How to Find Freedom From the Shame Spiral

In this podcast (episode #384) and blog, I talk about several helpful ways to get out of a shame spiral. 

In our society today, it can be hard to feel any degree of self-worth. We are bombarded with the shame of not living up to our own expectations, or the expectations of others. We cannot live up to the photoshopped and retouched images that seem to tell us that to be happy, we must look, dress or act in a certain way, or get straight As and go to an Ivy League university. We are not able to compete with celebrities and influencers—we are just one social media ‘like’ in a sea of admirers, wishing to be someone or do something. 

It is easy to give in to these voices, listen to them and allow them to take root inside our heads. It is easy to fall into a “shame spiral,” feeling like you will never be able to live up to what society deems as worthy. 

How can we escape this spiral? How can we quit the system and be happy being who we really are at our core? How can we learn to be comfortable with who we are and where we are in life?

  1. Stop comparing your life with others. Although this can be hard, comparison is one of the surest ways to find yourself in a “shame spiral.” It is so important to remember that no two individuals are alike; we all think, feel and choose in different ways. In fact, the law of the brain is diversity—you really can’t be anyone else but yourself. So don’t spend your time trying to be like Albert Einstein, or even Kylie Jenner. You will make a lousy someone else, but a perfect you. When you find yourself comparing your life to others, stop those thoughts in their tracks, and think about what you love to do and what you have to be proud of in your life. Perhaps write your thoughts down in a journal, and remind yourself of them when you are feeling down.
  1. Surround yourself with people that love you. When you feel worthless, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Text or call a loved one, or go for coffee with a friend or family member. Be open and honest about how you feel. Having someone listen and love you is incredibly therapeutic and can help you gain some perspective, allowing you to see how much you have to be happy about, while isolation is incredibly damaging to your mental and physical health
  1. Don’t let thoughts just wander through your mind! Marinating on a toxic thought is one of the biggest predictors of mental ill-health, because whatever you think about the most will grow, affecting what you think, say and do. It is important to remember that thoughts change the structure of our brains, which, in turn, affects how we live our lives. Practice thinking about your thinking, perhaps writing down your thoughts and thinking how you can replace (reconceptualize) a negative thought about yourself with a positive one. For example, if you feel like you are not pretty enough to be loved, write that thought down, and then write down the thought you want to replace this negative opinion about yourself with—perhaps replace this thought with “I have beautiful eyes” or “I really have amazing hair, even my hairdresser said so!”. Do this over three weeks, as it takes a minimum of 21 days to start rewiring a negative thought pattern and replacing it with a more positive mindset. 

For more on exiting the shame spiral, listen to my podcast (episode #384). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).    

You can now also join me on Patreon for exclusive, ad-free content! Sign up for a membership level that suits you, and receive access to ad-free exclusive bonus podcasts. These episodes will include more targeted, step-by-step guides for specific mental health issues AND some fun, more personal podcasts about topics like my favorite skincare products and favorite books, as well as live Q&As, fan polls and requests, and exclusive digital downloads!  

This podcast is sponsored by:

BetterHelp. One of my resolutions for 2022 is to treat myself like I would my best friend, and one way I am doing this is to spend more time doing the things that make bring me joy, such as walking my two puppies or reading novels in the bath. Therapy is another great way we take care of ourselves. Indeed, you don’t have to be in a crisis mode to benefit from therapy. Therapy can provide preventative and protective strategies, so that when things do get tough, you will know what to do—it is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. And, this month, BetterHelp online therapy wants to remind you that you matter just as much as everyone else does, and therapy is a great way to make sure you show up for yourself! BetterHelp is online therapy that offers video, phone and even live chat sessions with your therapist, so you don’t have to see anyone on camera if you don’t want to. It’s much more affordable than in-person therapy and you can be matched with a therapist in under 48 hours. Visit betterhelp.com/drleaf, and join the over 1,000,000 people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional. In fact, so many people have been using BetterHELP that they are recruiting additional counselors in all 50 states! I am proud to say that this podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp, and Cleaning Up the Mental Mess listeners get 10% off their first month at betterhelp.com/drleaf.  

InsideTracker. People age at different speeds—and the date on your license may not represent your inner biological age at all. If you’re looking for ways to extend your healthspan, improve your mental health and slow down the aging process, many of the keys to health and longevity run in your blood. That’s why InsideTracker provides you with a personalized plan to boost your metabolism, reduce stress, improve sleep, and optimize your mental and physical health for the long haul. Created by leading scientists in aging, genetics, and biometrics, InsideTracker analyzes your blood, DNA, and fitness tracking data to identify where you’re optimized—and where you’re not. For a limited time, get 20% off the entire InsideTracker store. Just go to insidetracker.com/drleaf

NOOM. We are all in different places in our lives, and on our health journeys. Many of us are faced with difficult decisions every day—what to eat, when to work out and how to live our best lives. We want to make the best choices for our brain and body health, but it isn’t always easy. Indeed, what health looks like for you may be completely different to what it looks like for someone else—there is no one size fits all. This is why I love Noom’s different approach to health and eating. The program is driven by a singular mission: to help as many people as possible live healthier and happier lives through behavior change. They use the latest in proven behavioral science to empower people to take control of their health for good. And, through a combination of psychology, technology, and human coaching, Noom has helped millions of users meet their personal wellness goals. Start building better habits for healthier, long-term results. Sign up for your trial at noom.com/DRLEAF.

Podcast Highlights

1:25 How low self-esteem & shame are connected

1:40 What shame is  

2:15 The difference between shame & guilt

3:30, 9:05 The shame spiral

6:20 Shame & the mind-brain connection

9:30 How easy it is to feel shame

12:25, 18:27, 28:00 How to exit the shame spiral

24:15 Don’t let negative thoughts just wander through your mind!

26:00 How to “edit” your shame thoughts

This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional. 

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