Individual counselling

Counselling to reduce shame

Counselling to reduce shame

Group Counselling

Do you feel like hiding when you feel shame coming to the surface? Do you feel embarrassed by your behaviour due to other people’s reactions? It can feel exhausting and disappointing when we are not accepted by those closest to us, like our family. Family members may judge or criticise you for living a life that does not align with your values. This doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong; it may mean that your values differ from your family members. We can work together in counselling to reduce the shame you feel each time you feel judged or criticised by a family member.

How does your shame come to the surface?

Shame can manifest on the surface for people in various forms. You may feel your shame come to the surface when you least expect it, and you may panic. You may want to run and hide. Perhaps you feel like you have no control when your shame washes over you. You may become quiet, lower your gaze, and withdraw into yourself. You may feel irritated and easily annoyed with those around you. In these moments, you may not be aware that you feel shame, embarrassed, or uncomfortable. You may have normalised and accepted this discomfort, but you don’t have to.

What does someone who struggles with shame look like?

Someone who struggles with shame looks like you and me. It may be difficult to determine if someone struggles with shame based on their external or physical appearance. Someone may deliver great presentations at work but feel shame inside due to comments made by their parents or in-laws. They may feel like they have disappointed those closest to them and, as a result, work hard not to disappoint anyone at work. Someone else may feel some shame due to their living arrangements and consequently may not invite any friends over. Others may feel more comfortable in their own company as they fear and worry about others judging or criticising them. This may add to their discomfort and confirm their negative belief that they are not good enough.

What are some struggles you may experience if you feel shame?

You may have grown up in a family where your parents and extended family members expected you to get married at a certain age. In certain cultures, for example, within some South Asian committees, women are expected to get married and have children. This may be difficult if you are not keen to get married or don’t wish to have children. While your immediate family may have accepted this, extended family members or other community members may question why you are not married yet. So, each time there is a social gathering, a wedding, or a birthday, you feel a sense of dread and may decide that it is easier to avoid these gatherings than to have to answer questions from other people. Your friends encourage you to attend but most are engaged or married and can’t relate to how you feel.

You may have agreed to marry the man you were dating and then engaged to; however, you called the wedding off a few months before your wedding day. You may belong to a South Asian committee, and your parents may have invited around a thousand people. The invites were sent out, and the food, flowers, and venue were all booked. You cancel all the arrangements and start receiving phone calls from extended family members and community members. Initially, these phone calls are check-ins, but people ask why you called the wedding off. After a while, it becomes exhausting, and you start to avoid people’s phone calls. Your parents are worried about what other people will say, and they avoid conversing with people in the community. Your parents feel embarrassed by your actions, and you feel guilty for putting them through this.

You may have moved overseas for work, travel, or love. You may enjoy building your new life in a city away from your hometown but feel guilty. You feel guilty about being away from your family and, more so, unable to help your parents. Your parents are retired and are not getting any younger. While their health is generally good, you worry about something happening to them and being too far away to help them. You do your best to visit them once a year, but you don’t think that’s enough time. Your siblings don’t make you feel bad, but acknowledge that when the time comes, they will be the ones who look after your parents. Your parents also don’t expect you to move back and understand that you have built a life for yourself in a different country. This doesn’t eliminate the guilt and shame you feel from not being closer to your parents.

You may feel guilty for wanting to live your life on terms different from those of your parents or culture. You may belong to a culture, for example, which may frown upon women getting separated and divorced from their partners. You were married, but your relationship ended, and while it wasn’t abusive, it wasn’t healthy. However, your decision to divorce your husband may not be accepted by your parents or other extended family members. This may leave you questioning whether or not you did something wrong. Divorcing your husband was the right decision for you, but due to other people’s reactions, you may worry that you did something wrong. Another struggle may be around your sexual identity and not sharing this due to fear of others not accepting you. Perhaps you were raised in a family where belonging to a different sexual identity was not acceptable, and as a result, you may hide who you are.

Group Counselling Service

What are some possible explanations for why you feel shame?

You may not feel like you belong with your family due to being different. For example, perhaps you were raised in a culture where education was prioritised but did not attend post-secondary school. In some communities like South Asian communities, parents encourage their children to do well at school and gain a good education with the hope that they will secure a good job. However, you may have dropped out or did not wish to attend post-secondary school, which your parents disapproved of. You may be labelled as not being good enough and a disappointment. You may not wish to follow social norms and may not be keen to get married, buy a house, and have kids. Instead, you may wish to travel or work overseas; however, your family may not support this idea. They may call you selfish and self-centred for wanting to pursue your goals and not considering your decisions’ impact on them.

You may feel different from those around you due to your physical appearance, race, religion, sexual identity, gender, or cultural background. For example, perhaps you were not good at sports, so you were picked last for team sports. Or maybe when you were in high school, you were the visible minority, leaving you feeling like an outsider. Perhaps where you work, you are one of the few women of colour who don’t feel heard or respected like your co-workers. Amongst family members and people in your culture, your sexual identity may not be accepted; thus, you are fearful of sharing this with them.

How can counselling help reduce your shame?

You may have internalised certain thoughts and beliefs from your parents, extended family members, or culture. For example, you were raised to believe you must be married to be happy or have children at a certain age. These thoughts may not align with your values. Thus, you may find yourself torn between wanting to live your life based on your thoughts and values while also trying to adhere to values that align with your parents or extended family members. This may be exhausting and draining. You may commit to living your life based on your values, making you feel guilty and ashamed. In counseling, we process this shame and explore this internal conflict regarding how you wish to live your life.  We also identify what you need and want that may help you navigate your thoughts.

When your shame appears on the surface, you may wish to hide or avoid interacting with people. We can overcome shame by meeting people and seeking connections instead of hiding. Your parents, for example, may not support your decision to seek a divorce, but other people, like friends or co-workers, maybe more supportive and accepting. You may struggle to accept yourself due to the shame you experience, and we would explore this in counselling. How you view yourself may be connected to trying to meet other people’s needs and expectations, which may differ from yours. We can work on who you would like to be and how you would like to live your life rather than how you should.  You may feel like you are different or perhaps that you have done something wrong, but you have not done anything wrong.

As your shame comes to the surface, you may find that your harsh, negative, and critical self-talk also appears. This voice may add to your shame by confirming that you should hide or avoid social gatherings. This voice deems you the problem, even though this is not true. Your self-talk may be a voice belonging to your parents, extended family members, or community members that you internalised. You may have heard certain comments or opinions you may not agree with; however, you now find yourself saying these comments and agreeing with them.  Your critical or harsh self-talk may overpower the other voice in your head. As your counsellor, we work together to shift this negative self-talk and identify potential barriers that may weigh heavy on you. For example, you may not wish to disrespect your culture or turn your back on loved ones. This is understandable, and our work together will honour your wishes.

I offer individual in-person counselling sessions to women and youth and online counselling sessions. My in-person sessions are in Burnaby, and my online sessions are over Jane. 

Individual counselling session $140 for 50 minutes

Call 604-997-4757 and speak to me to learn more or schedule an appointment.

If you are experiencing shame and would like support, please contact me.

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If you are struggling with shame, please get in touch with me