Shame says “I am bad,” leading you to feeling powerless and invisible.
But what if what you are actually experiencing is guilt?
Guilt says “I have done something bad”
This is a big difference. Shame makes you believe that you, as a person, are bad, while guilt shows the truth of the situation: you are a good person who has, at this certain point in time, done something bad.
Guilt can be a healthy emotion when used constructively to hold you accountable to the person you want to be. Guilt can guide you to see that you have done something bad, so you can make a commitment to not repeat the action.
Replacing shame with guilt, moving from “I am bad” to “I have done something bad” can guide you towards making positive change in your life.
In order to better understand guilt and how to replace shame with guilt you can:
Write down some of your own reasons for feeling personal guilt.
Write down times in your life when you have felt shame.
Compare your “guilt list” to your “shame list.” Can you shift some of these shame experiences into guilt experiences?
What opens up for you as you make this shift from “I am bad” to “I have done something bad” Share your thoughts below:
In the last Brighter Life Bit you made a list of the different shame categories (the who, and what that cause you shame). The next question to ask is “why do these people and things cause me to feel shame?”
The answer is: Expectations.
The expectations of who you are supposed to be and how you are supposed to be compared to who you want to be and how you want to be.
Look over the different people, events, and things that you wrote down as triggering your feelings of shame, and beside each write down the expectation you are supposed to meet for each of these triggers:
Body image – I need to look like the magazine model
Money – I need to make more than $X
Teachers- you need to get more than 70% to be successful
Family – you need to take care of us, not yourself
To understand your feelings of shame you need to name it, and recognize that you are experiencing shame. Speaking (or writing) these expectations into the world is a big step towards changing how shame affects your life.
You can bring your own shame triggers, and the underlying expectations into the world by sharing them with the ILF community in the comments below…
“an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
Or, to put it even more succinctly:
“Shame says, ‘I am bad’.”
In what situations are you telling yourself “I am bad?”
What people in your life make you think “I am bad?”
Understanding the situations and people in your life that trigger thoughts of shame is an important step in building your shame resilience (we will discuss this more in the Class #4 Brighter Life Bits).
Take some time now to write out a list of the “what’s” and “who’s” that trigger feelings of “I am bad” in your life.
Then, you can share some of your list in the comments section below.
Your support will be used towards covering the costs of the free one-day or two-day, in-person training the ILF Team provides to the advocates at domestic violence organizations across the United States. Your support has already paid for training in Texas, Oregon, Washington, California, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Illinois.