The Abundance of Shame

A feeling that I often think about is Shame. Where does it come from? We are certainly not born with it. Children seem to have no concept of the feeling. Why do we have it? Certainly not to make ourselves happy or help us become better people otherwise we would all enjoy the feeling. No. Shame is in my understanding, a useless emotion.

I believe we are taught shame in order to adhere to certain societal standards. Society has come up with rules – do not eat with your fingers, do not burp, do not put your elbows on the table, do not show emotions such as anger, surprise, bewilderment, or confusion. The list goes on and on and is different to each society. All with the purpose of meeting a specific set of rules laid out but no one specifically but followed by everyone. In a Freudian perspective, he would argue this is the repression of everything “Es” or “It” – anything biological or natural that we are born with. Shame comes from the “Uber-Ich”, a variety of norms pressed upon us to manage the “It”. He claims this is unnatural and to a certain extent I do somewhat agree.

But unlike Freud I think after thousands of years of civilization we have come too far to undo the rules. We have been trained to believe that doing certain acts is just not a way to make others feel comfortable. And at a minimum in this advanced society we should try to make each other feel good in the space we are sharing (which grows ever so tighter and tighter). Yet that does not mean you should feel shame if you are not able to. Why should we feel bad for acting human once in a while? For farting or burping when you shouldn’t (IT HAPPENS COME ON GUYS), for having your undies stick out of your pants for a short bit, for asking a question you should have known the answer to – if there was no ill intended, why punish yourself even more?

Shame seems to be a blocker for many people. It hinders them from doing things that they might enjoy spending their time doing. Perhaps even excelling. Shame stops them from trying new things in life because they worry they will look stupid doing it. For wakeboarding and not making it up on the board, for trying yoga and not reaching your toes or understanding the position, for meditating and needing to scratch their genitals. My goodness, I cannot tell people enough that no one cares about these things but you. You are, logically, not the apple of other people’s eye. There is literally no one in the world as preoccupied about you than you are. If you don’t believe me, think about how much time you spend thinking about your co-worker and how much time you spend thinking about yourself. There is no one in the world as bothered about you as you are. Even if it might seem like it for a second, because everyone is watching you learn tennis or cycling or whatever it is, people forget about it really quickly. Why? Because they just don’t care. And neither should you.

There is no reason in life why you should feel shame. It doesn’t make you a better person. You can still be self-aware and mindful of your actions but you don’t need to feel bad about it. I repeat, shame is a useless feeling. It’s hard to get rid of and perhaps we never will be able to remove it fully, but it sure shouldn’t be something that stops you from living your dreams. Tame your shame.

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