Guilt vs. Shame

Until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed into your future. ~Iyanla Vanzant

This wonderful spiritual teacher has appeared on the Oprah Life Class Show recently.  I have not watched the episode myself but have seen small bits and pieces of it when I can.  So far it is a wonderful uplifting segment.  Here is the link on the 3 reasons Iyanla says people feel guilty.  We often confuse it with shame.  Guilt is when you feel you have done something wrong.  Shame is when you feel there is something wrong with who you are.

Those 2 sentences can speak volumes when you sit still long enough to absorb the message there.  Guilt is when you feel you have done something wrong.  Guilt can be from not doing what someone else wants you to do.  You feel guilty because you should have stayed over late at work to get those last 2 calls in today.  Guilt is when you ate that brownie or plate of cookies at midnight when you know better.  Guilt is a trigger inside of ourself that often pushes us to be better in some cases, not put things off when you can get them done today.  Unhealthy guilt is when you allow someone to give you a guilt trip and you fall for it.  For example a mother, father, spouse or kids “makes you feel bad” for not doing what they want you to do.  You leave feeling “bad” because you didn’t measure up to their expectations, or you didn’t stay long enough, or you didn’t run those errands or buy an item they wanted you to buy.  That is guilt in a form of an emotion that we let into our minds.

Shame on the other hand has no place in our lives.  When shame sets in we have a new set point for the pain we allow ourselves to tolerate.  Shame is when you feel something is wrong with you, at your very core of your being.  Let’s take the above example in guilt and see how it can spiral out of control in our minds.  We allow ourselves to feel bad because we didn’t do something someone wanted us to do, or measure up to their expectations, or stay long enough or buy what they wanted you to buy them. If you begin to internalize their opinions of you about the situation this can and will lead to shame. You begin to buy into their opinions of you and you start to believe new destructive beliefs about yourself.  For example they may say you are not living up to your potential.  Or you never spend enough time with me.  If you hear that enough you can begin to believe it, it begins to wear you down if you are not aware of what is going on in your head.

Here is the link to the show I mentioned above.



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