The Toxicity of Shame

One of the most emotionally crippling and psychologically damaging feelings we experience is shame. But what makes shame so cruel to those who fall under its curse, is that shame is a second-hand, vagabond emotion that has made its way into your mind where it does not belong.

Shame arises when we feel like we have failed to meet the real (but often imagined) expectations of others. It is, in this sense, quite different from our other emotions in two ways. Firstly, it does not arise from the heart but from the mind. After all, shame is a product of what think we should be. Secondly, shame is not a product of the self but of the other. Shame is inextricably bound and dependent upon what others think. Shame is tangible only when expressed through others.

When we are gripped by shame, something reveals itself that we should pay attention to: we are living according to the rules and standards others have set for us.

To loosen the vice like grip shame can have on our souls, we must make the essential but monumentally difficult task of deciding for ourselves what is right and who we want to be. It does not mean we will never feel guilt or disappointment (life is, after all, often a succession of these very moments), but that these feelings will cease to have the disabling effect on us they once did because we now know what we didn’t before: we can decide for ourselves what to do next, rather than succumbing to the imagined expectations of others.

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