Guilt and shame are two emotions that are not often talked about. We talk about anger management, grieving periods and ways to reduce fear and anxiety; guilt and shame though are rarely mentioned. They are deeply uncomfortable, embarrassing and hardly acceptable.
But they are part of human life just like other feelings, and facing them can be a crucial step on every individual’s healing journey.
First of all, let’s take a look at the difference between guilt and shame:
Guilt refers to something you did. Perhaps you made a mistake, did something stupid or said something wrong that was hurtful to someone else. Perhaps you feel guilty that you asked your friend to take you to the airport and he got stuck in traffic for two hours on the way home.
Shame on the other hand is about who you are at the deepest level. You can feel ashamed about your character, your body type, your looks, your preferences, your weak spots. You could be the sweetest, most helpful, loving and generous person, and you can still feel ashamed about your innermost being.
Being human, we tend to try and cover up any mistakes and weaknesses.
So if we made a mistake at work, our first impulse might be to keep quiet about it, fix it quickly before anyone notices, or pretend not to know what happened. We might even feel compelled to lie about the incidence, because that still seems less hurtful than speaking the truth and admitting our mistake. But, it takes a lot of effort to keep up lies and denial, and they rarely hold up in the long run. When the truth comes out eventually it might be even more embarrassing than had we just spoken up right away!
But why is it so painful for us to admit a mistake? Because we fear that the people involved will be mad at us, or disappointed with us. We fear that we will be less likable and lovable when we make a mistake. We fear that our loved ones will abandon us when we don’t perform perfectly well. This fear of abandonment is perfectly normal and human. But once we realize that guilt is about something we did, and not about who we are at the core, it gets easier to be upfront and open about a mistake, and to forgive ourselves. When we love and accept ourselves, mistakes and flaws can be seen as natural human imperfections and opportunities for learning and improvement.
But that’s where shame comes in: Feeling ashamed of yourself means that you don’t love and accept yourself completely. And, as bad as it sounds, most of us struggle with this to some extent. You might not like the fact that you’re shy and introverted, that your nose is big, your legs aren’t model material, you have a temper, or tend to worry easily. So we try to cover up and hide these things: We try to act more extroverted than we are, have plastic surgery, hide our bodies in big, baggy clothes or drown our sorrows in alcohol and ice cream.
But, just like trying to cover up a mistake you made, it takes a lot of energy and constant effort to try and hide or change something that’s essential to who you are! In order to overcome our shame, we need to learn to love and accept ourselves just the way we are. We need to remember that we are inherently worthy, valuable and lovable just by being alive. We need to connect with the beautiful, divine spark that all of us carry, and understand that our human imperfections are part of what makes us endearing and likable.
Dealing with feelings of guilt requires acceptance, the courage to be honest about it, the ability to step back and forgive yourself and an inherent sense of self-worth. And you can only establish this sense of self-worth when you work through your shame. Here are a few modalities that have helped me let go of shame and build up my sense of worthiness:
- EFT or tapping
- Chakra Work
- Connecting with angels and spirit guides
- Healthy food
- Engaging in activities that you love
It’s important to remember that this sense of self-worth can only come from the inside: Some people try to get validation by pleasing others, taking care of others before taking care of themselves, spending all their energy on looking pretty and fashionable, accumulating money and material possessions, or climbing the corporate ladder in search of a title or position that will make them feel needed and valuable. But these outside accomplishments are only a temporary band aid, not a long-term cure. True worthiness comes from the inside.
The good news is that you are inherently worthy, valuable and lovable just by being yourself. You have everything you need. You don’t need to prove anything. Just be yourself, do what lights your heart up, and enjoy life. Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself” – not more than yourself, but also not less. Once you recognize the divinity in each and everyone of us, you realize that there’s no separation, that we are all one, that we are all worthy of love and belonging. And that we are all connected through a chain of love.
And so it is!
Please share in the comments: What activities light you up? What makes you feel complete, courageous and confident? Have you ever struggled with feelings of unworthiness?
You are perfectly beautiful just the way you are.
PS: In my ebook “From Overwhelm To Inner Peace” you can find an extensive list of tools for self-acceptance, forgiveness and inner peace. Click here for a sneak peak and to purchase.