A mentor of mine once said “Shame and Blame smell the same”. At the time, I don’t think I really understood what he meant. How could shame and blame possibly be confused?
And then one day it hit me.
I was watching a friend endure a not-so-clean break up. My friend had taken what started as a clean break and accidentally turned the whole situation into shambles. I watched from the sidelines and waited for the ownership to show up and apologies to be made. Instead, my friend managed to shift the blame to the ex.
I felt frustrated. How could this whole situation flip so completely? And then I remembered “Shame and Blame smell the same”.
When we feel embarrassed or upset at what we have done, instead of feeling healthy shame, we can sometimes shift this into blaming someone else.
Why do we do this? A lot of our behaviours are centred around survival and self-preservation. Our “Survival Self” feels that it’s easier to blame someone else so that we don’t have to own our part we have played. By avoiding this, we don’t have to feel bad about ourselves and we don’t have to endure back lash from others (as long as we can successfully keep up the “victim” role).
The really unfortunate thing about this is that we don’t actually learn from situations if we aren’t allowing ourselves to feel shame. Have a think about any time you have been embarrassed for acting without integrity. I bet that 9 times out of 10 you have not put yourself in that situation again, by choice, because you don’t want to feel that way again. Shame is how we learn and we are doing a massive disservice by not allowing ourselves to properly process this emotion.
It is HEALTHY to feel shame to an extent. But remember, it can also be a slippery slope. Some people take shame to the next level and feel guilty far beyond what is necessary. Once you have recognised the shame you are feeling and why, own it. This can look like an apology for hurting someone, or sharing how you would do things differently. Once you have made amends, IT IS OK to move on.
Some of the best advice I have ever been given was this:
“Stop. Recognise what you are doing. Learn from it. And move forward. That isn’t who you are anymore”.
So I’m telling you now:
Recognise what you are doing.
Learn from it.
And move forward.
That isn’t who you are anymore.