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The Meaning of Shame

Can shame cause depression? The short answer is yes! According to the dictionary, shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.
But I would say it runs deeper; we can feel ashamed without the behaviour.

When I was growing up, I felt enormous shame around my sexuality; I buried my sexual orientation rather than act on it. It felt wrong, and as a consequence, I felt wrong. This led to bouts of drug use and depression. Mostly I wanted to escape the feelings, and this caused depression. In my experience, being depressed is always rooted in a fundamental sense that something is wrong. Shame is that feeling. I hacked off parts of who I was in my effort to belong, and rather than making life better, it made it worse.

What is the difFerence betweEn guilt and shaME?

Guilt is a feeling that you did something wrong, you know you did, and you feel guilty. Shame is when you feel like the whole of you is wrong. It’s that yucky feeling that scares the hell out of me when all the noise of the day stops and I’m alone with my thoughts. Guilt + I did something wrong. Shame = I am wrong.

How shame Impacts relationships

Shame has a detrimental effect on relationships; it certainly did on mine. I couldn’t fully show up in my relationships, romantic or platonic. The shame around who I was as a person was so deep that I wore a mask. The fear of people finding out that I wasn’t lovable or good enough was terrifying underneath the jokes and charm. Because I was ashamed, I rejected myself, and in turn, I pushed others away when they tried to get too close. I wouldn’t stay anywhere for too long. I pretended not to care, but I cared deeply; afraid to be vulnerable and show my pain, I always ran away pretending I was an adventurous free spirit. I was pretending, even to myself. Shame made sure I kept you at arm’s length.

Those of us who live with shame often avoid relationships, vulnerability, and community. Research shows that shame leads people to hide and self-conceal. People who feel ashamed hide from society and meaningful friendships. They avoid exposure and never share their true selves with the world.

In Part Two of this blog I talk about how to deal with shame.

Keep it real friends

Love Lizzie x

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