Shame v Guilt

Shame V Guilt

When we introduced the concept of Shame Resilience, we briefly touched on an important part of this theory—the difference between shame and guilt. As we dive deeper into the ins and outs of shame resilience, a beautifully useful theory (especially for those of us who have made the decision to change our relationship with alcohol), it’s important to dig into the nuance of these two emotions.

Perhaps you’ve used “shame” and “guilt” interchangeably in the past?

“I feel so guilty for the way I behaved last night.”

“I hold a lot of shame for the way that happened.”

In our casual lexicon, they’re definitely transposable. On first glance, they seem very similar—both explain feeling bad for someone like an event, or a thing we said, or the way something worked out. But they have deeply important differences in practice.

Shame, as we mentioned before, is best defined by the Queen of Shame Resilience, Dr. Brene Brown:

“the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

Shame manifests itself in a myriad of ways, and can often end up feeling like physical pain or discomfort. It’s the deep “knowing” (though false) that you are unworthy, bad, flawed, or otherwise unloveable for the thing you did or the way you are or the mistake you made. It causes us to retract—to pull away from others, to poison our self talk, to act in ways that perpetuate this feeling of being a trash human. (This often results in us repeating the behavior or action that got us into shame in the first place, like consistently using alcohol in ways that harms our bodies and spirits.) Shame has no benefit, no evolutionary purpose, nothing good can come from it.