Shame is when there is a feeling of embarrassment or humiliation resulting from negative and self-critical thoughts about something which an individual feel is dishonourable, immoral, or improper. Shame can be problematic when it is internalized and results in an overly harsh evaluation of oneself, this self-evaluation can result to feeling bad, inadequate or unworthy. People can experience shame about how they look, what they say or had done, or about specific flaws or insecurities they have. Shame can be triggered by past or current experiences or even when remembering or imagining situations where these flaws or insecurities are apparent. Shame also has a timeline. It can be for a short time, or it may be longer due to a core experience of the self that cannot be shaken away easily. For some people, these feelings may begin in childhood and continue well into adulthood. In some instances people may be conscious the sense of shame while some are unaware, and hide it under other forms of negative behaviours such as addiction, anger, or self-harm.
Common causes of shame include:
* Childhood trauma or neglect
* Any negative or self-critical provoking assessment from others i.e. expressed mistakes, flaws, and negative words.
* Frequent criticism, comparison, or disapproval from esteemed sources.
* Another mental health disorder that involves self-criticism or judgment (e.g., depression, social anxiety disorder, body dysmorphic disorder )
* Not living up to self-expectations.
* Feeling as though one’s flaws or inadequacy is shown to others.
* Victim of bullying.
* Expectations not being met or experiencing failure.
* Rejection from others or a weakening of a relationship
Signs of going through Shame
* Overly sensitive and unappreciated
* Uncontrollable blushing
* Feeling used and rejected
* Feeling like you have little impact
* Being worried what others think about you and that you are being disrespected
* Feeling like others take advantage of you
* Difficulty sharing of one’s thoughts or feelings because of fear of being shut down
* Being afraid of mistakes and not taking steps
Sources of shame is inexhaustive, however, the concept had been with man from the earliest time. This is because humans are communal beings and he constantly relates with other people while he desires to be accepted by others in his social world. Abraham Maslow noted that one of the basic need of man is social need. Whenever, man is either not accepted or feels he’s going to be ostracized from his /her desired social class there is bound to be shame or the feeling of shame.
The following are examples of things that people do when they fare ashamed:
* Difficulty making eye contact
* Keeping your head hung low
*Slumping your shoulders instead of standing up straight
* Feeling frozen or unable to move
* Not being able to act spontaneously
*Stuttering when trying to speak
* Talking in an overly soft voice or muttering
* Hiding self from others
Effects of Shame
The effects of shame are diverse as the source of shame. However, irrespective of the cause of shame, it has a consistent negative effect and can start other mental disorders. Including but not limited to.
– Depression and sadness
– Poor self-concept and low self esteem
– Can lead to social withdrawal
– Can lead to harmful behaviours such as substance abuse, addictions (e.g., alcohol, spending, sex)
– Bullying others and intimate partner violence
-May cause you to inflate your ego to hide the belief that you don’t have value (narcissistic personality)
– May lead to physical health problems
– Mistrust of others or self, including impostors’ syndrome
– May lead to perfectionism or overachievement to try and counteract feelings of shame
– May cause you to avoid talking because you are afraid to say the wrong thing and many more.
Most of the impacts of shame lead to behaviours that create a vicious cycle. You feel shame which causes you to engage in behaviours that can lead to more feelings of shame. Or, these behaviours can be detrimental in themselves, creating potential physical or mental health problems on their own.
While a level of shame can make us not to want anything to taint our persona, shame in its higher level or extreme forms causes psychological distress. If you see these aforementioned signs in yourself or in a loved one or suspect that a friend or loved one is going through above, DON’T KEEP QUIET, help them seek psychological help immediately. Don’t wait and hope for improvement. Contact us 081 2827 6962, +234 2291 4084.
Abimbola Ayo-Rotimi MSc, BSc
Reviewed by Olugbemi Olukolade