Guilt vs. Shame: What's the Difference?
These first 25 years of my life have been defined by shame; but, for a long time, I thought what I was feeling was guilt, which is a very different emotion. Guilt is a signal from our minds and bodies telling us that something we've done does not line up with our internal moral code. It is focused on our actions, and it can be used to help us grow and become people who act in accordance with our standards. Shame, on the other hand, is a totally different beast.
Why Shame Is Different from Guilt
While guilt is all about our actions, shame is about who we are as people, and instead of encouraging us to grow, shame keeps us painfully stagnant. In my experience with shame, it makes me feel broken and inherently bad and unlovable; and because of these feelings, I have no idea how to be the person I want to be.
Shame doesn't help me grow; it keeps me from doing anything at all. I get so afraid of somehow making myself even more unlovable that I don't feel comfortable doing anything I want to do. Shame makes me stuck, afraid, and self-loathing, and that is never healthy.
For more information on the difference between guilt and shame and how to recover when you've spent your whole life equating them, check out the video below.
Griffith, M. (2020, April 28). Guilt vs. Shame: What's the Difference?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, October 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2020/4/guilt-vs-shame-whats-the-difference
Author: Megan Griffith
I absolutely love this breakdown -- "While guilt is all about our actions, shame is about who we are as people, and instead of encouraging us to grow, shame keeps us painfully stagnant." This is spot on. Guilt can very much so be a tool, like bumpers on a lane, when correctly identified and approached. Shame, on the other hand, loves to keep us small (as you said). This is why we so often talk about the connection between shame and vulnerability. Shame calls for us to keep things "in the dark", and we often feel shame around things that can make us vulnerable (or have feelings of vulnerability arise), but those are the areas that actually allow us to really be seen, connect, and grow. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you so much Lizanne! I'm so glad you found this useful. It's been really freeing for me to talk more openly about my issues with shame. I'm hoping by bringing things out of the dark and into the light, as you put it, I can help others do the same.