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Dealing with bad news

Here are three simple strategies to remain calm and gain a perspective during hard times

Your partner cheated on you, you failed in an exam, you caused some serious damage in the house or you’ve been diagnosed with some medical condition. Whatever the bad news may be, they always leave us in despair and hopeless. We feel as if this is the end of the world. We start to fear the worst, even if the situation isn’t that dreadful. There might be other emotions mingled with bad news, like anger, guilt, love or betrayal, etc. We all face bad news and are going to face it in the future as well. Life isn’t constant.

Getting bad news is something we cannot control. However, we can choose our reaction to it and if not anything else can control the way we feel about it.

Here are three strategies that can help us in dealing with bad news.

1. Contextualization

Put the bad news in a proper context. Try to think about all the good things in your life that have happened or are supposed to happen. Also, think of the people and resources whom you could rely upon in the time of need. Also focus on how things would have got worse or are worse for other such people.

2. Negative visualization

Visualize what are the possible outcomes of the situation. For example, if your partner has left you, the worst possible outcome is that you might not get someone special again in your life and suffer emotionally too. Though it's unlikely that you’d remain single for the rest of your life. And the best possible outcome is that you’ll later realize he/she was not good enough for you and you meet the most amazing person meant for you.


At last, try to transform the bad news that you’ve received into something positive. What appears as bad news now, might be a strengthening experience for you. It might prove to be beneficial to you or might be a wake-up call. Maybe you didn’t get the admission to the foreign university, you can still live in your country with your people or with your family and build a stronger profile here. Maybe you failed in a subject, but you have another opportunity to learn and this time you are not completely new to it. You have to take control, fight back and look at life from a different and a more positive attitude.

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Let’s Win the Shame Game!

Shame is a universal emotion which can be so consuming that a person tends to resort to unhealthy behaviors and creates a toxic relationship with oneself and others. Shame needs to be understood better and healing from it is a dire need in order to ignite well-being.
ArchitaTeentalk Expert

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” – Brene Brown

As Brene rightly defines it, shame often becomes a negative and dysfunctional emotion in us leading to longitudinal discomfort anxiety, depression, low self – esteem, disconnection and likewise. Shame can be triggered by other people’s judgments or expectations but can also be inserted due to the failure of accomplishing our own ideals.

There can be so many reasons which make us feel shame on a daily basis. For example, not getting ‘good’ marks in an exam, not being able to lose weight, not having a large group of friends, the inability to enter a college of choice, parental expectations, and so much more which others expect from us or we expect for ourselves.

Some examples of what shame might feel/sound like in our brains.

“I am so stupid”

“Nobody will love me”

“There’s something wrong with me”

“I’m not good enough”

“People don’t think I am smart”

“They won’t give me the job because I am incompetentHappy And Sad Young Woman royalty-free happy and sad young woman stock illustration - download image now

Such thoughts can be found lurking in our mind and consuming us with shame and self-criticism. When this happens, we resort to unhealthy and negative coping behaviors like addiction, rage, detachment, blame, isolation, self-harm and other destructive behaviors.

Having said that, it is not impossible to cope with shame and respond to it in a manner which enhances your well-being and resilience. Here are some ways to start the process of learning to heal from shame.

  1. Talk about it and acknowledge it - As hard as it is to talk about experiences causing us shame, hiding these stories can make us develop unhealthy coping and wallow in it. It’s better to find a trusted person with whom you can share your story and acknowledge what is causing you shame. This way, you take the power from shame and write the end to the story yourself.

  2. Identify the right emotion – Shame can often be confused with guilt, humiliation or embarrassment. Shame can be ‘I am bad’ while guilt is ‘I did a bad thing’. We are not bad as people. We just make choices which may hurt us or others. Learn to define what you are feeling correctly and practice self-forgiveness and compassion.

  3. Learn to celebrate your inner strengths – This is not something you’ll realize right away, but when you begin the process of healing from shame, and reflect on this process, you’ll understand how strong you have been after all.

  4. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend – Just like you would be kind and compassionate toward a friend in a time of shame and despair, remember that you also deserve that kindness. Try to change your self-talk from critical to compassionate and forgiving. It’s okay to be imperfect and continue to grow. Offer yourself a tight hug or love and kindness and remind yourself that you’re enough.

While shame is a universal emotion, it can be experienced differently by all of us. Getting caught up in this turmoil of shaming and being shamed is a piece of cake but bringing yourself out of it is hard work and resilience. You may not be perfect but remember, that’s not what we are here for. You’re unique for YOU and that’s ‘good enough’. 

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Disclaimer: TeentalkIndia does not offer emergency services and is not a crisis intervention centre, if you or someone you know is experiencing acute distress or is suicidal/self harming, please contact the nearest hospital or emergency/crisis management services or helplines.