The Impact of Shame: A Problem You Should Know More About

Shame is very common. It’s a natural piece of human life you’re bound to experience in one way or another. You probably have already. You can see it on tv, social media, at the workplace, maybe even in your own home. Sad as it may be, that’s the reality we have. Some people take shame lightly as if their words or actions don’t really do any harm. They may ridicule those who feel this emotion, seeing them as “weak”. Some use it in comedy without being mindful of anyone who might find what they say offensive. Although we can’t make everyone realize this significant matter, we can still make a difference. Informing ourselves is a start. What causes shame and what else do you need to know about it?


A painful emotion arising from a sense of guilt, shortcoming, or negative self-evaluation, shame affects how you behave. Depending on your situation, you may get depressed, lash out on those around you, develop addictions, hate yourself, or worse, withdraw from any kind of social interaction. You feel worthless so you engage in self-punishing behavior. Whether real or imagined, shame involves comparing yourself to your own standards or others’. Failing to meet them, even if they are too high, may damage your self-esteem especially if you’re a perfectionist. Shame can lead to mental health disorders or overall poor quality of life. 


Shame is healthy when it comes to boundaries. It teaches you not to cross the line wherever it shouldn’t be crossed. For instance, children experience this when their parents scold them for disobeying rules. Toxic shame, on the other hand, is when a person feels greatly ashamed to the point that they continue carrying it even later on as they age. There are many possible causes for shame. It can come from having uptight parents, being bullied at school, doing something wrong in the past, getting rejected, etc. Shame can also happen at any stage of life. You might experience it because of your sexuality, vulnerability, or other factors including those that aren’t even supposed to make you feel bad (people with personal issues can find little things to pick on you).   

Shame As A Universal Emotion

According to research, our ancestors have faced frequent life-threatening events which made them rely on fellow group members to help them survive. This is how social rejection began–not being valued by others poses a threat to safety. Moreover, people from every culture and environment experience shame. Studies even show that facial expressions associated with guilt are recognizable regardless of which part of the world you’re from. However, experiencing this emotion might vary based on your nationality. As an example, Europeans, who belong to an independence-focused country are found to be less sensitive to social shaming, like having a family member caught riding a motorcycle with no helmet on. 

All in all, fear of dishonoring yourself, your community, or your family can encourage you to refrain from socially unacceptable behavior.           


For different reasons, a person can humiliate someone else. They may target them for one simple mistake, an old grievance, or just for who the person is. They may also bash you because of what you believe in. Shaming has unfortunately been made easier in this generation. Within a few seconds, you can embarrass someone or damage their reputation on the internet. A mere video or comment is enough. Despite this freedom, you need to always think twice before you give in. Remember that your actions can backfire. On a more positive note, there are already existing laws related to bullying and spreading false information, which can help reduce shaming incidents.  

Experiencing Shame

Shame is a highly unpleasant emotion. It can take over your mind and your life if left undealt with. It’s one of the most common reasons why relationships end, families are broken, businesses close, and people attempt suicide. Feeling sorry causes you to hide yourself or deny the truth, which might seriously ruin your psyche. Nonetheless, covering up is not the answer. The only way is acceptance. Winning the battle is hard when you refuse to acknowledge what must be acknowledged. Once you’ve got proof that you are really at fault, you need to face the situation you’re in and figure out how you should handle it. If you’re not to blame, then stop being hard on yourself. There’s no point in beating yourself up over something you didn’t do.

Therapy is a great option to consider when shame gets out of control. Talking to a mental health professional can help you understand your issues and process your thoughts and feelings. As much as possible, seek help before you experience any serious damage or any further problems.  

Shame and Disgust

Both moral emotions that encourage avoidance of social interaction, shame and disgust are believed to have evolved from psychological solutions to certain adaptive challenges. Shame helped maintain social hierarchies while disgust helped people avoid catching diseases. Feeling repulsive toward something that appeared dirty or unhealthy has developed into repelling those who act socially inappropriate. Overall, both of these emotions play an important role in social interaction. Social avoidance out of shame protects you from the damaging effects of social norm violations. Disgust uses social avoidance to prevent you from diseases (physiological and social).  

Understanding what causes shame and how significant this emotion is, can help you a lot especially if you’re a victim. Realizing your mistakes and turning things around, forgiving yourself, or freeing yourself from imaginary failure are all necessary in overcoming shame. Wallowing in this emotion is never good. It only damages you and your life. It can even hurt the people around you, even your loved ones. You need to move on. No matter how difficult, you have to try. Give it some time. With self-love and effort, you can get out of that dark place, stronger.

Support yourself or offer support to anyone you know who’s struggling. Help spread awareness. Don’t underestimate what a small act like yours can do. It’s easier to influence others when they see you stand up for something you truly know about and believe in. Your mind, your voice, and your actions are altogether powerful enough.

Can you relate? Share your thoughts below. We’d love to hear them!

What do you think?

Written by Hannah Grace

A B.S. Psychology graduate who fights both real and imaginary shadows every day with music and words.

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