Here is the introduction to a 3 part series from Rick Hanson about shame and self -worth. I think he rocks! I did a weekend with him in Sydney a few years ago and he rates up there with my heroes of interpersonal neurobiology.


In this three part series, we will look at where shame comes from, in human evolutionary history, and in personal development. There also are three quite powerful exercises in seeing through, releasing, and replacing (with worth) any feelings you may have along the shame spectrum.

The spectrum of feelings in the territory of shame include:

  • Inadequacy – Sense of being unfit, useless, not up to the task, inferior, mediocre, worthlessness, less than, one down, devalued
  • Humiliation – Embarrassment, disgrace, degradation, loss of face, slap in the face, comedown
  • Guilt – I did something bad; [I know it]
  • Shame – I am something bad; [they know it]
  • Remorse – Contrition, regret over wrong-doing, feeling abashed, self-reproach, conscience-stricken

These are powerful, sometimes crippling, even lethal emotions (e.g., people killing themselves for the blemishes they think they placed on their family’s honor).

There is a place for healthy remorse in a moral person. But for most people, the shame spectrum of feelings is far too prominent in their psychology – typically not so much in terms of feeling chronic shame, but in terms of how they pull back from fully expressing themselves to avoid the awful experience of a shaming attack.

Why it’s worthwhile to feel worthy:

  • Simple fairness
  • Increases well-being
  • Increases health: you are more likely to invest in medical care and good wellness practices if you feel you are worth caring for
  • Builds the self-confidence that supports making the sustained efforts that lead to accomplishment – which creates positive cycles that build self-worth
  • Helps others by (A) not being insecure and needing endless reassurance (can get annoying), and (B) frees internal attention and energy for being of benefit to them

Source: From Shame to Self-Worth – Dr. Rick Hanson