By Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW – – –

Shame /SHām/: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior; to humiliate, mortify or embarrass. Shame is about who you believe you are, your character and that you as a person are flawed. It’s important to distinguish shame from guilt, which is about a behavior or action you have done. Guilt is more of an external commentary on a behavior, while shame is a judgment on the core of who you are. Both feelings are difficult to manage. We will focus on shame today.

Shame is the thought that something is wrong with us, to the core. The person we are is flawed. But remember, shame is just a feeling, a perception. We believe we have done something wrong or improper. And remember, feelings are not facts. Feelings are signals from our own perceptions, that something we are thinking or doing needs our tender attention.

The author Brené Brown says it so well, describing shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. ‘I am bad.’ ‘I am a mess.’ The focus is on self, not behavior, with the result that we feel alone. Shame is never known to lead us toward positive change.”

Did you know that shame likely has very little to do with what you have done or said but more about your inner self critic we all have? Shame is that small voice that puts a judgment on you by someone else’s’ treatment of you or by your own self judgment. We are often our cruelest critic.

The impact of shame can be quite severe. Shame can lead us to shame others in an attempt to gain back our power. We can have low self-image or withdraw. Sometimes shame can even lead us into depressive or hopeless feelings.

Shame is like a pandemic, people all over the world experience it to some degree. It’s time to take a look at your own thoughts and perceptions about yourself if you frequently notice shame. Working on yourself, your self-image and your ability to see yourself from a different perspective and maybe even learn a few new skills will help you grow as a person.

We are focusing on what went wrong and why that “thing” was so bad. However, life is often not so black and white and there are most likely other factors that contribute to disappointment. Understanding this leads to self-compassion, empathy and personal development. When we can face disappointment without judgment, without shame, guilt or blame, there is an opportunity to learn and grow. We are developing ourselves throughout our lives, so you will likely get lots of practice figuring out empathy, self-compassion, forgiveness, expectations and disappointment. Clarifying expectations and living in accordance to our morals and values can lead to personal development and growth. These are important lessons we learn as humans!

You got this, Girl!


Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW is an Arizona based Mental Health provider and owner of The Counseling Consultants, PLLC, a group of licensed Mental Health professionals serving kids and adults with a variety of Mental Health Wellness needs.