Refresh Your Browser To See The Animation!

Shame - A Cultural Epidemic

Share This Article:

By Débora Coutinho | 15th July, 2022

How often do you feel ashamed? Do you know what shame is? And why are we often so uncomfortable - or ashamed - of who we are? These are questions that are, actually, above our personal state: according to Brené Brown, “shame is an epidemic in our culture.”

What Is Shame?

Shame is, more than an emotion, a reflection of the way that we truly view ourselves, especially how we see our role in the community, in the society — it’s the bad feeling you get not because of something you have done (as it is with feeling guilty), but because of who you are.

💡 You feel ashamed when you can’t think of yourself as inherently worthy: you need to prove your value. When you can’t do that, you start to think about yourself as someone who is not good, who is not worthy of attention or love, not even your own — shame starts at this point, in this core belief that you are bad simply by existing.

Where Does Shame Come From?

It’s important to highlight: we were not born ashamed!

First of all, let’s look at the concept of shame society:

🚨 In a given society, shame has been a fundamental device for gaining control over people and maintaining order, due to the fear of exposure and being left out of the community (ostracism).

This device is used since we’re kids: as we grow up, we are always looking to find our place, especially when we are children. And that answer comes, firstly, from our family, and then friends, classmates, coworkers, etc. That means that we are directly affected by how we are treated, even if it is in our subconscious.

Tim Fletcher, lead advocate for Complex Trauma, argues that, when we are born and as we get older, we often question if we feel loved, desired, worthy. Depending on the response we get from people around us, largely from our parents, and how we absorb that response, we start to look at ourselves through certain lenses. For example, if a child exposes their opinion on a subject, but gets laughed at — they may take this reaction as the meaning that they are stupid.

When we grow up, we have a collection of various impressions others showed about us, all of which are in the center of how you see yourself — and shame comes from that place. We believe that, to be worthy, we have to meet unreal standards set by society, and the conflict between what we are supposed to be and what we truly are takes over our lives. Hence, when we’re not able to accomplish and satisfy those standards, we feel awful, we feel bad.

✅ To overcome this part of the problem, it is important to ask yourself: why do you give the people around you the power to dictate whether you’re worth of value or not? And why are these people, who are just as imperfect as we are, pointing their fingers towards us? — it’s likely they’re frustrated at themselves, rather than at us.

How Does Shame Affect Our Lives?

When you start feeling bad about yourself, just for being, you cultivate emotions that are potentially harmful, such as:

  • isolate yourself, because why would anyone like to hang out with you?
  • you keep things to yourself, because you don’t want to be a burden.
  • you develop addictive or harmful behaviors, since you don’t deserve your own love.

These are just some of the consequences and thoughts that can go through the mind of a person that suffers with the shame of being. They can influence one's whole life, including personal relationships in school, grades, work… That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness about the matter and discuss strategies to control it.

Strategies That Help To Overcome Toxic Shame

It’s fundamental that you understand that no one is better than you, and no one is worse than you. We are all human beings, normal and imperfect — those who judge you would most certainly judge themselves if they looked from the outside.

💡Our feelings, actions, our way of being — it’s all worth of value, and you don’t need to do anything more than to exist.

❓ An amazing strategy is to reaffirm to yourself that the things that you do, feel, say, etc., things you’re ashamed of, they are all common and normal. Everyone is embarrassed by something, and, when it comes to the bottom line, it’s all part of our being.

Connection and support is also a tool against shame. Making sure that other person feels seen, that you are proud of them for who they are, understanding differences and similarities:

“Empathy is the antidote to shame.” — Brené Brown

Remember to respect your emotions and feelings, for that is the entry to a better relationship with yourself and, consequently, with others. Understand that you do not need to fit in certain molds to be loved or valued: you’re good if you need to take time off, if you didn’t do so well in an exam, if you are tired, because none of this actually has the power to set you a value.

Finally, treat yourself with kindness.

Suggested Articles