MLBD #13: The Difference Between Shame & Guilt

Shame and Guilt are two words that get used interchangeably in today’s world. Although each can be thrown around loosely, there is a difference. Guilt comes from the awareness of you knowing not to do something and still doing it. Guilt can birth shame. Shame is about how we see ourselves and how we believe others see us.

We can do something wrong and feel guilt. We do not have to do something wrong to experience shame. Shame says “I am bad” where guilt says “I did something bad.” As a coach, it’s important to distinguish the difference between the two words that a client may share.

When you identify the emotion accordingly, then you know what path to take and to serve that client. Without clarifying, you may find yourself running in circles and driving the client’s beliefs deeper and deeper.

Narcissistic people can experience shame yet not feel guilty. The lack of empathy prevents narcissistic people from experiencing guilt because they usually collapse the ability to imagine how someone else may feel.

When we brand ourselves with the label of shame, we start to take on a disempowering identity. This can cause us to fall short in our own eyes and cripple us. We must be careful with the labels we choose to experience since it can have a ripple effect.

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