The Masks We Wear....Shame

As Teri discussed yesterday, some people wear masks when they are around certain people to hide emotions. Perhaps you don't want anyone to know how you feel or what is going on in your life, so you put various masks on....again, emotional masks. Today, we're going to discuss the mask of Shame. What is Shame?

Shame is toxic guilt. Shame is the feeling that you are bad, or that you've done something wrong, when you've really not done anything at all. Shame is a critical voice inside of your head that compares you to others; makes you believe you have to do things perfect; and if something goes wrong, somehow it must have been your fault. Shame makes us want to be defensive and hide....because Shame says "if you're not perfect, (or come across that way to other people) no one will want to be around you or they will reject you in some way". Shame tells a lot of lies.

How does Shame affect areas of life?

When you're wearing this mask of Shame, you don't want people to know who you really are, because you're convinced people wouldn't accept the real you. You believe everyone else has it all figured out, and you're the only one still trying to piece the world together. In relationships, it's hard to hear constructive criticism. Instead of responding with, "thanks for telling me that, I'll work on it", you respond with defensiveness, "That wasn't my intention!" (Remember, you aren't allowed to make mistakes with Shame).

At work, this mask would make it hard to be a team-player at times. A person with Shame has a hard time taking responsibility for the mistakes that they make or on the other end of the spectrum be over apologetic for the mistakes they do make. At the same time, someone who is wearing this mask has very high standards for themselves and for those around them. If they work through their lunch, they expect others to do the same.

With friends, the mask of Shame has you come across as if everything in your life is perfect and going great.....even if you're hanging by a thread. Because you think their life seems so well put-together, you're afraid of what they'll think if they knew of how much you're struggling. This mask keeps you isolated, depressed and wondering if it's "just me?".

The reality of the situation is that most people can relate to universal feelings and if you were to share, you might find comfort and healing.

What Will Help?

We all have basic needs. Someone who wears the mask of Shame is trying to meet the basic needs of safety, self-worth, love & belonging. Isn't that what we all want? Some of you may believe you have these needs already, but for others, it may feel it's out of grasp. Shame gets in the way of BELIEVING these things are achievable. Sometimes these things do exist in a person's life, it's just that Shame blinds someone from being able to see it. The key is to tell Shame to "be quiet" and to get an understanding of why we wear this mask in the first place. It could be from an incident that happened in our life to the way we were raised.

This is just one of the many "masks" we'll be discussing this week! Please check back in as we tackle many more masks we hide behind. Thank you for reading!


Written by: Tamara Portee MA, LMHC, LCAC

*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling  at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.