What exactly is shame? How is it different from guilt or embarrassment? What are some practical things you can do to avoid feeling ashamed or taking things personally?

Photo by Akshar Dave on Unsplash

In this episode, Nathan and Aaron answer all these questions as they talk about the problem of shame, a basic thing everyone experiences.

In This Podcast


  • What is shame
  • Embarrassment vs. Guilt vs. Shame
  • Ways we stay stuck in shame
  • How to avoid taking things personally

What is shame?

  • A basic thing every human experiences
  • It is similar to guilt and embarrassment
  • Shame is distinct in that it describes your entire personhood
  • Feeling exposed, looked at and judged
  • Shame can be a shield and protect us from feeling the full weight of negative feelings

Embarrassment vs. Guilt vs. Shame

  • Guilt is “I’ve done something wrong” but shame is “…and I’m a bad person because of it”
  • Embarrassment and shame can feel similar in your body
  • Embarrassment is the feeling; shame is the conclusion you draw about yourself and your identity

Ways we stay stuck in shame

  • See the Fear Triangle series in the links below
  • Shame keeps you stuck in the dark and in isolation
  • When feeling shame, you might push others away through disconnecting, withdrawing, or attacking

How to avoid taking things personally

  • Share the conclusion you’ve made about your identity with someone else
  • Don’t take things personally; it’s not about who you are
  • Separate the behavior from who you are as a person
  • Take responsibility for your actions without letting it define who you are
  • Not taking things personally frees you to become curious about why you do your behaviors
  • Use language that focuses on your behaviors (“I do this”) versus who you are (“I am this”) to maintain emotional distance and power over the behaviors

Useful Links

Thanks for Listening!

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aaron potratz and nathan hawkins therapists standing smiling

Meet Nathan & Aaron

Nathan Hawkins and Aaron Potratz are both licensed therapists and clinical supervisors in the state of Oregon. They each own their own private group counseling practices and co-own a third group practice together. Nathan and Aaron have been in the field since 2004 and 2007, respectively, and have over 100,000 hours of therapy experience each. On their show, they discuss facing fears and common challenges from a therapist’s point of view, imparting wisdom and humanity to their viewers. Along the way, they hope to not only share their insights but bring some light-hearted entertainment to make the journey easier.

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