It’s quite normal to feel guilt and shame if you’ve done something wrong. But what other reasons are there to cause these emotional reactions?

Guilt and shame are natural reactions to a feeling of wrongdoing, but they are slightly different. Guilt is how we feel when we have done something wrong. It is all about our actions, what we do or say. Guilt is ‘I did something bad’.

Whereas shame is how we feel about ourselves, the feeling of being wrong. Shame is ‘I am someone bad’. So what are the kinds of things that make us feel guilt or shame?

There are lots of things that can cause a person to feel guilt. You can lie, cheat, steal or even harm another person. Guilt is an extremely common emotion.

In fact, a recent study concluded that 96% of women suffer from guilt at least once a day. Not only that but this feeling of guilt and shame is having a destructive effect on our mental health.

So what are the unlikely causes of guilt and shame you may never have considered?

5 Causes of Guilt and Shame

  1. Saying no

Who would have thought that simply saying no to a person would cause us so much grief? But it is right up there in what makes us feel guilty. But why does it affect us in this way so much?

Well, first of all, it affects women more than men and this is because women are taught from an early age to be polite and accommodating to others. So when we go against this ingrained imprinting it feels incredibly alien to us. And it is this that causes us to feel guilt and shame.

But obviously, people cannot agree to every request or favour put their way, so how can you say no without appearing to be the Wicked Witch from the West?

The answer is to buy yourself some time and not be pushed to say yes or no on the spot. Say something like ‘I’m not sure whether I can that day/afternoon/evening but let me get back to you.’ Then if you can’t or don’t want to do it, say no. After all, you are not Superwoman.

  1. Not spending enough time with your parents/children

We all wish we had more time to spend with loved ones, but in today’s busy society, sometimes this just isn’t possible. But if it is causing you to feel heartfelt anxiety and problems, you need to be able to deal with your situation. Many parents worry about not spending enough time with their own parents and their children.

So how do you get the balance right? Unfortunately, we have to work to pay the bills, but if you are at work, worrying about your kids, your work is not getting the best out of you. In the same way, if you are at home worrying about work then you are not present for your kids.

Make sure when you are with your children you are 100% with them and not thinking about work. Likewise, when you’re at work give it your full attention. As for your parents, remember that they were also parents and will understand you have a busy schedule. It’s likely they understand more than you give them credit for.

  1. Not being perfect all the time

Some people strive for perfection. Whether it is in their careers, their relationships, their homes or their educations. But I have it on good authority that there is no such thing as perfection. In fact, the celebrated writer on common sense, GK Chesterton said:

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” GK Chesterton

And I always follow his advice. The thing is, you can get so caught up in the details of getting a thing perfect that you miss out on the fun of it altogether. And remember, your perception of perfection is likely to be different from everyone else.

So while you are killing yourself to achieve this impossible goal, everyone around you might not even think you’ve achieved it by their ideals and standards. So what really is the point?

Just relax and enjoy yourself. There are no gravestones that say ‘Her house was really clean all the time’ on them. They all read ‘She was loved and will be greatly missed.’ And at the end of the day, that is what’s important to be remembered for.

  1. Not losing enough weight

There’s a lot of body-shaming going around these days. Sly remarks about a person on social media. Photographs with cruel taunts about a person’s shape. Anyone over a certain dress size that is trying to lose weight will already know how hard it is to get the pounds off.

But being the subject of name-calling is enough to cause feelings of shame where the person doesn’t think that they are good enough in the first place.

Life is hard enough for people over a certain weight anyway. They face stares of disapproval whenever they go out. They can’t find chairs large enough on public transport and clothes shopping is a constant nightmare. This feeling of guilt and shame that they are not doing enough to get the weight off follows them around all the time.

But obesity is not about a person being lazy or eating too much. There are mental issues involved such as addiction to food or using food as a comfort. But this is about making a decision. If you want to change, you have to get help because this is too difficult for you to do on your own.

  1. Always being late

Finally, I have to admit that this is something I struggle with all the time. I am always late. Actually, that’s not true. I’m never late for my birthday. Which goes to show what a selfish person I am. Because for every other date or appointment – I am always late. And it kills me every time.

But I don’t change my habits. I don’t leave earlier to beat the traffic. And I certainly don’t suss out the car parking situation so I know where I need to go. I am always rushing at the last minute and I always arrive flushed, panicking, out of breath and feeling guilty.

So why don’t I change? Is it because I don’t value other people’s time as important enough for me to make an effort? Or is it because I have plenty of time I simply assume other people do as well? Or am I just lazy? Sadly, I suspect it’s the latter.

What causes you to feel guilt and shame? Why not let us know in the comments box? We’d love to hear from you.



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