“Shame on Me” is my personal struggle to overcome what I believe is one of the world’s most ubiquitous and damaging yet least talked about problems. Shame is the foundation for many – if not all – of our personal adversities, societal ills and negative situations. Shame brings on a wide variety of feelings from total worthlessness to overbearing arrogance. Some people use it for power while others to keep the status quo. It infiltrates cultures, religions, politics, families, the workplace and all of our relationships. We have become so accustomed to it that many of us use it and don’t even realize that we do!
But what is the definition of shame? Before I define it, take a moment and come up with a definition of your own. Most people will more than likely make it synonymous with the word guilt. If that is how it raced around in your mind you are not alone. Most dictionaries don’t get the distinction between the two. Shame is more closely associated with a horrible self-conscious feeling that comes from a sense of being. More specifically and for the purpose of this book, it is the negative feelings that we have come to believe about who we are. The way we were born and all the events that have culminated in our lives up to this point are either not good enough or perhaps even worse, innately wrong.
Guilt is a self-conscious feeling associated with having done something wrong however it is also often accompanied by a need to change one's actions. Guilt in many ways is a sign of our social and moral compass which can help us to alter and modify a particular behavior.
It is easy to understand the confusion between shame and guilt. Both are processed in similar ways emotionally as well as in the same areas of the brain. However, where they differ is in the way they cause us to react. Guilt should encourage thoughts and actions that change future behavior. Shame, on the other hand, creates self-doubt, confusion and negative thoughts about ourselves that will only damage us as well as our future relationships.