Often time our world-view and decision-making can be influenced by either shame or guilt. Many think these two are synonymous when in reality they are not and affect an individual’s mental health and self-worth differently. Guilt is an externalized sense of wrongdoing based on acts done to someone whereas shame is an internalized idea that something in me does not measure up. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” Shame says, “I am something wrong.”
Shame enters stage right typically as a young child. A negative message, embarrassing situation, or unfortunate incident begins to root the idea that something in you is falling short of some moral standard. If this root grows and goes unaddressed in can manifest in low self-esteem, the inability to empathize, forgive or engage in healthy relationships. Brene Brown says, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
Acknowledging that you are not perfect and will never be, allowing yourself to make mistakes, embracing your unique quirkiness, and seeing the humor in juvenile experiences can all be positive steps into uprooting shame. The more aware you are of shame and it’s negative messages, the sooner you can take action to accept and love yourself.