Do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake? Feel horrible when you’ve asserted yourself?
The truth I’ve learned is that I am often a lot harder on myself than I really deserve. In some cases, I might not have made any mistakes, just taken a risk–like speaking up in class–that is outside my normal comfort zone. In other cases, I might believe I have imposed on or hurt someone’s feelings, but end up feeling bad to a degree out of proportion with what actually happened. While shame and guilt are useful for guiding us, when they take control of our lives they tend to impair our ability to live better.
For a long time, the accepted way of counteracting excessive feelings of shame or inadequacy has been self-esteem building affirmations and exercises. Recently, however, research on self-compassion mediation is showing that forgiving ourselves and sending goodwill towards ourselves is actually more effective than self-esteem building. This takes practice, like so many meditative and mindful activities, so I recommend guided audio such as those created by Rick Hanson.
Be brave. Be safe. Be seen.