At some point in our lives, most of us have experienced the emotions that arise from shame and guilt. But we don’t always resolve those feelings and they can hang around for a life time if left unattended to.
However, it’s important to remember that shame and guilt are emotional components of our life. Negative emotions can serve us in such a way that we can become more self-aware and use them for personal growth.
Brene Brown talks about shame as “corroding the very part of us that believes we are capable of change”. To this end, shame is disempowering and results in a victim mentality.
We cannot show up in the world and achieve all we want under a cloud of shame. Our shame screams mean things and pokes at your self-worth, often leading us down a dark path of thoughts – “I’m bad, I’m not worthy, I do not matter”. This is why we need to deal with it as soon we become aware of what is happening.
Guilt is different. It can be more easily reframed because it actually wants to reach out and make amends or take action to change things for the better. Guilt can offer a sense of urgency and when given space to reflect, we can do something with it. Whereas shame screams “I’m bad”, guilt asks, “I behaved badly, now what can I do about it?”
Moving on from Shame and Guilt.
Whether its shame or guilt we feel – or both – the best way forward is to start unpicking our transgression and deal with it. This might involve a simple apology, or a more in depth repairing of the damage we have caused. Either way, I want you to remember that self-forgiveness is a part of the process too.
An interesting study (McGaffin et al, 2013) has shown that people who are guilt-prone are more likely to self-forgive, while people who are shame-prone are less likely to self-forgive. Self-forgiveness is a way to overcome both guilt and shame whilst acknowledging the damage that has been caused.
10 Ways to Deal With Guilt.
There are 10 suggestions of how we can deal with guilt:
#1. Recognise any feelings of shame as ‘untruths’. If you’re struggling to move past this because of low self-esteem, seek help from a pro or talk to somebody you trust.
#2. Face any feelings of guilt. Talk about them with somebody you trust or get into it with your journal. It’s time to be honest.
#3. Be aware of any harsh self-judgements or criticisms. Learn to forgive yourself and the first step is to ditch any negative self-talk.
#4. Explore your guilt a little deeper. Ask yourself, what is the reason you feel guilty? Is your guilt both rational and reasonable in proportion to your transgression?
#5. Consider what needs to change. If there’s a particular behaviour or action that triggers your guilt, then stop doing it or seek support to change it.
#6. Start forward thinking. Clarify what you value in the present and what you can do to improve things moving forward. Think about the positive action that’s needed to feel better.
#7. Forgive others too. It takes practice but empathising with others and forgiving them will help you to forgive yourself.
#8. Have inner peace. This may mean making a sincere apology to somebody and figuring out what you can say or do in order to demonstrate you’re willing to make peace. You can still forgive yourself even when others do not forgive you.
#9. Find ways to let go. Whatever has happened, you cannot go back in time to change things. Regardless of how sorry you are, this is about letting it go. If you feel true remorse and you have done everything you can, then it’s time to let go. This works the other way around too.
#10. Reflect on your experience. Think about whether there was a legitimate cause for your actions – be careful to decipher between actual facts and excuses. How much of your actions were within your control? What will you do differently in the future? What have you learnt about yourself and others?
Struggling with changes to a relationship?
Losing a long term connection with somebody close to you isn’t always easy because we’re human. What you may not have thought about is how such changes can catapult us – quite unexpectedly – into grief and loss.
If you’re experiencing lots of emotions right now and you’re stuck in lots of emotions right now and you feel like you need a way out, let’s have a chat. We can explore together if coaching is a good fit.