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Expat life. London

Island life. Waiheke

2 In thinking out loud

4 ways to avoid feeling shame + 7 ways to deal with it


There’s a scene in game of thrones where Cersei is stripped naked and forced to walk the streets, whilst Septa Unella rings a bell and intones the word shame, repeatedly. And I felt it. Not the feeling of physical nakedness, but other ways that that I can be stripped bare. That word, shame, with every step that Cersei took and every intonation from Septa Unella, reverberated in my cells.

And, there have been a couple of bouts of shame that I have felt during the last week or so…

  1. the morning after the night I had one more glass of wine than I needed and I woke up feeling fuzzy and incompetent
  2. the afternoon that I left work feeling ashamed because I didn’t understand how something worked, and I was telling myself that I should. And I carried it with me, all through the night and into the next day
  3. the morning when I reacted from a place of shame because I felt I ought to know the thing and I didn’t. And I felt like I had failed. 

So what do I do about shame when I’m feeling it?

Remind yourself that the people who got you here are incredibly competent and they did not make a mistake.
– The Muse

These are the things I’ve tried, historically, that I don’t anymore because they really don’t help

  1. Let it stop me. Get so overwhelmed by it that it feels like I’m drowning and unable to find a way out. Get so stuck that it takes days to surface
  2. Drink more wine. This just makes the shame greater – specially the next day when there’s a hangover to deal with as well
  3. Avoid feeling it. Stuff it down. Refuse to acknowlege it exists. Do that until I don’t want to feel anything anymore
  4. Spend a lot of time in my pyjamas. Feel shame about that too

And what is useful for helping me when I am feeling shame?

  1. Allowing myself to really feel it. Without wallowing in it. Shining a light on all of the edges and getting curious about what is causing it
  2. Asking myself whether or not what I’m feeling is actually real, or simply an old story that I’ve got on repeat
  3. do The Work
  4. Sit down. Get quiet. Connect with the earth. Then slowly work my way up and down through the energy points in my body until I get back to the place where wisdom leads the way, instead of shame, or fear
  5. Talk about it with someone I trust. Be vulnerable. Stay open and listen, really listen, to what is offered
  6. Make a list of ways I can be kind to myself. Pick one and do it
  7. Get up. Try again. Repeat all the things that have worked for me in the past. Every time this happens, it lasts a little less time and I learn a little more

I find it interesting, too, that this feeling is coming up as I read through Brené Brown’s most recent book Rising Strong. It’s somehow like I’ve given myself permission to feel it and be in it, and find ways to work through it a little more.

So next time shame appears (because I would be kidding myself if I thought that it wouldn’t), I can deal with it more lovingly. 

In nz/ travel



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