Guilt and shame are very different things. We are guilty of something if we’ve broken a law or a rule, or if something we’ve done has offended or hurt someone. Nobody’s perfect, and we’ve all been guilty of something at some time in our lives, whether it was intentional or not.
However, sometimes our feelings of guilt can turn to feelings of shame. We might think – How could we do such a thing? How could we be so foolish and uncaring in our behavior? Our feelings of shame can be overwhelming, and can stem from our own experiences or the experiences of our loved ones.
Brené Brown says: “I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort. I define shame as 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. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure.”
Using strategies known as “shame resilience” can help. These simple strategies include learning to recognize the triggers of shame (such as physical sensations, or pressures from family or society), and practicing critical awareness (doing a reality check) of the expectations that we put on ourselves or that others put upon us.
By not giving in to shame, we can feel empathy, connection, power and freedom instead of powerlessness or isolation.
How are you developing your own shame resilience?