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Do you feel shame because you have dyslexia?

Updated: Mar 14

Reading a book can be difficult if you have dyslexia

This article is about how the shame of having dyslexia has impacted my life. It was only after I understood it was my shame – and not the fact I had dyslexia - that was holding me back that I could start to heal and become positive about my abilities. I hope my story might inspire and support others in their own process of letting go of their shame and embracing self-acceptance. I’ve also included some steps that have helped me overcome the feeling of shame relating to dyslexia.

Shame comes from the feeling of being flawed or defective in some way. It is a feeling that you’re unworthy because of something you are and not something you did. Guilt is feeling bad because of something you did, like stealing or cheating, and is transitory. Shame is deep-seated and perpetual until it’s recognised and addressed. Here’s my story of shame.

I have a twin sister who progressed through school reading books at a normal rate, which I could not do. This made me acutely aware that I was not ‘normal’. My father put a huge amount of value on reading and spelling and found it very difficult to understand why I was struggling especially as I appear to have no other difficulties at school. This led me to believe that I had a defect. Unable to please my father, my shame was so deep; I could not even accept to myself that I am I had dyslexia, and I hid it from the world. For many years I felt I had failed in my career/job. My self-worth was very low and I never put myself forward for any promotions or felt that I was worthy of a pay rise. I became very frustrated with myself for not achieving what I felt was within my capability.

It was my Counselling training that enabled me to recognise the shame. It was only then that I came to realise that it was shame - and not my dyslexia - which had held me back and stopped me from being the person I wanted to be. If any of this sounds familiar, here are some steps I’ve found helpful to overcome feelings of shame or fear related to dyslexia. Some of these are easier than others to take, and some you may feel you need to have professional help with (I did!)

Educate Yourself:

Learn more about dyslexia, its characteristics, and how it affects individuals. Understanding the nature of dyslexia can help you accept it and communicate about it more confidently.

Connect with Others:

Join dyslexia support groups or communities. Connecting with people who share similar experiences can be empowering and help you realize that you are not alone.

Challenge Negative Thoughts:

Identify and challenge any negative thoughts or beliefs you may have about yourself and dyslexia. Replace them with positive affirmations and reminders of your capabilities.

Focus on Strengths:

Recognize and celebrate your strengths. Dyslexia is often associated with unique strengths such as creativity, problem-solving skills, and out-of-the-box thinking. It makes us special in many ways that are valued by others.

Build Confidence:

Engage in activities that you enjoy, that boost your confidence. Success in areas where you excel can help counteract feelings of inadequacy associated with dyslexia.

Utilize Technology:

Explore assistive technologies that can make reading and writing more accessible. Many tools and apps are designed to support individuals with dyslexia.

Share Your Story:

When you feel comfortable, share your experience with trusted friends, family members, or colleagues. Opening up about your dyslexia can lead to a deeper understanding and support from those around you. You’ll be surprised how positive most people are.

Advocate for Yourself:

Learn to advocate for your needs in academic and professional settings. This may involve talking to teachers, employers, or colleagues about accommodations that can help you succeed.

Be Patient with Yourself:

Understand that everyone has challenges. Be patient with yourself as you navigate and embrace your dyslexia. It's okay to ask for help and take your time.

Celebrate Differences:

Embrace the diversity of thought and learning styles that dyslexia brings. Celebrate the richness that different perspectives can add to your life and the lives of those around you.

Seek Professional Support:

If you find that your feelings about dyslexia are significantly impacting your well-being, consider seeking support from educational psychologists, counsellors, or therapists who can provide additional guidance and assistance.

Remember that dyslexia is just one aspect of who you are. It doesn't define your worth or potential. It’s not the dyslexia itself that is holding you back, it’s your shame related to it. Accepting and embracing your dyslexia can lead to increased self-confidence and a more positive outlook on your abilities and achievements.

First published in Counselling Directory, 04/12/23

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