Difference Between Shame and Embarrassment

Shame vs Embarrassment
 

The difference between shame and embarrassment stems from the different links they have with morality. Shame and embarrassment are emotions that we feel as human beings when faced with discomforting situations. However, these two emotions are very different from one another. Shame can be defined as an emotional state that arises when someone has done something wrong. In this sense, shame is linked to morality. For example, if we have wronged someone we love, we feel ashamed. This is also connected to guilt. Embarrassment, on the other hand, does not result from immorality. It is when an individual feels awkward, when facing a difficult social situation. This is the difference between the two words. This article aims to present a clear understanding of the two words while highlighting their difference.

What is Shame?

Shame can be defined as a discomfort that arises from the awareness that one has done something wrong or foolish. This is a very deep emotion that is linked to guilt. The special characteristic is that when experiencing shame, the individual engages in a process of introspection. He questions his morality. This includes doubting whether his actions were moral or not. The individual realizes that his actions have been unfair and immoral through this process.

For example, imagine an employee who engages in an illegal activity with the intention of bettering his life chances within an organization, or a parent who has not completed his role as a parent properly. In both cases, the individual feels a sense of discomfort when he realizes that he has engaged in a wrong activity. In the first case, it is the illegal activities of the employee. In the second case, it is the lack of attention and concern towards the child by the parent.

Difference Between Shame and Embarrassment

However, embarrassment is not the same as shame. It does not involve a process of introspection or the questioning of one’s morality.

What is Embarrassment?

Embarrassment can be defined as feeling awkward or out of place in a specific situation. We all feel embarrassed at some point or other in daily life. Imagine a situation where you slip and fall in the middle of a crowd, or you forget the words when you are making a speech. In both scenarios, we feel embarrassment. Unlike shame, this is a very milder state. Embarrassment usually results from our fears of others such as what they would think, what they would say. These fears fuel our embarrassment. It makes us feel self-conscious.

Unlike shame, embarrassment is not a case of self-introspection. It is a mere reaction to the situation where the individual feels discomfort. It is also momentary and differs from one person to another. An individual who has a very meek personality can be easily embarrassed rather than a person who has a very outgoing, more sociable personality.

Shame vs Embarrassment

What is the difference between Shame and Embarrassment?

• Definitions of Shame and Embarrassment:

• Shame can be defined as a discomfort that arises from the awareness that one has done something wrong or foolish.

• Embarrassment can be defined as feeling awkward or out of place in a specific situation.

• Depth of the Emotion:

• Shame is a deeper emotion than embarrassment.

• Environment vs Self:

• Shame is a result of the actions of one’s own self.

• Embarrassment is a result of the surrounding environment.

• Morality:

• Shame is linked to one’s morality.

• Embarrassment is not linked to one’s morality. It is a momentary emotional state.

• Introspection:

• An individual’s introspection to one’s self gives rise to shame.

• Embarrassment is often due to others.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. Shame by Libertinus Yomango (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  2. Embarrassed by Sarebear:) (CC BY 2.0)