Shame, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment by Zoë Coyle

Pilot Light | Shame, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment

Do you know the difference between shame, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment? Such primary emotions and yet for some of us we can’t separate them. And if we don’t understand our emotions, self-awareness and behavioural change become impossible.

Shame, the darkest and meanest of the lot is focused on the self rather than behaviour. Shame makes us feel alone and doesn’t lead us toward positive change. Shame tells us; ‘I am bad.’

Guilt however, focuses on behaviour. ‘I did something bad.’ Unlike it’s ugly sister, guilt has the capacity to direct us toward positive change.

And the variable that differentiates humiliation is whether it is deserved. ‘Did I deserve this?’

Embarrassment, the most funny of the quartet is often fleeting and we know we are not alone.

So shame is the one we want to really think about and weed out of our lives. It is the intensity brutal and painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

Dr Brené Brown says:

‘Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerability is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, belonging, and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of the light.’

Rob King