If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies. – Einstein
Part of living a self-empowered life means taking responsibility for how we show up in the world.
For me, it means speaking up when I believe something needs to be said.
So, here I am speaking up about shame and what we each can do to empower people to see each other compassionately. This matters in life, business and parenting (big time).
So let’s talk about how to address the yuck of shame culture.
There’s a lot of blah-blah-blah about how a culture of shame leads to abuse, violence, depression, anxiety and worse.
While it is all true, shame does lead to negative outcomes, when we tune into social media we are often faced with an entire screen of shame based messages. Some are direct. Some are indirect. Most are passive aggressive.
People who claim to be healers or helpers are posting about “The 10 things you are doing wrong…” Women’s advocates post about “how to lose baby fat..” Hell, there are whole shows (sponsored by Disney,no less) dedicated to shame, America’s Funniest Videos, right? We laugh at people getting hurt or embarrassed and then they make money off of it.
Being shamed hurts. Shaming others is crappy. And we often aren’t aware we are on the receiving or projecting end of shame.
All that being said, there’s lots we can do to change shame culture. They are easy. Ready?
1. Don’t shame others. Don’t tell people that eating a cupcake is “bad” and juicing kale is “good.” Avoid all judgement about body type, clothing choice and whether or not people look better with make up (or not). Choose the high road. Agree to disagree. Keep your mouth shut when the opinion or judgement doesn’t add constructively to any outcome. Think before speaking. Tell no secrets. When you have to vent (and we all do), vent face-to-face with people you trust with you life. Don’t use public or social platforms to rage or “make a point.” Shaming is a cheap way to make ourselves feel better and every time we do it, we add to a culture that is harmful to all of us.
Oh and don’t post those horrible, “I know most of you won’t like or comment on this blah-blah-thing-about-me, but if you post it on your wall or tell me what body part you like on me the best, it means you care.” This is SHAMING people into feeding your ego. And it’s a huge yuck-o experience for those of us reading it who want to like you, but cant’ like your pleas for weird attention.
2. Don’t allow people to shame you. When someone sneers, rolls their eyes, tells you that you “don’t get it,” or are “too emotional,” or should “do your research” and you know you aren’t wrong, you can do a few things:
- Ignore them
- Fight back
- Shame them, too
I’m cool with ignoring, fighting, not the shaming. You decide what is warranted in your situation. In some cases, I walk away from jerks. In others I stand my ground.
True story – nothing irks me more than losers who send me personal email complaining that what I write in my blog “offends” them. I’m fine with constructive criticism, but it’s the judgemental ones who say stupid shit like, “your blog is very self-serving,” or “using curse words makes you sound unintelligent,” that I want to punch in the face. So, I do the next best thing, tell them to take up their issue on their own blog and empower themselves to have a voice. This isn’t shaming. This is empowering someone who felt cognitive dissonance about something I wrote, and rather than stand up straight and look themselves in the eye and coping with their own reaction, decided to try to shame me to shut me up instead.
Sorry, no. I don’t accept that chess move of shame. Stand up and empower yourself. Check.
3. Don’t let others get away with shaming. We all see it and hear it. People saying shaming stuff to others in their space. The ones that make me sad are when women try to “support”each other by holding each other accountable to “be good” on a diet or exercise program. Eating lettuce or running 10 miles doesn’t make you “good.” Helping the homeless, adopting a kitten, holding your child’s head as she vomits are good human choices. Juicing isn’t a validator of how things will turn out at the Pearly Gates, if you get my drift.
So stand up to that BS when you see it. You can be nice. You can be empowering. But don’t let that “You are amazing because you fit into a size 4 dress!” crazy talk into your stream and cheer back,”Size 14 for the win!”
4. Metaphorically and literally high five people. When you see good stuff going down, speak up, cheer it on, share that stuff, join in the goodness. High five all the awesomeness you see and hear.
We think we do this, but we don’t.
Don’t believe me? Try this experiment. Today,post to your Facebook stream a crazy rant about how people suck because they don’t understand you. Whine. Blame. Throw a hissy fit. Notice how much feedback you get. You’ll get all sorts of comments, likes and validation that your hissy fit matters. Tomorrow, post about something good. Share a story about a hero who helps veterans or works for Doctors without Borders. You’ll get crickets on that good stuff. Sure, maybe a few likes, but nothing like the swoosh of feedback you got when you were being a brat. (If you don’t want to do that on your wall, go see how it goes down on other pages.)
We like drama. We are all wired to pay attention to the negative. This is why tabloid papers are still around and really profitable. Shut down the crap and focus on the good. You get what you focus on.
The bottom line is, we get a shame culture because we ALL participate in it. Whether explicitly or implicitly we let shame rule and leave the good stuff to wait for another day.
We are the culture. We are the community. If you feel shame hurts, be part of the shift toward light and compassion. Start today.
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