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Understanding Guilt and Shame (and why you need to know the difference!)

I want to start off this post by saying that yes, unequivocally, guilt and shame are two different things. In many situations, guilt and shame go hand in hand. It can feel that there is no distinction. Today I’m going to help you understand the difference between the two and how it impacts your day to day life.

Guilt and shame can paralyze us, or it can incite us to take action and change. Knowing the difference will add perspective to situations and help you navigate your own emotional path.

What is Guilt?

Google defines guilt as a feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation. While the language implies negativity, guilt is actually a good thing. It’s helpful and effective and catalyst of self-awareness and a driving factor in personal advancement.

Feeling guilt is a cue for you to look at the things you have done. To look at what you have, or have not, done and hold them up to your values and beliefs. When you feel a sense of physiological discomfort or unease, guilt is telling you its time to make a change.

Pretend for a moment you are late getting a project in to a client, you had promised it on morning X and it’s already 12 pm day Y.  At this point you are feeling guilty, good! Guilt is social glue, poking and prodding from inside your mind to make up for wrongs. Wrongs that may otherwise ostracize you from society.

I’ll admit, guilt has been a

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