303: Moving Beyond Shame: 5 Ways to Forgive Yourself & Cultivate Self-Compassion | Rima Danielle Jomaa | Mental Clarity

303: Moving Beyond Shame: 5 Ways to Forgive Yourself & Cultivate Self-Compassion

Hosted by Rima Danielle Jomaa

Shame is one of the most debilitating emotions we can experience. Rima, a licensed psychotherapist, takes a look at what shame really is, what causes it, and how we can move past it. On this episode, we explore: how shame differs from guilt, why shame is destructive, what shame feels like in the body, what shame leads to if not dealt with, Rima’s past experiences with shame & guilt and how she’s moved past them with therapy, and five ways to deal with shame, forgive yourself and cultivate self-compassion.

What you'll hear on this episode...

FIND OUT: What is shame? Minute 5 - 11

  • Shame is one debilitating emotion.
  • From Google: “A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
  • Shame feels horrible in the body. For be it felt heavy… blinding… like hot lava that starts to take over the whole body until you’re engulfed and you can’t reason properly.
  • Gershen Kaufman says, "Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame the self feels wounded from within."
  • Sometimes we feel like just because we feel shame, that must mean we had done something shameful, and that our whole self is shameful. When we talk about shame, we’re not actually talking about anyone DOING anything wrong. We’re talking about the FEELING and the thoughts go along with that feeling… feeling wrong, defective, inadequate, or not good enough.

    Shame can be:  Minute 11 - 12
  • Something pervasive that we grew up with.. Stories we heard repeatedly during childhood
  • Can be caused by abuse or neglect (feelings of inadequacy because we weren’t taken care of properly)
  • Because of how you behaved or treated someone else, or how you let someone treat you (if we don’t have strong boundaries, that can cause shame)
  • Can be caused in the past or can be caused recurrently in the here-and-now

    Shame can be caused by: Minute 12 - 14
  • Basic expectations or hopes hard to achieve or not realized - expectations of a man being a provider and not fitting that image.
  • Disappointment or perceived failure in relationships or work - like not feeling good enough, or like you let someone down (like a parent or a partner).
  • An event that causes rejection, causes the bond to weaken, or creates a lack of interest from the other in any relationship - your mother didn’t come to your sports games growing up because she wanted you to be a lady and not an athlete.

    How does it differ from guilt? Minute 14 - 16
  • Shame and guilt can feel very similar. With both, we feel bad about ourselves. However, guilt can be understood as feeling disappointed in oneself for violating an internal value or code of ethics. In this sense, feeling guilty can be a positive thing: it paves the way towards positive behavior change. With shame, though, one can also feel a disappointment in oneself, even though a value has not been violated. It simply paves the way towards pain or self-judgement.
  • As Gershen Kaufman explained in Shame: The Power of Caring, “The meaning of the two experiences is as different as feeling inadequate is from feeling immoral.” It’s a lack of separation from oneself.

    Why is shame dangerous? Minute 16 - 19
  • For some, shame might feel comfortable, something they’ve grown up feeling. It’s definitely more common in some cultures than others. In some cultures it’s more discreet and some it’s outward.
  • Certain memories can spark shame as we are reminded of behaviors or situation that we aren’t proud of. Shame is not useful, though, as it serves to shut us down, to isolate and to keep our hearts closed off from others our own healing. It creates a shield around our heart.
  • Additionally, Shame is incredibly unhealthy for a myriad of reasons. It causes lowered self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, and leads to negative behavior that reinforces that those feelings.
  • Shame leads to
    • Continuing to repeat the cycle of abuse through either victim behavior or abusive behavior

    • Acting out against law/society;

    • Anger & rage;

    • The belief that you do not deserve good things;

    • Perfectionism;

    • Self-sabotaging behavior (starting fights with loved ones, sabotaging jobs);

    • Self-destructive behaviors/addictions with food, alcohol, drugs;

    • Self-neglect;

    • Self-criticism and self-blame; 

Rima's personal story with shame and guilt. Minute 19 - 33

  • Growing up Lebanese/Muslim, I felt ashamed for being a woman... for having breasts.. for being born the way I was.
  • Experienced a mother who had a lot of fear, guilt and shame of her own. She was married young and passed down a lot of her conditioning and messaging.
  • Went through therapy to understand that those patterns of thinking and believing were not mine to begin with and I had a choice of whether or not I wanted to continue to live under their power.
  • As women, we have built-in shame from society for being beautiful, sexual beings, for having breasts, or whatever it is.
  • I realized that there is nothing inherently wrong with me and that I was born this way for a reason. I slowly was able to detach my sense of self worth and ability to be loved from how others viewed me or how they wanted me to behave in my life.
  • I decided to live my own story and not my mom’s story.
  • I took back my own power and decided that my life is mine to do what I want with it. And that it was other people’s choice if they decided to live with shame and guilt but that I didn’t have to make that same choice.

So what can we do about shame? Minute 33 - 37

  • Self-forgiveness and compassion
  • Compassion works as an antidote to shame. When we work to feel compassion towards our self, it neutralizes the poison of shame and removes the toxins created by shame. Self-forgiveness is an important aspect of self-compassion. It acts to soothe our body, mind and soul of the pain caused by shame and facilitates the overall healing process
  • Self-forgiveness is the most powerful tool that we have to get rid of debilitating shame. It’s essential, actually!
  • The more you heal your shame, the more clarity you will have of the good and the bad. You will be able to recognize and admit how you have harmed yourself and others. Because of this, your relationships with others will grow and deepen. More importantly, your relationship with yourself will improve.
  • Self forgiveness isn’t about letting yourself off the hook for past injustices. Rather it’s about recognizing the root causes of your behaviors, identifying how you’ve harmed others and yourself, and then working towards eradicating those behaviors and ways of being so you can move forward with your life. Otherwise, the pain continues to act as fuel to the flame of your anger and is a pathway to creating more shameful situations in the future.
  • Joy, ease and lightness are our birthright, not anger, shame or pain.

5 Ways to How to Forgive Yourself & Cultivate Self-Compassion

  1. Use your Breath Minute 37 - 42
    Start to bring awareness to your experience and acknowledge your feelings. Breathe these feelings into your heart, allow your breath to slowly open it up as wide as possible. And then from this place, with our breath, we can send ourselves forgiveness.

    Using your breath as a metaphor, let it go. Breathe out what doesn't serve you and start anew.

    Now repeat over and over, silently inside, “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I love you,” for a minute or two as you continue to breathe. Then sit back and see how that felt inside of your body.

  2. Seek to Understand Why Minute 42- 44
    As I talked about, I went through therapy to be able to understand my situation and experience different and to have a fresh perspective on the stories and messages I received as a child. Your own experiences of abuse and/or neglect may be cause for your shame, or other poor parenting skills that you suffered as a child. We were all children at once that were subject to parents we didn’t choose and were doing their best (perhaps perpetuating their own abuse). Self-knowledge and understanding human behavior can go a long way towards forgiving yourself and others for pain that we inflict on ourselves and those around us.

  3. Humans are not all-good or all-bad Minute 44 - 46
    We are all part of the collective unconscious and we all have the choice to act in light or in darkness. And in truth, we have all harmed others. There’s not a single person that hasn’t harmed someone else and once we acknowledge this, we know that we are not alone in our pain or in the pain we have inflicted on others.

  4. Asking Forgiveness From Others Minute 46 - 48
    Oftentimes, when we act from a place of shame, we inflict pain on those around us. In order to heal fully, we must make ourselves aware of the ways we hurt others (to admit it to ourselves) and then to ask their forgiveness. This is no easy task and I recommend getting support as you go through this process from a therapist or loved one. Whether the person forgives you or not is not relevant. Of course, it’s nice when they do, but that’s their choice if and when they decide to do so. All that’s important is that you do the work on your side and encourage them to be honest and expressive with you, while not further shaming or criticizing you.

  5. Gratitude for the Universe Minute 48 - 53
    Finally, the last step in forgiving yourself is finding gratitude for all that you have, for all that is. A gratitude practice might include prayer or asking forgiveness from source or from a higher power, depending on your beliefs.

    Every morning I start the day by singing good morning to the various elements of nature and then I spend 5 minutes or so in deep gratitude for every small thing. Some things that I pray for are having fresh, organic foods, clean water, a warm bed to sleep in, having transportation, having a healthy relationship, having a body that’s healthy and capable.. And on and on. You can spend hours in gratitude if you so desire.


    From there, you will learn to transform this gratitude into joy, a new perspective, and to the ultimate feelings of love and self-forgiveness.


Resources Mentioned



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Rima Danielle Jomaa

Rima Danielle Jomaa is from Los Angeles, and now lives and works in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica where she manages a hotel, restaurant, and yoga program full-time. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT# 82229) and has an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. She is a certified yoga instructor, and received her certification from Alexandria Crow and Heather Seiniger from YogaWorks in Pacific Palisades, California. While in private practice, Rima practices Reiki energy healing, utilizes hypnotherapy, and guides others through mindfulness and meditation. Rima gives clients the tools and skills to reclaim their health, happiness, and freedom.

Rima lives her life as an example for her clients and students. She is interviewed regularly in the mediaon a variety of topics. Please contact Rima regarding modeling or writing for your brand, or to collaborate on retreats, workshops, marketing, and other opportunities.