Simple Exercises To Stop Being Ashamed, By Albert Ellis

Simple exercises to stop being ashamed, by Albert Ellis

Shame is an emotion that is triggered whenever we think we have broken a social norm. It performs a powerful function of social regulation. For millions of years it has contributed to acceptance in groups and thus to our survival. Shame on yourself is something that is still part of our society, but sometimes manifests itself in inappropriate situations.

There are situations that we might call risky because we know that it is very likely that we will embarrass ourselves. Are we rejected by the social group? Probably not, but we think so. We label this unlikely event as something terrible. Because we believe in advance that we will be rejected, we activate a sense of shame. Then shame leads to actions to protect ourselves from a possible rejection.

There are two ways to end the feeling of dysfunctional shame: we have to convince ourselves through an internal dialogue that we have no indication that our environment will disapprove of us. And even if we did, we don’t need the whole world to accept us either.

The other way is by risking embarrassment and doing it voluntarily. This is what the cognitive psychologist Albert Ellis designed as a series of exercises. The end goal? Unconditional self-acceptance.

Albert Ellis and exercises to stop being ashamed

What Albert Ellis had in mind with these exercises is that the person doing them sees that their value is immutable. Whoever we are, however we act, our value always remains the same. This way of thinking allows us to live much more freely. We live according to what we need and believe, not depending on our environment accepting or not accepting us.

Woman who smiles and has nothing to be ashamed of

The worst that can happen is that we are rejected by others. But let’s think carefully. Has rejection ever killed anyone? What does it mean when certain people don’t accept me as I am? Whose problem is that, mine or theirs?

An exercise that Albert Ellis gives as an example is to walk down the street with a banana as if it were our pet. Talk to it, pet it, put a leash on it like it’s a dog…

Another exercise is to stop someone on the street and tell them that you have just been released from an institution and that you want to know what year it is. You can also choose to sing your favorite song on the street or dress up while it’s not carnival. Whatever you choose, it should be something you could really be ashamed of. The idea is that you learn to tolerate shame and put what is happening in perspective.

You may surprise yourself…

You’re probably thinking ‘I would never do this, people would think I’m crazy’. And maybe you’re right, but the surprising thing is that not many people would do this. We create disasters that don’t really exist the more we think about something.

In other words, we begin to believe that everyone will reject us, that we will never get their approval, it will be terrible, being rejected means we are lower than dirt, and much worse. But when we do Albert Ellis’ exercises, we finally realize that all these fallacies – generalization, dramatization, selective attention – lead us to unrealistic conclusions.

Woman with bananas on head

It is true that some people will look at us strangely and maybe even insult us, but if we really look at those people, we will probably see discontent and sadness on their faces. That is, they already have problems in their lives. It has nothing to do with you. But other people – most of them – will laugh at us. Some will even join our little show and not judge us harshly. We can even make new friends.

Let’s not forget that they are, after all, just people. They also make mistakes and embarrass themselves as well at times. They make mistakes, they fix them, they feel emotions, and so on. If they judge you, it will just be their problem, never yours. As long as you don’t harm anyone, you are free to act as you see fit.

Can you think of a good exercise that will make you no longer ashamed? Do you dare?

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