Are You Running From Shame?

Shame Versus Guilt
Do you know the difference between shame and guilt? People often confuse the two. It’s easy to think you’ve done something wrong when you feel guilt, and Give Away Girls are often deceived by a nagging sense of guilt. What feels like guilt, however, is really shame. It’s not that the Girls have done anything wrong, really, but they feel shame because of shame inside them that’s triggered the minute they feel they have fallen short somehow.

Guilt is feeling bad about something you did or didn’t do … actions that harm or hurt in some way.  Apologizing and learning from a mistake can help get rid of guilt.

Shame runs deeper and serves as an alternative to guilt. Shame shows itself as a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of unworthiness and disgrace. Interestingly, Wikipedia states that shame is derived from an older meaning “to cover.” The cover part seems to make sense. The detrimental caretaking I write so much about covers for a general sense of unworthiness that Give Away Girls can’t seem to reconcile with a healthier self-image.

Meet Give Away Girl Glenda
Glenda works full time at a retail store. She is in management and works there 60-70 hours a week.  Glenda puts all of her energy and effort into this job. She never stops thinking about it. If she ever vacations, she just drives all night and turns around as soon as she can. She does this because she says she feels “guilty” taking time away. Her boss sings her praises. There is no way he could find anything wrong or bad to say about Glenda. And if he did, she’d be devastated.

Meanwhile, Glenda’s house is a mess and she has gained 40 pounds over the last 10 years. She lets her lawn get high with grass and weeds, and her house is rarely cleaned or picked up. In fact, you can’t even cook in the kitchen because of all the stuff on the countertops. There isn’t even a path for her to get to her bed when she passes out from exhaustion at night. Somehow, working so hard and being so “successful” and admired by her colleagues helps Glenda keep going. But what is she really running from?

Guilt is grabbing two brownies instead of one when you are trying to cut back on your fat. Shame is the feeling you get when your boss says something critical, and you feel as humiliated as a 6 year old whose teacher scolded him in front of his peers. Glenda won’t let her boss do that to her. Not if she keeps this up.

The busy disease that infects women in this country has a lot to do with shame. The inability to sit still, to just be in the world as you began. Take a look around you at the Starbucks or the next school dropoff. Yes, people have busy lives with lots of responsibilities. However, there are a lot of women out there doing more than they should and more than they have to. The upside? Feelings of importance, value and meaning. The downside? It’s a cover for emptiness and deep-rooted sense of unworthiness inside.

Ask yourself …
What you are accomplishing: Does it help you to feel valuable and needed? Giving to others in a healthy way should nourish positive feelings. Is there any part of you that sighs at all the sacrificing? Do you feel like you have the right to relax? If you tend to keep moving instead of relaxing, you might be running from shame and covering for some unsettled feelings deep down inside.

The takeaway …
Realize that you can reshape your thinking patterns … care for your loved ones, friends and coworkers to a healthy, not detrimental, degree … and generally feel more peaceful with the present (and the past).

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