TTC: How many times have you felt guilty as you ttc? Guilt is such a corrosive emotion that I felt many times during my fertility journey. I read this on my insta feed today which I could totally relate to, perhaps you can too:
‘Today I feel that I’m drowning in guilt. Guilt that I want another child so much. Guilt that I can’t give my daughter another sibling. Guilt that I feel sad, when others don’t have any children. Guilt that my husband feels responsible.’
I wanted to wrap this woman in my arms and tell her I get it. That what she is feeling we all feel too.
The difference between guilt and shame
During my own journey I felt guilty many, many times. I remember trying to explore what was under this feeling… guilt, yes, but also fear. Fear about not being able to have a baby. Fear that if I couldn’t have a baby maybe then I was unlovable? And at the bottom of this fear was a deep sense of shame. There is something so taboo about shame. We often replace it with guilt because it feels more palatable than saying, ‘I feel guilty’. Shame feels raw. It somehow feels deeper than guilt so most of the time we avoid it at all costs.
And I want to speak to you about this, because anything that we feel ashamed about and hide in the shadows only grows stronger in us. If we can speak about how we are feeling, it normalises it. It moves from being ‘just us’ to something we can all relate to. That can only be a good thing.
Dr Brené Brown, Research Professor, thought leader and bestselling author of Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong has done a huge amount of work around shame and vulnerability. I learnt that there is a clear distinction between shame and guilt which is important to point out.
- Shame says, “I am worthless because I can’t conceive.”
- Guilt says, “I did something worthless so I can’t conceive.”
3 ways to overcome guilt and shame
What Dr Brown discovered from her extensive research arounds shame and vulnerability is that shame cannot survive when met with empathy. There are 3 key ways that can help:
- Talk about what you are going through, don’t hold back.
- Forgive yourself. Give yourself a break. What you’re going through is tough, so be kind.
- Share how you are feeling with someone who wants to listen and who cares about you.
The secret of healing shame is empathy
When you realise that you are not alone and you share how you feel with someone who can empathise with you, this start of your road to recovery. If you can relate to this, start today. Speak up, share what you’re thinking. When that vulnerability door cracks open and is met with kindness and understanding – this is how you start to heal.
*TTC Trying to Conceive