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Fitting in vs Belonging

This is a theme that comes up often when I work with clients. Shame and “Trying to fit in vs. belonging”

Often loneliness drives poeple to try to fit in with others; fit in means conforming to what others want rather than being your authentic self. Belongingness on the other hand is truly being your authentic self and not trying to please others to get their approval.

When we try to fit in by people pleasing, trying to gain other’s approval and let go of our core values to fit in, shame sets in. We might also try to fit in by oversharing our stories with people who haven’t earned the right to hear our stories. This also leads to shame.When we don’t own our stories we feel awkward sharing them and yet want acceptance in the process. People with whom we share these stories often get confused, scared and overwhelmed when we overshare without having established a trusting relationship with them first. This further intensifies the shame and alienates poeple. It’s a loop you see!

Often when we are faced with shame, we disconnect or alienate from others, turn against others ( hostility) or become people pleasers. None of these strategies to combat shame works.

So in order to deal with shame, here’s what I’ve found usually helps:

1. Acknowledge the shame with compassion and listen to the message in shame.

2. The message in shame is to accept your story, own your past no matter how good or bad it was. A dysfunctional past can bring up shame and even a privileged background can bring up shame.

3. Acknowledge how your body reflects your shame, do you slouch when you’re sitting or walking? Do you slouch in the company of others? All bodily indicators of shame. Trying to appear smaller than you are. So my suggestion is to try walking taller and straighter deliberately. Changing the physiology, changes the mental state

4. Restore your dignity. Accept dignity and integrity as vital parts of you. You’re worthy no matter what you’ve done or been through. If you’ve made a mistake, take responsibility and let go of the guilt and shame. If you haven’t, let go of the imposed shame ( often imposed by culture/society/religion) and restore your dignity.

5. Connect with poeple who are authentic. Don’t try to fit in, find a tribe where you feel like you belong.

6. You have a right to love yourself/others, right to dignity, right to worthiness and right to be your authentic self. One thing I’ve learnt about being authentic is that it doesn’t mean that you have an attitude of, “I don’t care” or that you need to be brutally honest with others, which often shows up as rudeness and lack of respect for other’s perspectives. A kind and graceful honesty is more authentic than being brutal in your honesty. Think about it! ( It’s a topic for another day!)

7. Don’t play small. Let your light shine through.

8. And last but not the least tap on all the above! Lighten the ‘shame load’ and the tension that your body is carrying.


Client cases

Brene Brown’s work

Karla Mclaren’s work

Mind- Reading


Mind reading is a cognitive distortion wherein we negatively interpret others’ facial expressions, behaviours, words etc and believe that they’re thinking negatively of us or looking down on us.

For example, assuming that someone doesn’t like you because they’re scowling. They might be scowling because they’re in pain but you’ve already assumed that they think badly of you.
I often hear people say, I know what he/she thinks of me. Yes, you can have an idea but if you really investigate this belief, you’ll be surprised how often you are wrong.

These strategies work for me, they might work for you too. Give it a try when yo do mind reading next time:

  1. Give the person a benefit of doubt. Think of other reasons for their behaviour.
  2. See how the person behaves the next time you meet them. Is there a change? Take the new behaviour into account.
  3. If you’re close to the person, ask them. Understanding what the person is going through will give you a clue.
  4. Put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine if your behaviour were to be misinterpreted by another person. Wouldn’t you like the person to give you a benefit of doubt or at least a chance to explain?
  5. Take a look at how you feel about yourself. Do you like and accept yourself? The more you’re prone to self dislike, the more the chances are that you’ll read others behaviours as negative towards you. ( Some behaviours are pretty easy to interpret and you’ll know for sure they’re rude or insulting towards you but most facial expressions and behaviours fall in the grey zone. It’s for those grey zone behaviours where mind reading isn’t helpful. )
  6. If you’ve already acted on your assumption and you don’t like how you behaved, simply apologise.

Shame vs Guilt

You’re stupid vs What you did was stupid.

Which one is shaming?

When I was in school, I was really weak in Maths. One day I was called by the teacher to solve a maths sum on the blackboard. She said, “Puja Kanth, you CAN or CAN’T solve this sum?” in a mocking manner. She knew very well that I wasn’t good in maths. She also mocked my surname which is KANTH pronounced as Can’t.

Of course, it was shaming. And I was embarrassed as hell!

I often wonder that had she said, Puja would you like to try out this sum on the board?, how different my emotional response would have been. Her shaming tactics didn’t help me at all in learning maths. It was unproductive and even cruel to me as a child. No wonder I wasn’t good in Maths. I dreaded those classes. It’s only much later that with the help of a good Maths teacher I was able to do well in Maths.

What we tell our kids is important. Do you shame your kids by saying they are a problem or do you point out that their behaviour is a problem? There is a huge difference.

And, what do you tell yourself when you make a mistake? Do you say, I’m stupid, or my behaviour was stupid?

For example. When you forgot to prepare for that meeting, what did you tell yourself? “I’m stupid or what I did was stupid?” It’s important to understand the distinction between shame and guilt. When you feel you’re stupid, you’re experiencing shame. When you feel what you did was stupid, it’s guilt.

True and authentic guilt although a painful feeling, can help us in taking lessons from our mistakes and correcting our behaviour. Shame on the other hand often tells us, we’re wrong/damaged etc, which doesn’t help.

Shaming yourself, kids and others doesn’t work. It does not lead to change.

Shaming kids only leads to toxic patterns in kids where they grow up feeling there is something wrong with them , leading to self isolation and even self destructive behaviours. They might end up thinking, since I’m damaged/wrong/dumb what’s the point in even trying to change anything. Since they’ve already been told they’re are wrong, why would they even try to change?

Similarly, shaming oneself leads to people pleasing, hostilty or  disconnection and isolation to cope with the shame feeling.

Bottom line: Change your self-talk. Change the way you talk to your kids and others. Holding someone accountable for their behavior is different than shaming them.

For more information on this: Listen to this podcast by Brene Brown.

Brené on Shame and Accountability

Feeling Shame vs Being Shamed: The difference is crucial

Shame is healthy and authentic if it helps you follow an internal and external code of ethics and honour in regard to yourself and others. It can help you avoid hurting others in the social space. Regulated shame can help you take messages from your behaviour just like guilt and help you learn. But if you armour up when you feel shame, like Brene Brown says, by people pleasing, going against people or isolating yourself, it doesn’t help. Facing shame, taking messages from it and learning from our biases/prejudices and changing them is helpful. Shame inherently isn’t bad if we know how to release old shaming messages from our past which aren’t healthy and move through authentic shame which has a lot of potential for change.

“Shame will stop you from doing something stupid in your social space if it’s healthy. If it isn’t healthy then it’ll get in your way. “ (Karla Mclaren)

For example, if I have an implicit bias and if someone tells me about it, I might feel shame, which isn’t bad. It helps me look into my bias and work through it. However, instead of moving through my shame , if I armour up and attack others, please them or isolate myself then I’m really getting stuck in the toxic shame cycle.

Now, if I’m shamed for my bias, called names, does it really help me change my bias? Probably not. It only amps up the behaviour more covertly perhaps. Then I feel I’m not good enough and go from there to thinking I’m better than others – both aren’t helpful messages or beliefs. These are flawed conclusions that we reach about ourselves and others.

Brene brown talks about shame being an ineffective social justice tool in her podcast. “Shame begets shame and violence” Shame kills empathy. Empathy is important for social justice. Holding someone accountable is differ than shaming them.

Bottom line: Let’s look at how we experience shame, how we move through shame. Authentic and properly regulated shame can give us important social messages and be a powerful emotion for upholding ethics and honour in society and within ourselves. And let’s also look at how we use shaming as a tactic to change people. Let’s look at the fact that shaming doesn’t lead to change. We need to find better and more healthier ways of bringing awareness and change in society.

Author References:

Brene Brown

Karla Mclaren

Polyvagal Theory

Polyvagal theory in a gist.

I love illustrating concepts and putting them into understandable chunks. Hope this helps.


When we’re threatened our Sympathetic nervous system is active. We go into flight and fight response. It’s the mobilzation stage, the first line of defence against threat. A survival response.

When our life is threatened we might also go into a freeze state which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s a shut down. This is the second line of defence, the last ditch effort when fight or flight isn’t possible.
This is the dorsal vagal branch of the parasympathetic nervous system. This nerve comes around the brain stem and goes into gut and viscera.

The ventral branch ( Ventral Vagus) of the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our social engagement system. When we engage with ourselves, our environment, connect and communicate with others, our ventral vagus nerve is activated. The ventral vagus comes in front of the Brain stem and goes into the chest, heart, throat and face. Healthy attachment with caregivers helps in developing the ventral vagal system.

When there is unresolved trauma, the Fight/flight and/or the freeze response ( dorsal vagus) will drive our system. When we resolve our trauma, then even if we are activated at times, we can easily switch to the rest/digest, repairing part of our nervous system, the ventral vagal branch that helps in connecting and communicating. It helps us feel safe.

You can check out Irene Lyon’s video for more information.


I came across Donna Eden’s book, Energy medicine, around 10 years ago. It was fascinating. I used to do the daily energy routine quite often. Then I kind of forgot about it. Today after hearing Donna in a webinar I was inspired to start the zip up practise.

The practice is to trace the Central meridian which runs from the pubic bone to the chin point. You need to run your open palm ( both hands or one) upwards from the pubic bone to the chin point. Then stop tracing it and move your palm in air above the lip, above your head and then circle down back to the side of you. Breathe while you do this. After 3 times, in the last zip up, stop at chin point and imagine a lock next to your lip and lock it with a key and throw away the key. ( This last part is a new edition)
The chin point is also incorporated in EFT.

In the webinar Donna even says that if you can’t trace the meridian you can simply look up from the pubic bone point to the chin point in the mirror and that works too.

In her words, zip-up will help you.

  1. Feel more confident and positive about yourself and the world.
  2. Think more clearly.
  3. Tap your inner strengths
  4. Protect yourself from negative energies that may be around you.

Reference: Eden, D. 2005. Energy medicine.

Honouring Emotions

Note 1:

Although I’d like to tap daily, some days it’s just not possible. But emotions are emotions and they have a tendency to build up if ignored. So one of my nightly rituals lately has been to simply tap on each acupressure point and acknowledge all the feelings that I felt throughout the day. I acknowledge whatever stood out for me, even if it’s a mildly unsettling feeling. This takes just a few minutes and I feel like I’ve heard my emotions finally, given them a voice, instead of simply brushing them off.

A simple example would be to say, “ I was frustrated in the afternoon when…. and that’s okay/I acknowledge how I felt or still feel.”

Note 2:

Honouring emotions doesn’t mean feeling them all the time or being submerged in them. You can feel emotions in chunks, in small digestible quantities. While honouring and acknowledging emotions is very much needed, you need to decide how much you can process at a given time. Acknowledge then step back and then do the same again and again.

Mind over genes

Genetic Determinism vs Epigenetics

Nature vs nurture will be always be a hot topic of debate. I remember reading about it for the first time in my psychology class in 12th grade. It was a fascinating topic and still is. Much research has taken place in this area. To make it short, Identical twins studies suggest that even though identical twins share the same genetic material, they often don’t share the same diseases or health outcomes.

The stringent concept of genetic determinism states that we are born with a set of genes and we are bound to get the same diseases our parents and grandparents got. Whereas epigenetics drawing from identical twin studies points out how even if we cannot change the genes, we can change the gene expression, meaning the way the gene expresses itself.

Bruce Lipton, in his book, Biology of Belief, says that Darwin’s theory has undermined the role of nurture (environment) and led us to believe that ‘genes control biology’. He further goes on to say that most diesease like diabetes, cancer etc are due to ‘complex interactions amongst multiple genes and environmental factors, and not due to a single gene’ and, ‘the environmental influences including nutrition, stress, and emotions, can modify those genes without changing their basic blueprint’

Which simply means, environment can triumph over hereditary.

Chromosomes carry genetic material and they are covered by proteins like ‘sleeves’. When the genes are covered, their information cannot be read. What you need is an environmental signal to make the protein to change shape , which allows the genes to be read ( p. 38, Lipton, 2005)

So the environment makes a huge difference in whether your genes will be expressed or not. For example, if you believe you have a ‘diabetic gene’, firstly it’s not a single gene, and secondly the environment will determine whether you will become a diabetic or not, whether the diabetic gene will be turned on (expressed) or off (silenced).

Given that stress, emotions, lifestyle can change gene expression, we have a lot in our control. Here’s what you can do with EFT, meditation and other techniques:

Change your negative beliefs about health. Nocebo effect is when negative beliefs about health make you sick. If you believe you will fall sick, most probably you will. Hence it’s important to release health anxiety, change your thoughts patterns and transform limiting health related beliefs.

More in the next newsletter. Subscribe here

Reference: Lipton, B. (2005). Biology of Belief. India, H

5 tips for learning a new skill

7 years back when I started learning Krav maga, a street smart self-defense, I didn’t realize it would be so tough especially since my fitness level was pretty low 🙂 However, more than the craft itself, it was my attitude that made it difficult. My perfectionism was a problem. I was pushing myself a lot and was too hard on my body. Gradually with the help of EFT, I started paying attention to my body’s signals and understanding when it needed a break or rest and when it needed to be gently coaxed, encouraged, or pushed. I was able to find the right way to navigate out of my comfort zone. Too little stress and no change happens, too much stress and we burn out. We need to find that balance ourselves as each one of us is unique and different.

Photo by Snapwire on

Slowly I started enjoying the training and my body was able to adapt and pick up the techniques much faster. Surprisingly I was able to withstand the brutal Kravmaga grading as well. I was also able to deconstruct my limiting beliefs and change them. Here’s an article I wrote on this. (

As I look back, I realize how EFT helped increase my self-awareness. I learnt that I was a perfectionist when it came to acquiring new skills and slowly I was able to change that and be more accepting of myself.

Recently I joined Zumba classes. I’ve always wanted to learn dance and it seemed like the right choice to learn dance and stay fit.


I’ve been to 4 classes so far. I’m often out of sync in the class as I suck at dance though I enjoy it thoroughly. Thankfully, the perfectionism I experienced in my Krav Maga classes was absent. Then it struck me that the tapping I did for my krav maga classes had brought about lasting changes. I didn’t have to tap at all this time on perfectionism despite the fact that I’m a non dancer and this is as difficult a skill to learn as Krav Maga had been for me 🙂 This a clear case of generalization in EFT. When you tap on an issue thoroughly, the results often generalize to other similar stuff.

I’m sure that some new aspects may come up and I’m all set to tap on them!

So here are the 5 things that can make it easy for you to learn a new skill.

1. Increase tolerance for your mistakes. Fumble, fall, be out of sync, be out of tune – just practice and be tolerant of your mistake because they will happen. That’s how we learn.

2. Decrease worry about what others think – Tap on decreasing your worry and fear of judgement. Stop paying so much attention to the body language of others and guessing what they’re thinking. Making assumptions and guessing drain your energy.

3. Increase self compassion. Be more kind to yourself. Be more accepting and forgiving.

4. Honour and Appreciate the effort you’re putting in. We’re habituated to look at our mistakes rather than the effort that we put in. Tap on appreciating your efforts.

5. Persist and tap on persisting.

Take a Stress Pause s-t-o-p

Adapted from Donald Altman’s book, ” The Mindfulness Toolbox”

Here’s a simple way to use mindfulness to take a stress pause in your hectic and busy day.
This STOP exercise helps you in becoming more present, aware, grounded, and helps you respond rather than react to situations. I’ve added Tapping to it. The EFT instructions will be in brackets; you can use them if you want or just do the mindfulness technique. Either way it is effective,

S -Stand: Stand in one place and take a couple of deep calming breaths. Breathe from your belly. [Tap on each point and take a deep breath while standing]

T- Tune: Tune into your body. Feel yourself connected to the earth and rooted like a tree. Feel your feet growing roots that run deep into the earth. Scan your body starting  from the toes to the top of your head and keep breathing. If a body part feels tensed, just contract it and then relax it. [Tap and breathe]

O – Observe: Now observe your external environment. Make note of three sounds and objects in your environment. Observe the quality of the sounds, the texture and quality of the objects that you observe.  [While observing, you can also tap and verbally say what you’ve observed, for example – I’m observing/am aware of the sound of the fan]

P- Possibility: Donald Altman says, “Pause to reflect on the openness, spaciousness and possibilities that lie before you. You have just gone off auto-pilot and are now free to choose a new and beneficial direction… Who says that right now you couldn’t sing, smile, call a supportive friend, take a nice walk, or get a scoop of your favorite ice cream?” [Tap on new thoughts and ideas]