How To Deal with Shame, Release Guilt & Move on With Life

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“Shame is a soul eating emotion.”

– Carl Gustav Jung 

Unprocessed feelings can never heal. If we don’t process and accept difficult emotions like guilt and shame, they can build up in our bodies as emotional toxins. When toxic feelings get stuck, they can lead to various mental health problems, relationship issues, and other concerns.

Learning how to deal with shame and release guilt can help you make peace with the past and move on with life.

What is Shame?

Shame is an emotion profoundly ingrained in our sense of self and doesn’t distinguish between a behavior and the self. Shame is characterized by the belief that you are fundamentally bad at heart.

This is the main feature that distinguishes shame from guilt. These two terms are often used interchangeably. However, while related, shame and guilt are not the same things.

Guilt is the recognition that your actions have harmed someone else. So, guilt is always about behavior and represents feelings of worry or anxiety that we have done something wrong.

But shame is a self-conscious feeling that comes from having a bad opinion of yourself as a whole. For example, when you are self-judgmental, you tend to think of yourself as unworthy and undeserving of love and happiness.

Shame means that your harsh inner critic is always ready to judge and criticize you. Shame involves seeing yourself as unworthy and profoundly flawed. Such self-perception can lead to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other mental health problems.

So, while guilt can be constructive, shame is a destructive emotion.

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Where Does Shame Come From?

This distorted self-perception is typically internalized during early development. As a result, individuals who suffer from shame were frequently raised in families that made them feel unsafe, insecure, and inhibited.

Messages such as, “You are a naughty girl,” “Don’t be a crybaby,” or “Good kids never do that” can implant profound feelings of guilt in children for the rest of their lives.

As a result of childhood inhibitions, abuse, or trauma, a person may develop the belief that they are not loved because there is something fundamentally wrong with them.

Because they believed the abuse was their fault, many people who were abused as children took on the shame of the adult who hurt them.

Even if no one told you directly that you were bad or flawed, how you were treated may have led you to think that there was something wrong with you. As a result, you took on the shame and pain of what happened and started believing it was your fault.

So, shame occurs each time you feel seen or judged by others, whether they are present or just imagined).

However, shame can also result from your self-perception of failure. We often feel humiliated when we fail to meet our own internal standards or aspirations. Our superego, always ready to condemn, judge, and disapprove, destroys our self-esteem, making us feel ashamed for even the most minor mistakes.

What Does Shame Feel Like?

Shame triggers self-judgmental feelings of failure, guilt, and worthlessness. This, in turn, might harm your self-worth, causing you to view yourself in a negative light in general. According to research, mental health disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety have been linked to shame.

How Does Shame Affect Your Physical and Mental Well-Being?

When we feel shame, we feel bad about ourselves – exposed, humiliated, and unworthy. When we feel this way over an extended period, it can harm our physical and mental health.

Studies have shown that people who tend to feel shame often struggle with:

  • Self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Social anxiety
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
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However, shame can provoke physical reactions associated with stress, a fight or flight response, activating your sympathetic nervous system and causing increased heartbeat and blood pressure, nausea, weakness, and other symptoms.

When such a reaction lasts long, it can damage your physical health, causing digestive issues or chronic pain.

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How to Deal with Shame and Release Yourself from Guilt

1. Own Your Past

Inner child work can help you work through past experiences, process and digest emotional toxins, and deal with shame. How your parents treated you as a child influenced how you would relate to yourself as an adult.

Addressing your childhood trauma and dealing with shame requires inner child work. Inner child healing can help you accept all of your feelings, soothe the child, bring your shadow self to light, and release guilt.

This kind of inner work can be intense and upsetting, so think about working with a mental health professional to help you work through the deepest layers of yourself.

2. Embrace Vulnerability

People with a propensity to shame tend to avoid vulnerability because they consider it a sign of weakness. However, the process of forgiveness and self-forgiveness starts with vulnerability and focusing on your emotions.

You might be able to stop blaming yourself if you acknowledge and talk about your feelings of guilt and shame without judging yourself.

3. Use Self-Affirmations

Introduce the habit of self-affirming yourself daily to feed your subconscious mind positive thoughts and feelings about yourself.

Each day, write a list of positive affirmations such as the following:

  • “I am worthy.”
  • “I am beautiful on the inside and the outside.”
  • “I love myself.”
  • “I accept myself.”
  • “I am proud of myself.”
  • “I am doing my best.”

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is the most effective way to deal with shame because it allows you to treat yourself with kindness and acceptance. In addition, being self-compassionate can help you distinguish between making a wrong decision or acting wrongly and being a horrible person.

5. Accept Imperfection

Furthermore, self-compassion can help you understand that shortcomings are a part of the collective human experience, helping you deal with toxic shame.

Healing from Shame is in Your Control

Learning how to deal with shame can encourage you to unlearn behaviors that don’t serve you, release guilt, and move on with life. However, if you feel that you cannot do this alone, seek professional help. Counseling can help you take control of your thoughts and feelings, forgive yourself, and heal.

As someone certified in un-shaming, this process can be difficult on your own. Coaching can truly help you through this process. If you want to learn more please reach out

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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My name is Kamini Wood, and I’m here to accompany you on your journey toward understanding yourself on a deeper level so can create the life you want personally and professionally. It’s time to embrace your AuthenticMe ™