Many of us use the words interchangeably. Guilt to a large degree has become synonymous with shame. But they are two very different things.
Guilt is when you do something or don't do something that goes against what you believe in or stand for. Guilt is when you do something bad. Perhaps as a result of a mistake. But it can also be a very conscious choice. Guilt is locked into our behaviour.
Many enter the realm of shame when there is a conscious choice to either do something bad or do nothing at all when our gut tells us to intervene. Though even simple mistakes can lead people to feel shame.
We all make mistakes. And some of us are highly practiced at making those mistakes.
To come from a place of guilt is to recognize that we made a mistake. To clear that guilt is to make an apology, then make some type of amends for it. Then learn from it and change our behaviour.
I made a mistake.
I'm sorry for what I did (or didn't do).
I'll do better next time.
Though not required to qualify as guilt--free will, and all--we can make a further heart-centered choice to use that mistake in some purposeful way.
But shame has very little connection with doing something bad. Or making a mistake. Or making a conscious choice to do or not do something. But there is a small connection.
Mistakes and conscious choices become the fuel to further the shame-based flames of not-enoughness.
I'm so stupid.
What is wrong with me.
When will I learn.
Can you see the difference in the self-talk?
Shame is the belief that you are bad. That you are unworthy of belonging and love. That you are not enough just as you are.
But did you know that we all feel shame? Brene Brown:"Shame keeps worthiness away by convincing us that owning our stories will lead to people thinking less of us."~Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, (p 39)
"Shame is something we all experience. And while it feels as if shame hides in our deepest corners, it actually tends to lurk in all of the familiar places, including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, addiction, sex, aging and religion. To feel shame is to be human."So now that we know the difference between guilt and shame. Now that we know that all of us feel shame, what can be done?
Shame requires 3 elements to keep festering and growing: secrecy, silence and judgement. When we strip those elements away, shame miraculously falls away.
When we share what we experienced--safely, of course--shame begins to lose its hold on us.
This is in part why my stories page on my child abuse website helps so many survivors. They have an opportunity to share what they may have never before shared. Without fear of judgement. Which helps them to shed the shame that keeps what they endured secret. It can help them to take the next step toward healing and recovery.
You ARE enough.
You ARE worthy.
No matter what.