When you think back to your childhood, do you recall social conditioning, stemming from consequences, such as statements like, “Shame on you?”
If you grew up being shamed into a “good person” it is probable you are suffering from low self-worth. Shame as defined by FreeDictionary.com means, “A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.”
Disgraced by feelings of shame is crippling because it doesn’t chastise what you have done but instead it actually faults you as a person.
Although some people seem to use the words shame and guilt as synonyms, these words are very different in nature.
FreeDictionary.com defines guilt as, “Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.” Although guilt can be disruptive, it can be channeled into a positive change because the individual is recognizing that a past action or lack thereof has caused harm. His or her conscience considers this sense of wrongness and may counter the action making future amends in a similar situation. Although one should not live imprisoned by feelings of guilt because this means you are living in the past, short-term, it can be used as a tool to positively navigate future actions.
The difference between shame and guilt is the distinguished between telling a child they are bad for doing something wrong (shame) or instead by explaining what child did (his or her action) is bad (guilt).
Phil Barker explains what we can do to encourage healthy mindsets as we mentor our children and others whom we support.
He shared, “Both guilt and shame are important social factors… both are intrinsically tied to social situations. Our ideas about guilt and shame (what is right and wrong) come… -- education, family, work, etc. As a result, it is important that educators, parents, friends, and family work to make sure that those around them (particularly children) have a sense of self-worth. By showing people empathy and caring, we indicate that doing something wrong does not necessarily reflect on the person as a whole. By differentiating between the action and the actor, we can help prevent shame and its negative connotations, while still encouraging a healthy sense of right, wrong, and guilt when necessary.”