The Dynamics of Shame & Low Self-Esteem - 2

It's very easy to confuse the differences between shame and guilt. They are common feelings, but there are big differences in how both of these emotions affect us and manifest themselves in our lives. As discussed yesterday, shame is the belief that something is defective about ourselves.

Guilt on the other hand is an uncomfortable feeling that arises when we DO something that hurts another person or when we do something that goes against our own personal standards.

Do you notice the major difference between these two similar feelings? Guilt is feeling bad about our behavior, while shame is the belief we are bad as a person.

Guilt is a very healthy emotion to experience. Guilt guides us to know the difference between right and wrong, and helps us know when to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Feeling guilt is a good sign that our conscience is working properly. This type of healthy guilt allows us to function properly in society and improve our relationships. Can you imagine if we never apologized for things we did that hurt others?! We'd lose friends and family members very quickly.

There can be "unhealthy guilt", which is when we have a hard time letting go of mistakes we've made, which can make it hard for us to experience peace and serenity in our lives. There can also be "survivor guilt" which happens when we feel undeserving for going on with our lives when others cannot. It's not uncommon to have a mixture of healthy and unhealthy guilt.

Overall, guilt is more easy to work through and resolve than shame. Our focus this week is shame, where it comes from, & how to identify when it's showing in our lives. Please keep reading to learn more about this very common topic that affects everyone's life. Thank you!


* Source: Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families  by Charles Whitfield

Written by: Tamara Wilhelm MA, LMHC, LCAC

*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling  at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.