Guilt and shame are sometimes intertwined, but one is an internal experience, and another is an external experience. Healing from shame allows us to have a healthier relationship with ourself, and those around us, free from the chains of the past and standing in the truth of who we are.
Guilt vs. Shame
*Guilt (external) = recognizing that a choice or behavior isn't working or reflective of our best self.
*Shame (internal) = making a mistake and believing that we are a bad person
Example of Guilt vs. Shame
*Guilt: Using the end of a relationship as an example, someone with guilt would think, "I can see now that I chose not to listen to my gut feeling. I saw the red flags but I chose to ignore them. I need to put a plan in place to remind myself to follow my instinct." In other words, they assess the situation, take ownership of their part, admit their perfect imperfection, and put a plan in place to improve. The internal self is kept intact.
*Shame: On the other hand would sound much different. "Why am I such a bloody idiot? I keep doing this, picking losers, I am so stupid, no one will ever want me!" As you can see there isn't an objective assessment, they have taken on too much blame and placed too much blame on the other person. They are operating in the extremes. They have no personal grace, and they belittle and destroy the inner self.
4 Traits of Toxic Shame
- Blaming, judging, or harboring contempt for the other person. When we point the finger at the other person, it's a defensive mechanism for how poorly we feel about ourselves. We use this defensive mechanism as a protective layer when we cannot see or admit how bad we feel about ourselves.
- Inability to take ownership of the role we played. No one comes into our life unless we let them, and we are responsible for that decision. To take ownership, we need to focus on the willingness to forgive.
- Not asking for needs or wants. When we don't ask for what we need or want and expect others to know, we can become resentful and give ourselves away by doing everything for everyone else and not getting anything back. We subconsciously believe that we are not worth it by not asking, which fills us with shame.
- Keeping secrets and remaining silent about our past. When we can make peace with our story and share it with others, it doesn't have power over us anymore.
How To Heal Shame
- Develop self-esteem.
- Foster a relationship where you can be open and honest about yourself and your past. When we bring our past into the light and no longer keep secrets, we allow our light to shine through. But, unfortunately, keeping secrets about our past keeps us in the dark and those around us from experiencing our light.
- Ask for needs and wants. When we can learn to express what we need and want, we stand in the truth of who we are. Needs are what we need to survive (food, shelter, money, intimacy, clothing), and wants are the things that bring us joy. Unfortunately, when we feel shame, we put our wants in front of our needs, and a common example of this has high credit card debt.
- Reconnect to our body. When we can't feel our body, we become separate from our authentic self and our soul. A common example of this is dissociation.
Learning how to heal from shame allows us to have healthier relationships with ourselves and others. As a result, we can live a fuller, more expansive life free from the chains of the past and stand in the truth of who we are, and connect to our authentic self.
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