Shame is Not the Ticket to Our Best Future

Samantha Stein
2 min readSep 28, 2023
Samantha Stein

According to the American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology, shame is defined as “a self-conscious emotion that arises from a sense of dishonor, immodesty, or indecorum in one’s own conduct or circumstances. Shame is a feeling of embarrassment about having done something wrong.” Most people understand shame to be a feeling that “there is something wrong with me” because I have erred.

People who feel shame often feel powerless, worthless, or exposed. Shame can lead to feelings of:

  • Depression
  • A deterioration of self-esteem
  • Negative and self-critical thoughts
  • Rumination on past failures and rejections
  • Urges to hide or withdraw from other people
  • Feeling small, weak, helpless, or “frozen”
  • Feeling unlovable

Often there is confusion between shame and guilt. Brene Brown, a famous expert on shame and shame research makes a clear delineation between the two. “There is a profound difference between shame and guilt”, she writes. “I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful — it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” In other words, guilt lets us know that we’ve done something that we don’t feel…



Samantha Stein

I’m a writer, photographer, and psychologist who (monthly) explores self, relationships, and mental health in an ever-changing world.