Shame & Guilt

I love what Brené Brown has to say about Shame…

Guilt is… you did a bad thing.

Shame is… you are bad.

Shame needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment.

And when you start naming the cause of your shame and talking about it with people who have earned the right to hear these stories in your life, it dissipates, because shame only works when it keeps you in this false belief that you are alone.

I think we carry shame in our bodies just like we carry trauma in our bodies.  One of the interesting studies on this was from James Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin.  He studied trauma, expressive writing, and physical wellness.  What he found is that for people who held on to  a secret of trauma – because of shame or because of guilt – keeping that secret had a worse effect on their physical well-being than the actual traumatic event.

How to be Shame Resilient:

Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more “shame resilient”.  People with a higher level of the shame resilience characteristic can lead to deeper connections with themselves and others.  There are four traits that shame resiliant people had in common:

THEY KNOW WHAT SHAME IS.  “They talk about the feelings, they ask for what they need.  And they don’t call it embarrassment, they don’t call it guilt, they don’t call it self-esteem – they call it shame.

THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT ACTIVATES THEIR FEELINGS OF SHAME.  For example, I can expect to be triggered as soon as I feel like I have disappointed someone or let them down.  I am going to have a mental tape playing “you are not enough”.  But because I am expecting it, I can greet it and say, “I get it, but not this time.”

THEY PRACTICE CRITICAL AWARENESS.  Is it really true that my worth hinges on making someone else happy?

THEY REACH OUT.  I might call a good friend and say, “Hey, this guy’s has been asking me to speak at a conference, but it’s on Charlie’s birthday.  I said no and he got upset.  I know I did the right thing, yet I am feeling like I am not good enough.”

Shame can’t survive being spoken. Talking cuts shame off at its knees.



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