Guilt vs ShameJan 07, 2022
By Jenn Baron.
Two emotions tend to eat away at us like rust on a car.
Guilt and Shame.
They’re often used interchangeably in thought and conversation but have very different definitions and outcomes.
Guilt is, ‘I did something wrong.’
Shame is, ‘I am wrong as a person.’
We experience both, and it’s essential to look at them with kind eyes and a compassionate heart because we stay small and rot from the inside when we allow shame to keep us hiding.
Here’s a personal example.
The office building I rent space from is locked in the evenings and weekends.
And I get that. Safety first.
But I also think it’s dumb and don’t want to wait by the door to let my clients in when I could be doing other things. I know, first world problem. So I’d put an envelope in the door to keep it ajar and have them bring it up with them when they arrive.
No big deal to me.
My landlord did not feel the same way and asked me not to do it anymore.
When I got the text with his request, I felt a rush of shame go through me like a wave.
I felt my face get pink and warm.
I felt like a little kid being scolded by a parent or principal.
I felt my head hang and my body constrict.
Then I moved my attention from the fight or flight part of the brain where this reaction was coming from to the prefrontal cortex where I could make a conscious decision. I wasn’t going to shame myself.
Not this time.
Initially, I felt like, ‘I’m a bad person for doing my little envelope trick.’ That’s shame.
And then I reminded myself that I’m not a bad person and there’s no reason to feel shame. I did something that was frowned upon and was asked not to.
I did something wrong. That’s guilt. I am not wrong as a person. That’s shame.
I could’ve gone down a big shame spiral that would’ve been a massive waste of my time and energy.
And in the past, I totally would have, and I would’ve punished myself and suffered in silence. Because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you feel shame? It’s what I did.
But this time, I saw what was going on in my mind, got clear about the situation, decided not to shame myself and told my landlord I wouldn’t do it again. Now it’s done, nothing to see here; let’s move along.
There’s a big difference between shame and guilt.
Shame is, ‘I am wrong.’
Guilt is, ‘I did something wrong.’
Shame causes us to recoil, shrink, not take care of ourselves, overeat, over-drink, not allow the good and wonderful because we feel unworthy, stay small, push love and joy away.
Basically, it robs us of all the fantastic things that are our birthright as humans on this planet and causes so much optional suffering.
Where are you shaming yourself?
Loosening shame’s hold will transform your life in stunning and jaw-dropping ways. Often just voicing the things you feel shame about will allow the emotion to release. Tell your BFF, therapist, coach, partner, or anyone who cares about you.
Write it on a piece of paper and, safely, burn it in a kind of ceremony to let it go.
Keep it simple. You may have to do it a few times or different ways because it’s a process, and you’ve likely held onto those thoughts and feelings for a while.
You deserve to be free from the weight of shame, and the new year is a beautiful time to do it.
Jenn Baron is a Certified Life Coach. She helps women see what's going on in their brains, decide if it's working for them, and share easy-to-implement tools that get them the results they want. Fast.
To learn more about how Jenn can help you, check out her site or IG.
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