I thought it was pretty well universally known that shaming will never help you, or anyone you love, get better. At anything.
But man, it sure is funny how assumptions can bite you in the rear end.
There I was, scrolling through Twitter when I saw an influencer proclaiming the loving nature of shaming. It was pretty long, but the core of the quote was, “To shame is to love.”
Hmm, I thought to myself. Where to begin?
I mean, I spend every working day helping people dig out from under crushing shame so they can thrive and enjoy their lives. So, it’s hard to see such putrid garbage being published. Especially by someone who claims to help people become the strongest versions of themselves.
The Truth About Shaming
Here’s the actual truth. Shame is “highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders,” and “contributes to violence.”
You can thank Brené Brown and her exhaustive research on shame for that truth bomb.
Quite the opposite of loving, or helping anyone become the strongest version of themselves, shame kills.
That’s because shame isolates. And for humans, isolation is a death sentence. Whether it’s a slow death through chronic health problems, or a sudden one via suicide or an “accident on purpose.” The outcome of isolation is the same.
How Shame Works
Here’s how shame works. At a young age, you develop an innate sense of being worthless or inherently defective.
That happens because some of the needs or feelings you have are SHAMED by adults who can’t handle those needs or feelings in themselves, and therefore can’t handle them in their children. This does NOT mean they don’t love you. It means they don’t accept a part of you.
You begin to feel “unworthy” and deeply flawed. You cannot accept the needs and feelings in yourself that your parents can’t accept. In other words, you cannot accept a PART OF YOU.
Consequently, you use every tool at your disposal to avoid those needs and feelings in yourself. But because the needs and feelings are very basic to humans, you develop habits and accommodations to try to meet those needs, often in secret or through substitutes. However, you don’t know they’re substitutes.
Then these substitutes start to look like addictions, unhealthy behaviors, or poor relationship skills. Subsequently, you start to hate yourself for those accommodating substitutes, but can’t stop them because you are trying to meet deep, unmet, fundamentally human needs that you don’t know exist at this point.
You alternate. Between depression and anger about who you are fundamentally and behaviors you can’t stop yourself from doing. And fighting against the self-hatred through accomplishment and “right living.”
You have no idea that deep inside you are needs or feelings you are ashamed of having because your parents rejected you for having them. So, you made them not exist in your consciousness.
They CANNOT and therefore DO NOT exist in you to your knowledge. They were the cause of your early rejection and isolation. So, to allow yourself to know you have these needs and feelings ALWAYS brings with it a resurgence of self-loathing and shame. This does not allow for progress and accomplishment in life, so you deny, deny, deny.
You build up knowledge, skills, capabilities, power, followers, a big bank account. And you feel a high sense of esteem about your accomplishments.
Now you begin to judge others for having or demonstrating characteristics of those very things in you that you cannot accept.
You shame them. And you shame the behaviors you see in them that you’ve seen in yourself. Those things you know reveal the search to meet those needs, accept those feelings, or that bring solace and escape from the pain of the shame.
With the veneer of high self-esteem, you have gained from your accomplishments lying on top of your shame-prone foundation, you become a bully. Mocking others for the very things you perceive as your own failures and shortcomings so they will not be exposed in you.
It’s a pretty grand place. You’ll fly high for a while.
But it’s a lonely place. And it’s an inauthentic place. Ultimately, it will kill you. If not quickly, then over a lifetime of death by a thousand painful cuts.
Do The Right Thing
Don’t use shame to influence your loved ones or those you purport to help. Eventually, it will destroy their capacity to love themselves fully and therefore destroy them, and weaken the people they love.
Instead, help them feel safe and understood so that they can enjoy the life they work so hard for.
And when you’re ready to know and let go of your own secret self-hatred, contact me. We’ll talk.