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  • Writer's pictureJacke Karashae

on shame, embarrassment, and the two types of feels

i’ve been reading a lot of books.  a lot of good books, primarily because my friends are fantastic book-recommenders.  one such book, “daring greatly” by brené brown, has many fantastic insights.

it is one such insight that i bring before you today.  which is actually an incredibly minor one in the book, but i keep finding very relevant to how i perceive my life.

brown spends some time at the start of the book outlining different terms: “guilt”, “shame”, and “humiliation”.  to briefly summarize the definitions:

  • guilt is feeling bad about one’s behavior (i did a bad thing)

  • humiliation is feeling bad about the outcome of one’s behavior, even if one does not regret the behavior itself (i did a thing and bad/unfair stuff happened because of it)

  • shame is feeling bad about oneself or one’s essential qualities (i am bad)

brown mentions “embarrassment” very briefly, contrasting them with the above three. she notes:

Embarrassment is the least serious of the four emotions. It’s normally fleeting and it can eventually be funny. The hallmark of embarrassment is that when we do something embarrassing, we don’t feel alone. We know other folks have done the same thing and, like a blush, it will pass rather than define us.daring greatly, brené brown

brown’s book focuses on guilt, shame, and humiliation, and the ways that we can healthfully process and handle them.  many times, dealing with these things requires more than just a flick-of-switch “moving on” turnaround moment.  we need time to reflect, process, and access the root issues that are leading to that feeling.  in contrast, embarrassment is something we may not need to spend nearly as much time or effort trying to “process”.  instead, it’s something we can look at, go “ugh! whoops! silly me!”, and move on with your life with a bit of a sense of humor at yourself.  embarrassment is what people are talking about when they advise to “not take yourself too seriously”, because we all embarrass ourselves. (some of us more than others…)

basically, there are two categories of emotions here: one that you shouldn’t try to brush off lightly, and those that you can (if you’d like).  i’ve found thinking about my feelings on circumstances in my life in these two categories is incredibly helpful.

many times, my default setting at any whiff of shame, guilt, humiliation or embarrassment is to think in terms of, “how do i respond to feelings?” rather than thinking about what kind of feeling i am having.  the result of this is that i will end up over-dramatizing feelings of mild embarrassment as cause for great shame and introspection or underestimating the more severe feelings of shame, guilt, or humiliation as something i should just “laugh about and get over”.  both of these things lead me into great frustration as i either over-deal-with something minor or fail to deal with something major.  and sometimes, just thinking about what category the feeling i am having is in and why will cause me to come to a realization.

perfect example: my “great ‘net purge of 2014” (i.e. deleting of nearly all of my social media accounts).  when this first happened and i was trying to navigate through the what and the why, there were serious feelings of guilt and shame that i was grappling with, specifically with the idea of letting people down and never being resilient enough to last on the web.  spending time to really think over things and talk with a few trusted advisers was incredibly helpful.  i didn’t just “brush it off”, but instead learned some really important things about how i relate to other people and how certain aspects of the ‘net can creep their way into being an unhealthy source of personal validation or identity.

this was immensely valuable and has helped me to change my habits online so that i am not nearly so susceptible to the kinds of flip-flopping crises about what and whether i’m doing stuff online.

once that was dealt with, though, i was kinda really hesitant to kick back up the services i’d put down, primarily because i just felt embarrassed about having to tell everyone that yes, yet again jacke has made a tumblr/instagram/goodreads/etc. because it is pretty silly to have taken such a “rm -rf /” (delete all the things) approach to my issues in the past.  but now i’ve recognized and started to deal with the deeper issues–i realized that this was not a big massive thing that i had to deal with anymore.  it’s something i can brush off my shoulders, take with a sense of humor, and try starting up again in a new direction.

speaking of which: i have created a new tumblr, instagram, and goodreads.  time to dust off and start afresh in 2015!



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