Conquer Guilt and Shame After Abuse

Conquer Guilt and Shame After Abuse

Why do us survivors of abuse feel so
ashamed and guilty? Even after we’ve acknowledged that the abuse isn’t our
fault, we still feel these pervasive and painful emotions. Well, here’s how to tame
shame and exercise feelings of guilt in a healthy and self loving way. Hey I’m Arien Smith and you are watching
Arien Inspires, a weekly online web series where I help survivors of abuse
find peace, joy, and prosperity. And we all know that shame and guilt create the
opposite of this. This is why it’s such an important topic to talk about. Shame
leads us to hate our name, identity, past, and even our future dreams. It makes us
feel like a burden to the people that we love, even when we’re just being our
normal selves. I’ve yet to meet a survivor, myself included who doesn’t
struggle with this shame. Fortunately though, it’s something that each and
every one of us can overcome. To start off this video, I do want to define guilt
and shame, since they’re actually very different things.
Guilt is when we feel bad about our actions, shame is when we feel bad about
ourselves. Guilt says, “I did something bad,” whereas shame says, “I am bad.” See the
difference? Shame eats away at our sense of self,
whereas guilt empowers us to atone for our mistakes and improve ourselves. And
yet shame is so so common for us survivors. We’re constantly criticizing
ourselves, hating on ourselves, and feeling like we’re inherently bad. Even
in situations where guilt is warranted, we instantly turn that feeling into
shame. But why do we do this? It’s not too complex or difficult to understand. It’s
just a simple mental and emotional pattern. When you were being abused,
especially if it was something that happened when you were younger, you were
confused about what was happening. You were made helpless by another person and
they hurt you. This was in all honesty, absolutely terrifying.
Abuse is terrifying and confusing and it’s hard to wrap our heads around what
is happening when we’re in the midst of it. Because it’s so hard to acknowledge
that someone that we loved or looked up to was hurting us, we blamed ourselves
for what was happening. Instead of admitting at the time of abuse that your
abuser was the cruel one, you may have told yourself that you were the one who
deserved the abuse. You had to do this to survive. It was a lie that you were
telling yourself, but it was essential to tell yourself that at the time. You had
to believe it, because the truth that someone that you loved was hurting you
was just too difficult to bear at that time. So this led to a deep and ingrained
shame about who you are. You came to believe that you were the one who was
bad or wrong and that’s why you were being hurt, rather than the reality that
your abuser was doing something horrible and they
were the only one to blame. Then there are societal factors that continue to
make it hard to break free from the shame. Victim-blaming, which says that you
were at fault, a lack of resources for survivors, and this concept that if we
don’t forgive our abusers then we’re in the wrong these all contribute to shame
sticking with us. Then of course there’s our own actions that keep shame with us
as well. Like when you choose to say, “I am bad,” rather than just acknowledging that
you did something bad when you made a mistake. That your action wasn’t ideal,
but that that doesn’t change your inherent worth as a person. Breaking free
from shame is done with this single thing. All you have to do is start to
reframe how you see mistakes and shortcomings in your life. Recognizing
that it’s okay to feel guilty. We all make mistakes and that’s cool, that’s
okay. But these mistakes are something that you did, not something that you are.
You may have made a mistake, but you are not a mistake. Catch yourself when your
mind is trying to convince you that you’re bad and reject those thoughts.
It’s gonna take practice and sometimes these thoughts are super sneaky, but I
know that you have everything you need in order to be able to catch them. I know
you can do it. This shame will not be here forever. So, right now in your life,
what is one thing that you feel ashamed of about yourself? One thing that makes
you feel like a bad person? And what can you tell yourself to break down this
shame? I’d absolutely love to hear from you in a comment below, so please don’t
hesitate to share your thoughts. Lastly, I would love if you shared this video with
a friend, a loved one, or on your favorite social media channel. Shame is nothing to
take lightly, so let’s share all of the healing messages about it that we can, so
that we can all overcome it and break free from it. So, if you found this video
helpful, please share it with another survivor of abuse that you know. As
always, there are a ton more resources over at, so head on
over, check it out, and leave a comment. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe
to our email list. You’ll receive exclusive monthly self love letters,
weekly blog updates, and free resources I send only to my email community. You
deserve to know that you are an amazing person, even when you make mistakes, even
when you’re still hurting from your past or you’re carrying the baggage of past
trauma. You’re a great person and you deserve all of the love in this world.
You are worthy, you are loved, and you are capable of so so much.

5 thoughts on “Conquer Guilt and Shame After Abuse”

  1. You hit on some very good points about victim blaming. I find that has hurt me deeply by even other victims. One person even told me that I wasn't ready for a relationship until I learn to love myself (while I was making good & wise decisions for my life, and this person wasn't). That always stuck with me. I tried to reason with her, and finally said, if what you say is true then NO ONE should ever be in a relationship until they are "complete"; good luck with that reality. At some level, her comment made me feel like something was wrong with me as a person. Shame?

  2. Jihan Osama Abdelgawad

    Something that makes me feel ashamed about myself is that I was super vulnerable as I was recovering and I was sharing my story with everyone which opened floodgates for abuse and people who were essentially "vultures" and didn't have my best interest at heart. Also, something that makes me feel ashamed and it's always in the back of my head is that I feel stuck and I have not moved on yet. A "friend" of mine was constantly blaming me for "overreacting" and "making a mountain of a molehill", so that shame is still stuck with me. I feel like I have to justify myself often.

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