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On Shame/Guilt Mindset

March 23, 2014

From The Rawness, an interesting & recurring discussion of guilt and shame:

 Many people think shame and guilt are the same thing, but they are very difference. To reiterate a concept I’ve discussed in the past, guilt is feeling bad about something you did, while shame is feeling bad about what you are, your very essence, your very identity

 For shame-based people, even what little sense of guilt they have ends up fused with shame, making it something called toxic guilt. That is, they can’t separate their guilt from their shame, meaning they can’t separate their actions from their identity. For example, when you are operating from a sense of guilt, you can say something like “I am a good, decent guy who just happened to do a stupid thing. Doing something stupid doesn’t make my whole identity defective.”

The concept here is a simple one: a “guilt-based” mindset will see that a misstep lies in their actions; a “shame-based” individual will see that same mistake infused within their identity.

So how does one overcome an unhealthy shame-based mindset?

The first part is simple: establish your identity. No, you are not defective or fundamentally flawed. Despite the billion dollar industries that tell you to what to buy/how to vote/where to eat, you will not be a loser or suffer any harm to your self-image if you choose to go your own way.

Your identity should be set on a just-because truth: I am a good, decent person. Why? Not because of what you did, or where you grew up. You’re worthy because you’re here.

Secondly, realize when you do it. As mentioned I the article, the problem is not limited to mistakes and lows; when one achieves a successful feat, they may also be tempted to believe “I am awesome!” Avoiding identifying with actions & results, whether positive or negative, will allow you to maintain a constant truth of yourself: I am a good, decent person.

Quick note: I’ve mentioned before that one can build confidence by setting action-based goals. Such is consistent with the message here. When one achieves goal after goal they set, the mindset is not “Look how awesome I am,” but rather, “I have achieved this in the past, and I am capable of achieving more in the future.” Conversely, if those goals were met with resistance or failure, the message may be “I am a failure,” which may in turn render the opportunity for future confidence null.

One Comment
  1. good stuff.

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