263.

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