Shame and guilt: why do we feel them?
I believe we experience shame and guilt when are JUDGING ourselves – making a value based observation of ourselves (like our behavior, our appearance and so on). Most of us feel badly about ourselves if we hurt other people. However, many of us feel shame and guilt about our bodies and by extension the food we do or don’t eat. I even have clients who feel guilt and shame about just THINKING about food. This is how powerful the inner judge can be.
The futility of guilt and shame
- Guilt and shame are not a substitute for action
- Guilt and shame will not change the past
- Guilt and shame will not improve the future
- Guilt and shame will not benefit anyone you have hurt (other people or yourself)
- Guilt and shame affect your brain functioning
- Guilt and shame are thought and feeling habits that you have repeated so many times you are good at them (but you can UNLEARN these habits and learn new patterns)
- Guilt and shame lead to stressful feelings which will cause WEIGHT GAIN
What to do? Take action…
- If you hurt someone with your behavior, if possible, go make amends.
- If you feel guilty about your food choices, acknowledge that your made a mistake in the past, decide to make different choices starting RIGHT NOW and MOVE ON.
- If you feel shame about your body, first notice how many times per day you shame or criticize yourself. Second, make a conscious effort to bring yourself into the present moment by either practicing the 54321 technique, OR by connecting with the breath in and out OR by consciously connecting with part of your body (feeling your feet on the floor, sensing the feeling in your heart or belly). All of these actions will help take your brain away from regrets of the past and anxiety about the future.