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The feeling ‘I AM BAD’

MIND MATTERS BY ANEESA MOIDOO, PSYCHOLOGIST

Shame is a powerful emotion that everyone experiences, yet many of us try to hide it. It is a negative self evaluation- where you ought to believe that you’re a bad person because you didn’t meet certain standards.

At the practice, I see how deeply shame can affect the well-being. It feels like a painful invasion, making you feel unsafe and unworthy. It also challenges your feeling of adequacy and capablity. When shame becomes a constant companion, it can lead to feelings of isolation, anger, depression, and anxiety.

It’s common to confuse shame with guilt. Guilt is when you think, “I did something bad,” which can motivate you to make amends. Shame, on the other hand , makes you feel, “ Iam bad,” leading to a sense of paralysis and inaction.

Guilt is about what you’ve done; shame is about who you are.

Shame shows up in our bodies in noticea ble ways. You might feel your face flush, your eyes drop, your posture slump, or your head lower.

These reactions come from deep with - in our brain’s limbic system, which handles our emotions. When we feel shame, our instinct is to withdraw and hide to avoid feeling exposed or judged.

Internally, shame can be one of the most painful emotions. It can make you hyper-aware of yourself or, conversely, disconnected from your body. You might feel like you want to “crawl out of your own skin.”

Shame focuses intensely on your sense of self, often leading to lowered self-esteem and increased self-criticism.

The impact of shame on mental health can be significant. When it lingers, shame can spiral into depression, creating a cycle where each feeling feeds the other. It can also heighten anxiety, as your body reacts to the perceived threat of judgment from others. However, healing from shame is possible.

One helpful strategy is to recognize and name your feelings. This helps connect your emotional and rational thoughts, making the shame feel less overpowering. Grounding yourself can also be very calming—feeling your feet firmly on the ground, placing a hand on your chest, and taking deep breaths can soothe your body’s stress response. Sharing your feelings of shame with a trusted person can also be incredibly healing.

Talking about your shame can reduce its power, turning a nonverbal experience into something more manageable and less isolating. Shame often makes us want to hide, but true healing comes from allowing yourself to be seen and supported.

If you find yourself struggling with shame, reaching out to a mental health professional can be an important and compassionate step towards healing.

You’re not alone in this, and there is help available to guide you through.

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Daily Tribune)

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ANEESA MOIDOO, PSYCHOLOGIST