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Claudia confidentially: It’s a crying shame
By Claudia Luiz/ Local Columnist
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 - Updated: 01:45 AM EST


Dear Claudia,

I have done some things in my life that I am not proud of. I have a lot of guilt and shame about these things, and I have not been able to shake it. I am not married, and have no kids. I know that forgiveness begins with yourself, and that you have to learn to love yourself and leave shame in the gutter, where it belongs. I have read a lot of books about it, but no matter how much I try to be positive with myself, I can’t feel good about myself. The shame is crippling. I know am not such a bad person, and my closest friends and various therapists have inspired me, but not with lasting results. What are your views on shame and how to get rid of it in your life?

Dear Shamed,

Not everybody can forgive themselves for their mistakes. If you can’t forgive yourself for whatever it is you have done with your life, and you can’t let go of all of the associated guilt and shame, maybe you should stop trying. Maybe your guilt and shame don’t belong in the gutter yet. Maybe, they still belong to you.

All the people who have tried to help you with this problem have wanted you to have a good life. I do too.  But I don’t think I’m going to have any more success than they did, helping you let go of all this guilt and shame. Maybe Dr. Phil could do it. But for the time being, I wonder if you have to resign yourself to the fact that your mistakes seem bigger than you are. 

Guilt and shame are such sustaining emotions. They give you so much to think about. Like everything you have done wrong, how worthless you are, how seriously you mess things up, how lonely you feel, how you don’t deserve to be loved…To give up guilt and shame you would almost have to give up an entire view of the world. That’s not an easy thing to ask your brain to do.

I think if you keep waiting to get rid of these feelings in order to have a good life, you may be waiting a long, long time. Maybe, too long. Is there any way you could try to make a life for yourself now despite these crippling feelings?

How to do that? Well, I think the only way to proceed when your goals are totally at odds with how you really feel, is to go through life “acting”. Pretend. Pretend you don’t have guilt and shame, pretend you are a person who can get some good things done, and pretend you deserve to live decently as much as other people do. I am a very firm believer in the concept of “fake it ‘till you make it.” Sometimes, it’s the only way.

Act like President Clinton and Martha Stewart did. They certainly had plenty to be ashamed about. And yet, they managed to keep working. What a great nation we live in; the land of second chances. If nothing else, Clinton and Stewart are certainly fascinating people. I’ll bet you are too.

One of these mornings, you could wake up and finally believe, from deep in your heart, that you deserve a plot of real-estate in a better, brighter psychic place. When you can genuinely believe it, you will open your eyes and find that you are there. Until that morning comes, trudge your way through this tunnel of darkness. Slowly, slowly, work your way out until you finally arrive to where you want to be.


Claudia Sheftel Luiz, M.Ed., Cert. Psya., is a psychoanalyst in Westwood, MA. She can be reached at or via her Web site,

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