Guilt and Shame

As an avid reader of the work of Brene Brown, I am especially interested of her explanation and exploration of the differences between guilt and shame. Most of us use guilt and shame interchangeably, but there is a big difference between the two feelings. Brene Brown explains it as guilt is: I did a bad thing; shame is: I am a bad person. Guilt is about a action and helps us realize that we want to do things differently the next time we are presented with a similar situation – for example, I feel so guilty I left the diaper on for so long; next time I’ll check it more frequently. Guilt helps us continue to change and adapt to our environment and continually work on becoming a better person. Shame is a different story all together; shame is about who we are as an individual. Shame destroys our identity, our sense of self-worth, our ability to love and be loved. Shame makes us isolate, hide, and stop interacting with others – for example, I should have known my baby was going to use all the diapers in the diaper bag. How could I be so stupid to not plan ahead – I’m such a bad mother because I ran out of diapers.

Mommy-guilt is a much talked about concept but many of the stories of mommy-guilt I hear are really moms shaming themselves. As cliche as it sounds, mothering is one of the hardest jobs in the world. We could spend hours second-guessing ourselves and hating our choices, but that doesn’t help mothers and it doesn’t help their children. We need to practice recognizing our mistakes, learn from them, and actively choose to be better and act differently next time. One of my favorite quotes from Brene Brown is: Our job is not to teach our children that they are perfect. Our job is to teach that children that they are imperfect, that they are wired for struggle but they are worthy of love and belonging.

You are worthy of love and belonging. You. Are. Worthy. If you are struggling, ask someone you trust to listen to you, to help you.