Plenty of us have faced unimaginable bullies, swallowed the jagged pills of shame, and frozen on the inside from the coldest of cold shoulders. And 10 times out of 10, it’s absolutely no fun.
It’s humiliating, really. In fact, out of all the feelings that work to shape us into who we are, the fear of humiliation still tops the charts. Even Eleanor Roosevelt addressed these unwanted feelings, saying that we don’t have to allow anyone to make us feel inferior.
Yet, it’s so hard to just let things roll off our backs.
And after so many experiences stained with humiliation, you may begin to feel haunted by this kind of negativity. Worse, you may internalize the negativity.
Here’s how to recover from a history of humiliation.
Understand the Poison of Humiliation
Many people mistake humiliation for red-faced embarrassment. While feelings of embarrassment can contribute to the overall heaviness of humiliation, they’re not one and the same.
Embarrassment, in short, is essentially you feeling self-conscious about certain elements of yourself—fashion choices, slow-moving career, personal habits, etc. Usually, embarrassment descends because others are pointing a finger. The entire situation can be cruel and disheartening, to say the least.
Humiliation is more deeply rooted than embarrassment. When you’re humiliated, you feel as though certain aspects of your very being are innately flawed. Others may even try their best to convince you that you should be ashamed of yourself.
Those who’ve ever faced divorce or struggled with an eating disorder, for example, are all easy targets for others to shame and humiliate. And these are just a tiny handful of examples.
Unsurprisingly, when such a personal part of yourself is essentially ripped to shreds, it can cause immense emotional damage—much like a slow-working poison.
Recalibrate Your Internal Compass
To battle the downtrodden and weighty feeling of humiliation, it’s vital to choose freedom. Since we’re talking compasses here, think of it as finding your True North.
This could mean different things to different people. What it all boils down to, though, is to align your actions with your core beliefs. This is as opposed to aligning your beliefs with the opinions of others.
For example, do you feel humiliated that you’re divorced or that you have a troubled relationship with food? Of course, you do (now)…people are telling you that these things are bad.
Yet, try to remember the reason you ultimately chose to divorce your partner. Does that reason align with what you believe? Maybe there was infidelity or abuse involved. Perhaps personal growth had been roadblocked for years, and it was time to move on.
What about the eating disorder you might face? Have you discovered where it originated? It could be that you faced incredible scrutinizing or ridicule as a child, and this is your way to take back the control.
Proudly Choose to Open Up
When you uncover the realities of your situation, there’s a good chance that you truly don’t believe what others say about you or to you.
Furthermore, there’s an even better chance that you are the way you are because it aligns with your internal compass—despite your core values remaining hidden under the shadows of divorce or an eating disorder, for example.
To recover from a history of humiliation, an important step is to open up to a trusted individual. Choose to be vulnerable by talking with someone about those things that you feel ashamed of.
Open up about what it’s like as a divorced person or to live with an eating disorder (back to our two original examples). And further still, talk about the reasons behind your emotions.
Not only will talking with someone help you to stop molding your behavior for others but it will help you to unveil your own beliefs, too. This will undoubtedly align you with your True North—taking the sting out of humiliation for good.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address a history of humiliation that may be impacting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT