IS IT SHAME OR GUILT?


I ran across Brene Brown’s new book recently and I have been glued to it since. I think one of the biggest topics in our ENTIRE culture is how we deal with shame. It has become a HUGE topic when we start to define the culture that we live in. It is also one of the most uncomfortable subjects out there….and that is why I am writing about it today.

Interestingly enough, guilt does not have nearly the damaging affect on us as shame does…..why is that you may ask……let me share. In Brene Brown’s book she refers to herself as a “shame researcher”. What she found interesting in her research is how people avoid this topic like the plague. Why do you think that is so? My opinion…. BECAUSE WE ALL DEAL WITH IT….ALL THE TIME.

It is truly the elephant in the middle of the room and it is the most damaging action we can do to destroy relationships and disconnect from the people in our lives that we love. First of all, let me clarify the difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt and shame can both be defined as emotions of self-evaluation….and that is where the similarities end. Shame is about who we are (“I am bad”) and guilt is about our behaviors (“I did something bad”). That is a HUGE difference. Guilt is holding an action or behavior up against our ethics, values and beliefs and is sometimes an internal motivating factor to change our behavior. Shame focuses in on who we are rather than what we’ve done…..ie our behavior.

In other words, with guilt we can make amends, change our behavior, and/or apologize and move on to more positive, healing actions WHILE we are a GOOD person who had BAD behavior. With shame we internalize our behavior and we become a BAD person who will most likely continue to create BAD behavior.

This book has really gotten me to look hard at where and how I shame or take on shame. My awareness is so up right now, I am noticing more shaming than I ever focused in on.

So take a minute and take an inventory…..Do you use shame and how do you use shame to get what you want? What shame (or messages) have you taken on in your life? I’ll keep writing about this and how when we are in shame we disconnect with the ones we love and more importantly how we can build shame resistance…….until then……listen, love and have empathy….the first steps of shame resilience.

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