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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Crabtee

How shame and guilt can make you feel unlovable and how to overcome it

This week I have been working with shame and guilt. What do they mean and what are the consequences for us? These are all valid emotions but when they interfere with our lives, stop us moving on, moving forward, then maybe it's something we need to delve into a little deeper.

We all feel shame and guilt at some point in our lives but without sharing with others, a friend, partner, or professional, such as a counsellor, this can leave us feeling that we are unlovable.

Human nature is such that we have a desire to belong, be part of something bigger than us and be loved. But what if we have secrets that mean we may not love you if you shared it?

To start it's important to recognise the difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt is a feeling of remorse, we are sorry for something that we have done wrong. We all do things we are not proud of, regret, wished we'd have chosen a different path. We have a choice at this point to say sorry, make up for our error and then hopefully move on.

Shame often follows on from guilt, but not always, but is hidden. I did something wrong, I feel guilty, or something was done to me that makes me feel ashamed, I must be bad! Shame makes this even more personal but it's hidden in us - this must mean there is something wrong with me. If there is something wrong with me then I am unlovable and if the secret if shared this may bring rejection and disapproval.

By keeping secrets in our lives we are allowing them to make us feel unlovable. Being unloved makes us feel we don't/won't belong. However, feeling loved allows us a sense of place in the world, we are part of something bigger, we are accepted and approved of.

Maybe you don't feel brave enough to 'test' if this is true with someone very close but you could engage in a relationship with a professional who is bound by codes of confidentiality and ethical boundaries? As a counsellor I will offer you empathy (put myself in your shoes), congruence (to be honest and real with you) and unconditional positive regard (allow you to open up without fear of judgement). You can test the water with your shame. Is it actually it so bad? Will it mean others will not love me? What does that say about them rather than me?

Don't live with secrets if you feel shame, 'you are only as unlovable as your secrets', and we all need to feel loved, cherished and part of something bigger.

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