Guilt vs. Shame

Guilt vs. Shame

I often ask my clients to describe the difference between guilt and shame. They usually tell me that they believe they are on in the same.

It is important to note that they’re not!

Research has shown that one of the emotions, guilt, is considered a healthy emotion as it is motivating, it drives us towards bettering ourselves, repairing relationships, and connection with others.

The other, shame, is never good for us. Shame feels defeating, as if we are drowning in our inadequacies, and drives us into isolation.

Think of guilt as “I did something bad,” shame as “I am bad.”

Guilt says “I did something stupid,” where shame states “I am stupid.”

When we experience guilt, we recognize that a mistake was made and change needs to occur, but we can recognize that as separate from who we are at our core.

If we have crossed the line into experiencing shame, our missteps have now become an aspect of our character, sending the message that change cannot occur and we are inherently bad, or stupid, or worse, are unlovable, unworthy, or unredeemable.

We can move out of the shadow of shame and that is through being vulnerable and connected with others.

Check out more videos in our Psych in 60 series and leave your questions in the comment section below!

Click here for more content by Jennifer Fights, NCC, LPC!

Jennifer Fights, NCC, LPC
Jennifer is a strengths-based clinician who is creative, compassionate and non-judgmental. She enjoys working with adolescents, adults, and families. When providing therapy, her special interests include working with trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and self-harming behaviors. Jennifer is also trained in EMDR and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and incorporates these treatment modalities into her work when appropriate. In her work with adolescents specifically, Jennifer has expertise in behavioral disorders and defiance issues. When working with families, she strives to come alongside married and divorced parents alike, helping them effectively co-parent their children. Jennifer also helps children struggle well with difficult family circumstances. In addition, she enjoys integrating client’s faith with clinical treatment. As she feels strongly about educating and empowering others, Jennifer regularly provides training for fellow clinicians, non-profit organizations, parent and teen groups and educational institutions.


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