The Stigma of Shame

2 Jun

SHAME.

Shame is such a powerful emotion that often goes unnoticed, ignored or overlooked. Shame runs rampant throughout our culture and society and I have never met a person who has not felt suffocated or changed by shame at some point in their life. Our society is paradoxically built upon the values of individualism while simultaneously trying to achieve perfection. The standards set for us are so unfeasible that in the midst of our futile but valiant effort to live up to societies expectations, we begin to feel ashamed of who we are.

Women are required to be domesticated and maternal while men are supposed to be successful and emotionless. Gender roles are assigned to us a birth and if one does not grow into these gender roles, life can be pretty bumpy, obstacles will have to be faced and often times an overwhelming sense of shame will overcome you.

Shame surrounds all of us like oxygen; it’s always there, lurking around us, intertwined in our every day lives. And not dealing with these feelings of shame can leave us feeling ostracized, inferior and incompetent.

Think about it.

Working mothers can feel shamed by stay at home mothers for simply not staying at home with their kids.

Conversely, stay at home mothers can also feel shame for staying at home and not pursuing a career, feeling worthless or feeling as though their lives have little meaning other than child care.

Failing a test and being shamed into feeling stupid or academically incompetent.

Cheating on a spouse and getting shutout by all of your friends causes shame.

Putting your parents into a nursing home and being judged by close friends causes shame.

We feel shame for so many things that are not in our control. And others that are. Regardless, the stigma of shaming others needs to stop. We shame others for not making enough money. Not meeting societies gross perception of beauty. Not being funny enough or smart enough. Not being the right kind of parent. Making mistakes. Getting divorced. Not being tidy. It is everywhere.

There is so much shame in this world that sometimes I can’t help but think the government slips little doses of it into our Frosted Flakes every morning.

It’s pure insanity.

We can never live happy lives when so much expectation is held over our heads. We can’t be everything all at once. Human beings are  eternally flawed and prone to making an abundance of mistakes and a mess of our lives from time to time.  But, so what?

When we stop judging others because they don’t meet our own expectations and we stop expecting perfection from ourselves, perhaps we will know a world with less shame and more acceptance and love. But, until humans start treating each other with the respect and understanding that each of us deserves, this is unlikely.

We are all fighting our own battles. The only way to win the war is with a support system that does not judge or patronize you, but rather simply accepts you, encourages you and loves you despite all your shortcomings.

Shaming people won’t help them. It won’t change them. It will only hurt them.

Accept others for who they are rather than trying to shame them into changing.

And for goodness sakes, when you feel shame about something talk about it with someone. Don’t let it eat you up, because it will, in fact, devour you as if you were a nice juicy steak.

You’d be surprised how many people have felt the way you are feeling and how many people have gone through the same experiences as you. It’s the shame of these feelings and experiences however, that holds so many of us back from speaking out.

In the words of T-Swift, “SPEAK NOW.”

You have nothing to feel shame for.

Let it go.

Forgive. Love. And move on with your life.

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