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Overcome Family Guilt and Shame: 7 Ways to Stop Saying Sorry

Guilt says you made a mistake. Shames says you are the mistake. Guilt motivates. Shame annihilates. -Susie Garlick

Do members of your family bring instant guilt and shame?

Specific members of my family send triggers setting me off the deep end and I find myself saying sorry far too many times. It’s time to overcome guilt and shame so we can live our lives how we want to.

The Incessant Need To Guilt and Create Shame

When I am vulnerable enough to speak or write the truth there is a backlash from my family. The underlying need to shame followed by guilting each other is palpable.

Isn’t it strange there is this innate need to guilt and shame each other for being honest? Because from the surface, we think we need to have it all together, only none of us do. The lies of the past no longer feed my need for guilt or shame. Even though I will catch myself subconsciously guilting my children or husband, and within the guilt resonates a lasting shame. I have learned ways to stop saying sorry which allows healing of old shame and guilt.

I Am Sorry, has a Time and a Place

We are stuck saying I am so sorry. I am sorry for being honest. I am sorry for and we fill in the blanks of the moment. Why? Why does honesty bring guilt and deep-seated shame?

I am done with being guilted into saying sorry. Let me rephrase, there is a time and a place for an authentic I am sorry. If and when we can learn there is a time and a place for a compassionate sorry is when we can begin overcoming guilt and shame. Yes, I accidentally rolled my son’s arm in the car window; I express with an embrace and words follow I am so sorry I slammed your arm in the door. Here I am sorry is relevant and allows compassion when we feel helpless.

Many of us use sorry as a filler word. Especially us as women are programmed to reach for saying sorry. The blank apologies we repeat are growing the guilt and stewing in the shame we grew up on.

The Difference Between Shame and Guilt

people pleasing, confidence, belonging

Author Brene Brown who researches and writes on shame and guilt, says shame is an intensely painful feeling and shame brings in feelings we are not worthy of belonging or love.

This shame is deep-seated from something we have experienced, something someone told us, or something we have done and been judged and perceived as bad or wrong. After years of researching shame, Brene has come to the conclusion that shame is not productive. Whereas she has found guilt can be adaptive and helpful. Guilt can be owing to our failures and holding them up to our values and sitting with the discomfort.

Different Perspectives on Shame and Guilt

Guilt and shame have stuck with us from our childhoods and carries with us as women today, yet it is time to heal. For each and every moment there is an opportunity to shove in guilt, there is an opportunity to reach into what it feels like to experience pain. I appreciate the work people like Brene have brought into the world, and being me I like to question everything. Because growing up on guilt and in moments it pops up does not serve me.

I see it in my children, my husband, sisters, parents, grandparents and aunts, and uncles. And this low vibe programming who authors like the late Louise Hay and her book You Can Heal Your Life said guilt can be a massive cancer causer. With this knowledge, I choose a new way of communicating with my family.

Guilt is the build-up to shame, the more we are guilted the more we guilt. The more attention and energy we put into these emotions the more guilt and shame wraps around us like a noose.

“Shame on You” Melts into Guilt

How dare you share the truth about life, we must present ourselves as this picture-perfect family. Because if we don’t then what will the neighbors say? What will the followers on social media say? Shame on me, I say shame on you. Okay, this is an old trigger that sets me on fire with rage. I find this saying brings not only anger and then resentment and I am stuck with a gut full of guilt.

Why must there be this incessant need to shame each other? Living an authentic life is difficult and holds many challenges. Especially when it comes to our family members, and especially specific members who play the blame game and don’t hold themselves accountable for their words and actions.

Shame arises within words, and the dreaded “shame on you” brings us into guilt. For too long shame has been a way of controlling those we love and especially from our family members. In many instances shame is followed by the guilt trip, which has been a way of controlling our families for generations, and generations. I say it stops with us, we are the only ones who can end this toxic cycle. I say Sisters let us choose again.

7 Ways to Stop Saying Sorry

1. Breathe, inhale, exhale, allow air to come and go. Take a moment to step back, pause, and feel into your body.

2. Notice what is happening, really happening at this moment. Is this one of those experiences where guilt and shame are bringing your need to say sorry or is this an opportunity to give a compassionate I am sorry?

3. Drop the judgment. Often we are stuck judging ourselves and worried about judgments of what they will say. Here and now is an opportunity to heal some of the guilt and shame by leaving judgment at the door.

4. Feel into the shame and guilt, sometimes it arises in the gut, heart, head, or throat, or other areas of the body. Notice the impulse to blurt out I am sorry and sit with the feelings swirling around inside of you.

5. Step into your power by speaking your truth, even when it’s hard. We don’t need to constantly be apologizing for everything. I live with this quote laminated on my kitchen cabinet I CAN DO HARD THINGS.

6. Create healthy boundaries. It is essential to create boundaries with your family to help you stop saying sorry and to overcome the shame and guilt.

7. Notice the response from family, pause, breathe and choose again. Your innate response might be to lash back with the guilt trip but we choose new ways of being by expressing the hard things. Keep speaking your truth.

Read more on shame and mommy guilt below:

Shame: The Ugly Truth about Secrecy, Silence and Judgment

Mommy Guilt: If You Are Giving it to Yourself, Stop it

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, it’s employees, sponsors, or affiliates.

Shelly Bond

Shelly is an inspired mama of three living in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in Estes Park Colorado. Waking up, she pauses and breathes deeply in awe of the beauty surrounding her. Reading and listening to books is an obsession that has transmitted into a love for writing. Chips and salsa are her weakness, and she survives on almonds and tea. Styrofoam is her kryptonite. She believes she is the funniest person she knows. One of her greatest pleasures is painting or writing whatever is on her mind or overflowing her cup. Being married, seventeen years, and blessed with a special needs daughter has taught her so much about herself. Learning how to battle with resistance, guilt, and opening to acceptance with love. Three years ago she embarked on a Yoga teacher training forever changing her life’s path. Guiding her into becoming a Reiki practitioner, she discovered healing is within us all no matter how big or small. Healing isn’t the endpoint, it’s only a part of the journey.

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