Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries
Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change
After a major mistake, it’s natural to feel ashamed. But shame is also a powerfully destructive feeling. Left to fester, it can have a profound effect on our psychological well-being. It’s concealed behind guilt; it lurks behind anger; it can be disguised as despair and depression. How can we learn to let it go?Generally speaking, in coping with shame, there are two maladaptive strategies: attacking the self or attacking others. Initially, hostility is directed inward (“I’m worthless,” “I’ve never been any good”). But then in an attempt to feel better, some people will lash out in defensiveness and denial. Others may try to compensate by being exceptionally nice; by pleasing others, they hope to improve their feelings of self-worth.A better approach is to discover the true source of our shame, and then practice self-compassion. Ask yourself: would I talk to a friend the way I’m talking to myself right now? Keeping your feelings of shame in perspective is essential for building resilience and living your most authentic life.