Trust podcast

Understanding Shame

Shame can affect our relationships and the way we feel about ourselves – and yet we feel it for a whole range of reasons. Here are some expert ways to combat shame.

Before Baby Podcast - Shame

Shame can affect our relationships and the way we feel about ourselves – and yet we feel it for a whole range of reasons. Here are some expert ways to combat shame.

Having a baby is rarely straightforward, and it’s easy to feel let down if ‘the most natural thing in the world’ simply isn’t happening as naturally or quickly as you might like. Especially for high-performing people. You may experience a range of emotions from thoughts that you haven’t yet achieved your dream of parenthood. And shame may be an unfounded experience airing from your negative perceptions. Psychotherapist, social worker and fertility counsellor Judith Krause says shame is a sense of not feeling worthy as a person, it’s about how you feel within yourself.

Here are some ways to dial down the shame factor.

  • Limit perfectionism. Sometimes when people feel shame they may find themselves moving into what Krause calls the three Ps: pleasing, performing or perfecting behaviours. This means trying to please other people, doing extra work to prove our worth or trying to control our actions to be perfect. Perfection is an unattainable ideal.
  • Set realistic expectations. This especially applies to having a baby. “Remember that an expectation is potential resentment waiting to happen, so make sure that your expectations are realistic,” says Krause. “And don’t be afraid to discuss any concerns with your medical team.”
  • Practise self-compassion. “Speak kindly to yourself and don’t give yourself a hard time because you didn’t do something that your perfectionism said needed to be of a certain standard”. We’ll explore self-compassion more in next week’s issue.
  • Share your feelings with a trusted friend. “Shame festers in secrecy, but it can’t survive empathy,” Krause says. “Shame can’t survive with words wrapped around it. Sharing our difficult moments with the people who’ve earned the right to hear our story, can help to reduce uncomfortable emotions.”