The Connection Between Women and Shame
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There is a direct correlation between women and shame. Anyone who has worked in the recovery field can tell you that shame is particularly strong with women. Is it cultural? Is it self-inflicted? Is it based on how women are wired? Why is the stigma surrounding addiction so much stronger for women than men? 

What exactly is the connection between women and shame?

A Culture of Shame

In many cultures, women are very critical. They are critical of others, and they are critical of themselves. In many cultures, women are heavily criticized by men. Women are told that they are not good enough or cannot do certain things as a way of men maintaining and exercising power over them. All of this criticism leads to shame.

Whether that shame is real or perceived does not seem to matter because ultimately, a woman's harshest critic will be herself. Even if others do not criticize her, she will look at whomever she perceives as the best at something and then tells herself that she cannot compare and is not enough. Whether this notion comes from prevailing external forces or within, our society has contributed to constructing a shame culture.

The Addiction Stigma for Women

Women face other cultural challenges as well. There is a stigma that women should consistently fill the role of nurturer and mother. They are supposed to be quiet caregivers and stay at home. It is okay for men to go out with friends and have a few drinks, but it is not okay for women to do the same. If a man became addicted to substances, it would be frowned upon, but it would be downright scandalous if a woman became addicted.

There is also a double standard for men and women that extends to accessing treatment. Men have challenges in seeking treatment, but women face extra barriers such as finding trauma-informed care, finding care for children or elders they are responsible for while in treatment, dealing with potential pregnancies, and more. Men seeking treatment have a difficult road to recovery, but women often find roadblock after roadblock preventing them from accessing treatment at all.

Women and Self-Esteem

Women are also heavily linked with poor self-esteem. There are several reasons a lack of self-esteem is so common amongst women. First of all, there is the previously referenced criticism and resulting shame. Whether the complaint is real or perceived, the shame impacts a woman's belief in herself.

Another common reason for poor self-esteem is the prevalence of emotional, physical, sexual abuse or other forms of trauma that women face. There is a natural propensity for women to feel that it is their fault or deserve to be treated poorly because they are not worth it. The end result is always the same: women experience shame and poor self-esteem.

Judging and Comparing One Another

Women's trait of being critical is applied liberally to themselves and each other. They are constantly looking at other women for validation or self-condemnation, judging themselves and others as they compare themselves to those. This trait is the ugly stepsister to the beautiful nurturing qualities that many women are also blessed with, and it rarely has a positive side to it. Whether the comparisons are fuel for gossip to shame others or to shame themselves, women genuinely are their harshest critics.

Forgiving Yourself to Heal

Regardless of the source of shame, whether it is from cultural stigma, outward criticism, or inward criticism, forgiving yourself will allow you to heal. Shutting out the voices from the outside world can be hard enough, but your inner voices are the most devastating. Allowing yourself to accept all of the parts of you just as you are, without judgment, is where the healing begins.

Removing the Shame From Your Life

Shame is wasted energy that weighs you down and keeps you from reaching your full potential. Learning to remove it begins with choosing your own beliefs rather than buying into cultural or societal stigmas. When others criticize you, you can listen to find out if it is valid and make changes if necessary. However, if the criticism is not constructive, it is vital to let the words go.

You can also choose to let go of your shame and criticism by choosing to accept yourself as you are, without judgment. Shame has no hold on you if you do not judge it as bad or wrong—if you do not judge yourself as bad or wrong. Learning to remove shame from your life is not easy, but freeing yourself from shame is absolutely worth it.

There is a strong connection between women and shame. Some of it is based on cultural practices and stigmas surrounding women, while much of it stems from self-criticism, guilt, and comparing yourself to others. Forgiving yourself and removing the shame from your life will allow you to heal and reach your full potential as a woman. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women believes that women should let go of shame to recover from their substance abuse. Our residential treatment program is located in Costa Mesa, California, between the soothing mountains and the sunny beaches. Our facility provides a peaceful refuge for you to learn to love yourself again as you heal from your addiction. The Ho Tai Way offers individual and group therapy as well as education about nutrition. We provide trauma-informed care and evidence-based practices so women can have a safe place to find their way again. Call us today at (714) 581-3974.