As a Santa Barbara Therapist, I’ve talked with many clients about feelings of guilt and shame. Both are very heavy burdens to carry. They limit our ability to create the lives that we crave.
Guilt is a sense that we’ve done something specific that’s wrong. This can be easier to heal than shame. When we feel guilt about an action that we’ve taken, we need to accept full responsibility for our behavior. We need to make amends whenever possible, and then move forward in a way that will slowly rebuild trust in us. It’s, also, important to remember that we must learn how to forgive ourselves. We can’t change the past! We can only learn from it, and be determined to do better in the future.
A sense of shame is more difficult to heal. This doesn’t center around feeling bad about certain behaviors, as much as it is a profound belief that we are somehow defective. A sense of shame can completely, and deeply, color how we see ourselves. Shame comes from believing negative messages directed toward us, usually by the very people who should be showing us love and caring. Over time, we accept these destructive messages as being the truth, and they’re internalized and repeated by our own inner critic. We begin to retreat from all of the beautiful possibilities that might help us to create healthy, happy lives. Our world can then become very narrow and dark.
If you’re struggling under the weight of either guilt or shame, please get some professional help. It’s possible to work towards having a healthier, more accepting, self-image. I would love to guide and support you through this process if you’re in the Santa Barbara area.
Until next time,
Wonderful distinction between the two words. Thank you.
I’m glad that this post was interesting to you, Amy! It’s an important distinction.