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Guilt vs. Shame

Guilt vs. shame, or are they one in the same? I thought I was past this, but like a reoccurring dream, these two nouns keep haunting me. Every time I turn around, they rear their ugly faces. I can’t close my eyes without the internal feelings boiling up. Under the surface is the truth. No matter how much I try to hide, be in denial, or create an illusion that I don’t see, hear or understand, guilt and shame appear and there’s nowhere to turn except to face the ugly truth. This may be a long-term battle that I am determined to win. My battles with guilt and shame are within.

In a previous blog post, “The Facts of the Matter” I discussed my processing and reflections of the pros and cons of a particular situation, although that concept can be applied to anything, this particular situation revolved around shame. So much so as I wrote that narrative, I physically felt nauseous and tightness in the pits of my stomach while verbally admitting certain statements…statements that only my inner circle was aware of. The reflective piece was on top of an extensive 40+ page narrative I wrote surrounding guilt and shame. In fact “Finally Beginning to Love Me,” was an excerpt of that narrative. Logic would say if I processed certain emotions, reflected on those feelings, and did the inner child work to speak to myself at those stages that I would fully understand the concept of whatever it is…right? For instance, that particular narrative I began, worked through…and thought I completed the understanding and was in awareness of the actions and feelings of guilt and shame. To such a degree, I really listed it as a mission complete…checkbox, one less thing I had to focus on. Guilt and shame were things of the past. I reconciled with myself. I forgave myself. I spoke and thought highly of myself. I declared my awareness was heightened. I acknowledged my past experiences. I did everything to make peace with the past, but did not confront the present or make plans for the future. So, was all the work I did in vain?

I believe those narratives were just brushing the surface of my relationship with guilt and shame. There is still work, much work, to be done. I was not aware…well honestly, I was in denial of the work that had to continue. It was not until I was discussing some recent actions I had taken upon leaving my previous job that I realized I still continued to battle with guilt and from that feelings of shame surfaced. I had been with my previous employer for a year when I finally said enough was enough and searched for a new job that would pay me more but with less work hours (I desire more of a life than work balance 😊). When I got my offer of employment, I waited to tell my current job. People close to me kept asking “Did you put in your 2 weeks?” “No,” I would reply. Of course the next question of why came. I did not know why. I could not articulate why I was prolonging telling the job I was leaving. I went back and forth at night trying to negotiate working both jobs, but that would go against my life>work desire. I was torn…but why? I got what I prayed for. I got what I applied for. I got what I wanted and currently need. As I handed over the sealed white envelope, I saw the face of my supervisor turn from smiling to shock, beaten by a reddish tone and worry. He looked at me and said “you aren’t leaving are you?” I giggled nervously as I stumbled upon my words. He immediately began negotiating, but I assured him that there was nothing he could offer to top what I was about to receive. He put his head down and let out a deep sigh. Then, out of nowhere, I offered my final service to him. “I’m leaving in a week, but I will do the rest of your marketing (content post, graphic designs, calendar consolidation, social media scheduling) for the rest of the year. Essentially, all you will need to do is check emails, all the work for 2023 will be completed in a week. He looked at me and said “Oh Wow! If you can do that it will be helpful!” So, I quickly turned my swivel chair around and got to work. I spent the next 4 days creating, designing, editing, and streamlining the marketing and advertising process for 2023, all at the same pay.

I did not think anything of my offering at the time. In fact, I thought this was something any decent person would do…help. Right? No. This was an action of guilt. I offered more of my services because I felt guilty for leaving. I felt guilty towards strangers. Towards a job that offered me nothing but a little paycheck with no overflow. A job without a raise or employee appreciation. I felt guilty for bettering myself, for standing in my worth. I felt guilty for honoring myself. I am continuing to understand my relationship with these twins, guilt and shame as I continue to acknowledge my worth and learn how to assertively honor myself, unapologetically.


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