Today I want to talk about the art of compassion and how shame affects your skin. I had a client come in last night and this happened about a week ago too and I decided this is something that really needs to be talked about.
I had a client last week that came in and she was experiencing more signs of aging, like visual signs of aging on her skin, than she wasn't used to, and she was a little bit upset about that. After doing an analysis and digging into what's going on in her life, we found out that she is experiencing some stress at work. She has a big project that she's working on, and she hasn't been able to drink as much water. That dehydration is what is causing the wrinkles to show a little bit more on her skin.
When I related this information to her, she experienced a little bit of shame around not drinking enough water. This was visible in the way that she responded, she said I haven't been drinking my water as well and hung her head.
And then last night I had one of my clients come in that comes to me for treatment for acne and she was experiencing a flare up. She was a little bit upset about that and she also had a lot of shame around it. She said she has been feeling a little bit low lately and hasn't been doing her typical skin care routine quite as well.
After digging into that, we found that she was in her cycle about a week away from her period, which is the typical time that you experience breakouts that occur hormonally. This time that also can cause a lot of low feelings and low energy.
In both of these cases, there were very good reasons for what was going on in their skin and it had nothing to do with them as a person.
So that's why I want to talk about shame and how shame actually changes your behaviors.
Let me start with the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is the feeling I have done something wrong, or I have done something bad.
Take for example disciplining your children. You can discipline them and then a few hours later think, mmm I probably went a little bit too far on that. And so, you will think I shouldn't have done that. In this case, the feeling of guilt can be productive because we take that and then the next time that we're in the situation talking to our child because they have broken that rule, we can change our behavior.
Guilt induced a behavior change for the better.
Shame, on the other hand, is the feeling that I am wrong, not I did something wrong, but my person is wrong, my person is bad, my person is not good enough.
Shame is not a productive emotion. What happens in this thought process is we think we are bad, we think we are wrong, and since our thoughts dictate our behaviors, our behavior begins to align to that thought.
I think my skin is bad. I think my skin is wrong.
The bottom line of those thoughts is my skin is not worthy.
My skin's not good enough, I'm not good enough, I'm not worthy.
In turn our behaviors will align to that. We'll have mental blocks to doing our regular routine. It's going to be very difficult at the end of the day to wash off your makeup because you're tired and your mind thinks my skin's not worthy of this anyway. It's going to be an immense chore to do it.
It's going to be an immense chore to schedule an appointment to find out what's going on with your skin. It's going to be an immense chore to pay for that appointment. It's going to seem like this money is not worth it because my skin's not worth it. I am not worth it.
This is where shame comes in to block us from nurturing ourselves and our skin. It puts those mental blocks in the way of us making different behavior choices because the behavior of nurturing our skin is not in alignment with what our mind thinks.
My goals are to teach you how to become aware of this cycle and how to get out of it.
Emotions and thoughts that signal shame
1. Exhaustion and overwhelm
Soul deep exhaustion and the inability to make decisions can be emotions caused by shame. In this scenario, we've given up. We can't find the way to make ourselves good enough, so we've hit a freeze mode in our nervous system.
2. I should have done more, I'm not good enough
Picking apart every bit of your day, trying to do 15 things at once, volunteering for just one more school event you know you don't have time for. These are all actions and thoughts that stem from the feeling I'm not good enough. We're doing more to make ourselves feel worthy.
3. Embarrassment and hiding
Blushing at attention, feeling too scared to voice your opinions, and staying away from people that make you feel not enough. These are classic shame behaviors from the flight category.
4. Irritability and perfectionism
This is the fight mode of shame. Frantically trying to get your kids to look and behave perfectly, making sure everything's cleaned, doing all things efficiently at all times, nagging your partner to do more or say things differently. This all stems from the same not good enough shame as all the others, just in an upward and outward motion.
How to get out of the self-depreciating shame cycle
1. Bring it to light.
Do you ever notice how things aren't so scary once the sun comes out or a flashlight gets shone on them? Shame thoughts are the same way. We work so hard to keep them from the public eye, to not let our neighbors know, our partners know, our children.
This allows shame to fester and grow. To really dig its claws into our belly and make itself at home.
But talking about shame is healthy and healing for our being. Even just journaling our thoughts helps us unwind the feelings and reasons behind our feelings, allowing us to see how illogical and mean we can be with ourselves.
2. Follow the path of compassion.
Compassion is the hydrogen bomb for shame, it just blows it right up.
Once we've realized shame is what we're experiencing and brought the actual thoughts out of the deep, dark recesses of our minds it's time to get curious and figure out what that's about.
Let's take my actual clients I've used above as real-life examples.
I'll start with the client with who's experiencing the visual signs of aging. Once we dug in and realized, hey, she's having a difficult time at work, it's causing a lot of stress. Her cortisol levels are going to be higher because of that stress. She's going to become dehydrated a little bit easier because of that. She's also a lot busier, so it's harder for her to drink water.
And once she starts to have compassion for herself there and say, OK, this is the situation I'm in, I'm just reacting to that situation, she can then make different choices because of the awareness level, right?
She can say, OK, I know that I have more stress. I have higher cortisol levels. So, I'm going to make sure that when I do choose to have a beverage, it's not going to be something with caffeine in it because caffeine is a diuretic. I know if I choose caffeine, I'm going to lose more water that way. I'm going to make sure that I'm very careful on my choices of what I'm drinking.
Having that compassion opens the doorway so much faster and easier for her to make behavior changes that align with her thoughts.
Compare thought process #1, I'm bad for not drinking enough water and now I look older. I.e., my person is not doing good things.
And thought process #2, I'm experiencing stress which makes me lose water faster. I.e., a difficult situation is happening to me.
Recognizing the "not good enough" shame thoughts, bringing the situation to light, and having compassion for herself allows her mind to believe she is worthy, which in turn will make it so much easier for her to nurture herself.
Second example, my client who's experiencing the flare up of hormonal acne. We were able to say, I'm about a week out from my cycle. This is a normal, natural part of the menstrual cycle for some women. Hormonal changes cause sebum production changes, which in turn can cause acne flare ups. In addition, hormonal changes can cause cravings for simple carbohydrates, which spike insulin, which causes sebum production changes, which cause acne flare ups.
These changes do not make her unworthy as a person. They do not make her bad.
She downloaded one of those amazing apps that keeps track of your cycle. She can go in and put a notification on her phone that pops up that says, hey, you're about a week out from your period starting and she can know in her head, okay, this is the time that I'm going to start feeling my energy levels lessen. My body is going to naturally crave sugar more.
In advance, she made a plan to go out to the grocery store and grab a whole bunch of nice, sweet fruits like strawberries and whatever sweet fruit that she likes. Then she will have sweet things on hand that aren't that refined sugar that she can just grab and eat to take care of those cravings that her body is going to naturally have.
You see how that compassion makes you feel so much more empowered?
Whereas with the shame, we bottle it up and keep it inside and it just eats away at us, just festering and becoming bigger and badder and meaner.
I have two resources for you on this.
I have the most amazing author, Brene Brown. She is actually a professor here at University of Houston, and she has done a lot of her career studies on shame in women. She has written a bunch of books, but my best recommendation for you is "I Thought It Was Just Me".
That is a really good book on learning to recognize when you're feeling shame and the steps that she has to help break that cycle. Find it here on Amazon.
My second resource is one of my own. I have a workbook, "Reconnecting to Your Self Worth". This has 17 activities for you to do that help you reconnect to yourself and why you're an amazing person. This download is available in my online store here.
I hope that you have a beautiful week and I hope that you show compassion for yourself and for others.
May self-love rain upon you!