It’s hard for humans to communicate. We spend all day talking to each other, but how often do you say what you’re really feeling? Either you spend your time thinking of various ways to express your emotions, or you don’t express them much at all. You put on a smile and nod, playing pretend in a superficial world where it not only matters how much better looking you are than others, but also how cool and smart you are. So, it all makes sense. When you point the finger at someone else, when you’re angry at the world for wronging you, when you ask yourself, Why don’t they like me? That you feel shame.
Shame is an incredibly painful and self-deprecating emotion. Shame hurts so deep that for some, it goes unnoticed. The thing is, just because you ignore an emotion, doesn’t mean it goes away. If you ignore shame, it will project onto others because having someone to blame for why you feel shame provides a false sense of control and superiority. The emotion is still there.
If the shame remains unacknowledged, a person may decide to focus on another emotional state, an act of emotional substitution. For example, a shamed person, unwilling to acknowledge the feeling of shame can become angry with someone else, making other a kind of scapegoat for self-blame. […] By not focusing on the shame and attending to other emotions, we lose the opportunity to understand the forces at work around us and within us.5 Factors That Make You Feel Shame by Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.
In a previous article, I talked about how shame can cause hubristic pride, believing yourself as better than others, acting as if they were inferior. This pride is a coping mechanism for shame. You wonder where all this shame comes from. When you were a child, there were times you make a mistake or forgot to do something. Instead of focusing on the action or how it affected the people around you, your parents would tear down your self-worth. That’s a stupid thing to do. You don’t listen. You’re going to fail if you don’t do this correctly.
Still, it’s not just your upbringing. Shame is also related to your self-confidence and your need for control. It’s natural, the urge for some type of control over out lives. We want to know a reason. We want solve problems. We want control, and shame is unfortunately a byproduct of that. Because when you blame yourself for why bad things happen to you or why people treat you poorly, you think that you can fix it by changing yourself. Controversially, if you’re someone whose manifested your shame into pride, you’d blame everyone else for the painful feelings of shame you feel, and spite them because that’s how you’re able to control your emotions.
When we feel shame about something we’ve done, we’re probably much more reticent to speak about it or acknowledge it in such a way that we can rectify our mistakes. Guilt, however, is much more of an actionable emotion—when we feel guilt, we are more motivated to undo any damage we’ve done or try to make up for our errors.Strong Leaders Experience Guilt Without Shame by Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
Many people transpose shame and guilt. The main difference is that shame is about one’s self, whereas guilt is the result of your actions unto others. A person who feels shame from an action tears at their core thinking, I’m stupid, I’m lazy, I’m not good enough. As person who feels guilt about their action thinks about others, I let them down. I made them feel bad. Sometimes, you can feel both shame and guilt.
There is no way to prevent these emotions from flooding into our mind, they are every bit as necessary to our psyche as happiness and pleasure. Don’t ignore these emotions. Understand them, work through them, know why you feel that way. Allow yourself to feel the pain of shame and guilt. Let it flow over you and dissolve, like most other emotions. There are things you can and cannot change. You can’t control everything, but you can work on understanding yourself, and why you feel the way you do, especially when you don’t like it.