When I finished reading Kristin Maher’s The Awfulizer, I realized that it hasn’t always been easy for me or my friends to overcome shame. Despite all of us being grown-ups. Sometimes, it’s easy to see shame and anxiety in our lives, and sometimes it isn’t. Even for grown-ups.
That’s what Kristin’s book is about. The story shows how to recognize shame. Saying negative things about yourself might mean that you have been visited by the Awfulizer, a shame monster who grows bigger and bigger the more ashamed you feel.
There is a way to stop the Awfulizer, but one of my biggest questions to Kristin was on how you can identify the signs of shame when they are subtle.
Her response was very thoughtful. Kristin pointed out that unlike other emotions, shame doesn’t have its own physical manifestation, and that is why it might be especially hard to recognize.
To drive the point home, she told me the different ways her own children show signs of shame: her son starts talking negatively about himself, hiding his eyes, whereas her daughter lashes out in anger because of how bad she feels. “Shame can suppress emotions, making an individual, a kid, hide because they are afraid you will stop loving them at that moment. Or it can result in rage, making the person feel wounded, not knowing how to respond,” she added.
All of this hits close to home. She commiserated, adding, “Some of us are more resilient to shame, and some of us, including myself, do not handle it well. That’s why I wrote the book, to give my kids the tools and coping strategies that I didn’t have so it doesn’t end up controlling their lives like it did mine.”
Kristin is open about her own feelings of shame and anxiety, and how therapy has helped.
I couldn’t help but ask about the stigma that still surrounds therapy and prevents thousands of kids, teens and young adults from seeking help from their loved ones or a qualified professional. “I think it’s been getting better in the past few years, especially with more counseling resources available online and celebrities, as well as people, in general, being more open about seeking help. It is starting to be normalized, but it still isn’t at the point where it should be. It took a while for me to start being open about going to therapy. I am taking it one step at a time beginning with my own house and making sure that stigma doesn’t exist at home. It’s just as normal as when you would go see a doctor when you don’t feel good.”
Kristin added that children can also seek support from a teacher or a friend’s parent. The most important thing to know is that help is available.
It made me realize how teachers and schools provide that support, and especially hard for schools that are limited in resources. As adults, we can do so much to raise awareness and to educate ourselves about shame. We can be there for the kids in our lives and advocate for our schools, teachers and school counselors.
Kristin has big plans for The Awfulizer. She is actively promoting the book and is currently working on a sequel. In fact, she’s planning a book series that sheds light on difficult emotions and ways for kids to handle them.
With this in mind, the future is hopeful.
You can find out more about overcoming shame and The Awfulizer at Kristin Maher’s website. https://www.awfulizerbook.com/