Shame, like ALL negative emotions, have a place in life. Or at least had a place in our primitive societies.
Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Looking at human society from the perspective of a “pack”, shame lets us know when we’re doing something wrong so we “stay in line” to avoid being rejected by the pack. In the wild, solitude means vulnerability. Staying in a pack is the key to survival.
But now, in our modern society, shame is a negative emotion that may be doing more harm than good. We are no longer part of a pack, but we are a society made up of individuals, each with their own unique quirks and characteristics. We’re not dependent on the alphas for food and survival, but we’re able to live in our own little “pack of one”. The feelings that kept our primitive ancestors alive may no longer be necessary.
Shame stops us from doing things that could damage important social relationships, thus preventing our devaluation. But if it becomes the strongest feeling in our lives, it can stop you from doing things that could lead to healthy social relationships.
Think about it: how many people attended comic book conventions when it was seen as “dorky” or “geeky”? I’ve had so many people tell me, “Oh, I remember when San Diego Comic Con was just 1,000 people.” Now, you get numbers in the hundreds of thousands attending a single event, coming from around the world. What was once a potentially “shameful” activity is now accepted as the norm.
Shame is no longer needed to survive, so it’s time to get rid of it. We need to stop being ashamed of the things we like, love, want, need, and feel. Shame will distort our perspective on things, tell us it’s “wrong” or “bad”. Really, shame is a form of anxiety—our worries that something we do will make you undesirable or devalued.
Say no to shame! Don’t let that anxiety stop you from doing something if it makes you happy, or to be who you want to be. Understand that shame is an instinctive reaction intended to keep you alive, but don’t let it control you. Knowledge is power, so know your shame and take power over it.