Oh I hear you now- but "what about when I do something really terrible Krysta? I should feel badly for it."
Yes. Feeling conviction or remorse is a healthy sign of an intact conscience; but that's not shame.
Like hopelessness, shame seeks to have the last word. It's a period at the end of the sentence which intends to gobble up anything that comes after. Shame is sticky and heavy and weighs you down.
Shame says "I am bad."
Remorse says "Try harder next time."
Shame says "Why bother? I'm a piece of shit anyway."
Remorse says "We all make mistakes."
Shame says "I am deeply flawed inside."
Remorse leaves room for empathy.
Shame marinates in self-pity.
Remorse leads to problem-solving.
Shame leads to a choking stagnation.
Remorse reaches out to make amends.
Shame shrinks back and isolates you.
If you're having a hard time recovering after a failure, ask yourself: "Am I feeling shame or remorse?" It's easy to tell by the fruit it bears. Remorse propels you into something better, more connected, more true. Shame is stagnate, cut off, and hateful.
If you discover a weed of shame, don't panic. We all have them. But please don't let it grow.
Instead, remember yourself as a small baby or toddler. Did you have shame? Look at the way you feel and love and run naked through sprinklers. Nope. No shame there. This is how we know shame is not meant for us.
We are not born into shame. We catch shame. Like a virus. Shame is put upon us. It is not inherently ours.
This is where the work is: you need to figure out how and where you caught that shame. Where did it get put upon you? Where did it start? (Hint: Shame grows and spreads through life but usually the first origin is early on.)
Name it. And give it back. Disown the shame.
Oh, keep the remorse. Make amends. Own your part.
But I'm begging you- ditch the shame. It lies. It says that it's a necessary part of the process. But it isn't. The truth is, shame never did a single person any good. It is only a cancer, eating away at areas of health and connection. It leaves behind malignancy and death.
You and your worth are separate from what you do. They have to be. Otherwise, once you've done bad things you are "bad" and that becomes the end of the story. Shame has the last word.
Try this idea instead: the choices that you make reveal something about you. Choices that are harmful reveal places you are wounded and need to do some personal growing. They are an opportunity. You are an opportunity. You are capable of healing, and growing, and learning, and doing better. Recognizing you made a bad choice is the first step.
This is the beauty of un-learning shame. What was once a chapter closing has now become a new chapter beginning. Your mistakes are not the final word. They are not a life sentence.
You are not your mistakes.