Overcoming Shame after Stroke: An Actionable Guide to Self-Love

Overcoming Shame after Stroke: An Actionable Guide to Self-Love

If self-love wasn’t previously on your radar, then shame could be crippling your recovery from stroke without you even realizing it.

See if you can relate to any of these feelings:

  • You have isolated yourself after stroke
  • You constantly feel like others are judging you
  • You have been procrastinating on your recovery

If you can relate to any of these statements, then you may be suffering from shame after stroke.

No one likes being there, and fortunately it’s a place that you can pull yourself out of.

In this article, we will discuss what shame looks like and how to overcome it. You will also find actionable exercises that will help you learn how to love yourself, which is best way to overcome shame.

Identifying Shame After Stroke

Shame can be described as feeling incomplete, not enough, and/or unlovable.

Shame is painful and, what’s worse, often invisible. Because when we feel shameful, we hide. We don’t want others to see us while we’re down because we’re afraid of what they’ll think of us.

We’re afraid of their judgement.

And chances are, if we’re always on guard for judgement from others, we’re probably guilty of judging ourselves, too.

So, instead of beating ourselves up over our shame, we can use it as a sign – a sign that shows us exactly where we can be loving ourselves more.

Self-Image Often Takes a Hit After Stroke

If we loved ourselves before stroke, and stroke took something away from us that we loved (like athleticism, for example), then we may feel lacking. We may not even feel like we can love ourselves again until we get that thing back.

Or, if we didn’t love ourselves before stroke, and stroke took yet another thing away from us, then we really feel lacking. Neither of these situations are desirable, and we’re looking at it all wrong.

We need to do the opposite. We need to insist on love now instead of waiting for something to give it back to us. We can’t wait until we achieve a certain level of success in order to begin our emotional healing.

Success is already hard enough as it is, and when you add the unnecessary burden of self-hatred, it slows everything down. And we want to recover as quickly as we can.

So, for the sake of a speedy recovery from stroke, let’s move into love, shall we?

How to Overcome Shame After Stroke

Self-love starts with loving self-talk, and self-criticism does not fit into that picture.

When we find things to nit-pick and fix about ourselves, we become focused on what we’re doing wrong instead of what we’re doing right. And this only adds to our feeling of not-enough-ness.

In order to love ourselves, we need to shift our focus. We need to learn how to notice everything we’re doing right until we don’t even see our flaws anymore.

This takes practice, and the following exercise can help with that.

1. Exercise #1: List 50 Things You Love About Yourself

Right now, or right after you finish reading this article, write down 50 things you love about yourself.

Try not to judge yourself for how slow or fast you complete the exercise. Instead, focus on how you feel about what you’re writing.

Are you surprised by how much there is to love about yourself?

Are you unable to find 50 things to love?

Try doing this exercise every day for one month. It may feel excessive, narcissistic, and repetitive, but it’s necessary.

By doing this exercise repeatedly, it will train your brain to start finding things to love about yourself instead of finding things to fix.

And that’s how self-love begins.

Forgiving Your Body

One barrier that we must overcome to find self-love is resentment. When we feel like we’ve been wronged by others, resentment can build.

And when we feel like we’ve been wronged by our body, self-resentment can build – and it’s the worst kind of all.

When negative feelings are directed at yourself, it’s a losing battle. The more you hate your situation and your body for putting you there – the more ammunition you give yourself.

By giving up the ammunition, you give up the never-ending battle – and it’s a relief.

Because if you attempt to force, fight, and shame yourself back into your old life, then, although victorious, you’ll also end up defeated and shamed – right back at square one.

So let’s forgive our body and move a little closer into love.

Exercise #2: Write a Letter to Your Body

A great way to build more self-compassion is to write a compassionate letter to yourself.

Start the letter by stating that you forgive your body for causing your stroke; that you forgive it for not cooperating when you want it to; and you’re thankful for all the hard work it’s doing.

Use words and tone that you would use with a close friend who is recovering from a physical injury.

Be gentle, caring, and compassionate.

Let your body know that you feel betrayed and that you’re also going to work with it instead of against it from here on out.

Embracing Imperfection

Once you forgive your body, you can work towards forgiving your imperfections, too. This can be difficult, and a simple Japanese philosophy can help make it a little easier.

The Japanese philosophy is called “wabi-sabi” and it celebrates beauty in everything – flaws and all. Wabi-sabi suggests that we should lovingly embrace imperfection instead of rejecting it.

On a small scale, wabi-sabi can help you cherish your favorite article of clothing even though it’s faded. On a large scale, wabi-sabi can help you end the need to ‘fix’ yourself and embrace who you are right now – stroke deficits and all.

This isn’t to say that we should give up efforts to improve ourselves. Instead, wabi-sabi can help us find acceptance now without waiting for success.

What would happen if we took our list of things we’d like to fix about ourselves and, instead of resenting it, framed it and put it up on the wall for all to see?

Surely it would make us cringe, but with a wabi-sabi mindset, we can start to develop a little pride.

And slowly we can release our shame.

Exercise #3: Listen to Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a thought leader in the field of embracing imperfection. If you’re looking for more in-depth information, we highly recommend her book The Gifts of Imperfection. (*unaffiliated link)

But if you’re looking for a feel-good boost now, then listen to her TedTalk on the power of vulnerability. It will inspire self-compassion more than anything you’ve ever heard – we guarantee it!

Deepen Your Emotional Healing

If this article resonated with you, then you would love our stroke recovery book called Healing & Happiness After Stroke.

Self-love is the central theme, and it guides you through all the emotional hurdles that can prevent you from achieving the recovery you deserve. Click here to download the first 3 chapters for free.

We hope you enjoy it!