How Shame Keeps us in Burnout

“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” “Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough.” Brene Brown


Shame is a powerful tool. It’s used by society to keep us following the rules. To be shamed by your community for stepping out of line is something very powerful. The fear of being ex-communicated is real. Community and connection is what helps heal us. 

Shame keeps you quiet, stewing in your own thoughts, and unable to speak up about what you need. Thoughts that swirl around shame include not feeling seen or heard, feeling unworthy. Feeling like you failed a person or task. That you were unable to achieve what you wanted. In burnout this is often associated with a feeling of not being able to keep up or being unproductive. And when we tie or worth into productivity that is a true recipe for shame.

Shame keeps us in burnout when we do not admit that we need help because it feels shameful. It feels like we are letting others down. A critical step in managing burnout is saying to yourself and others that you need more support, that you are setting boundaries and that you are not willing to continue to live life in the same way. Acknowledging you are burned out allows for control (because now you can do something rather than hide) and connection (with people who can support you best). 

So let’s reframe the shame:

Burnout is common and happens to many people. There are many reasons we burnout, some in our control and some out of our control, so ease up on yourself. 

There is strength in admitting you are burned out. Because it means you are ready to choose something different, as hard as that can be.

Admitting you are burned out means you are moving out of complacency into action.

It’s an act of self compassion to accept and acknowledge where you are, which will save you in the long run.

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