Updated: May 11, 2022
Hi, I'm Nic from Compassionate Self and I would like to share a little bit today about guilt and shame. So guilt for me can be divided into two different categories, unhealthy guilt and healthy guilt. Healthy guilt is more like a feeling of regret. It's where I've done something or said something that has not been in alignment with my values has not met my needs and has not met the needs of others. I become aware of that, and there's some sense of regret. What I can do about this is I can be transparent. I can share it with the other person and, share what needs of mine were not met, and listen to their needs. When this happens there's a kind of corrective experience, a healing experience, and we can both move on. However, when this feeling of guilt remains after having done that, or when I am feeling guilty in situations where I set really high standards for myself then I am most likely feeling unhealthy guilt.
For example, forgetting somebody's name at a party and feeling guilty about that, or forgetting to do something that I agreed to do. Even though it's not in alignment with my values and I would have really enjoyed remembering, I sit and dwell in this guilt around not having remembered, and not being up to the high standard that I expect of myself. Unhealthy guilt has its Foundation in some kind of belief about how I should be. It is a high standard that I've set for myself, which means that even in situations where I wouldn't imagine needing to feel regret, I would feel guilty because of forgetting somebody's name or because of not, getting a project completed on time. When that feeling doesn't go away, even though I've named it to somebody else, then it is unhealthy guilt.
Unhealthy guilt perpetuates itself. Events that have happened in our past childhood experiences are often the source of this type of guilt. So with this type of unhealthy guilt, it's really helpful to do some deeper inner work and to see if you can transform some of these beliefs that are keeping you trapped in these high expectations of yourself.
Guilt is about "I have done something wrong" "What I've done is wrong," This is the type of thinking behind guilt and especially unhealthy guilt. The thinking behind healthy guilt would be more like "What I've done, I regret having done, and I would have enjoyed doing it differently" "These are my needs and these are your needs, and I would like to have done that differently. I mourn that. it didn't go the way I was hoping."
Whereas the thinking behind shame is "I am fundamentally wrong." Shame lies even deeper in the system than guilt, and is connected to the belief "There's something wrong with me. There's something fundamentally flawed about me." Shame is, not something that we can just overcome through dialogue or through sharing about it. It really, needs some deeper work, some inner transformational work to uncover and heal the parts of you that took on this experience of shame. Most of us will take on these beliefs around shame at a young age. So mostly it's related to events from our childhood. Shame is a little bit more, complex to become free from, and yet it is possible to work with shame. It is possible to listen to the parts of you that are carrying shame and to support the transformation from these beliefs "I am fundamentally wrong." and "There's something fundamentally wrong with me" to much more self-acceptance, and to having the experience that I'm okay as I am.
This brings with it a lot of relief, a lot of space, and also a lot of new energy. In the work that I do, one-on-one with people and in workshops, I'm surprised to see that even some of the most apparently self-confident people, who seem to thrive in social situations, those who seem to be the first to speak up when there's an invitation to speak are also carrying shame. It is that somehow that even self-confidence can be a protective strategy to cover shame. This confidence, this, outgoingness this willingness to speak up can sometimes be a mask for the shame that's underneath. It is not only, shy, introverted people that are holding back from engagement, who are carrying shame, but, many, many different types of characters of people.
Curious to learn how to free yourself from guilt and shame? Our Therapeutic Coaching Sessions will help you to deal with guilt and shame at its core so that you can return to living freely and with joy.