Why Healthy Shame Is Important
We are living in an interesting world right now. We are coming out of an era where we were being shamed, judged and rejected for who we were at the core unless it was the definition of a societal ideal. This is pretty amazing.
But at the very same time, we are doing that thing that us humans do, which is to see a problem and swing to the other end of the pendulum to fix it. This also isn't working in my opinion.
Yes, shaming people for who they are is a huge forking problem. I'm not suggesting we try to tell people what they should or shouldn't like, who they should or shouldn't love, or what is acceptable in terms of earning a living or not.
Doing this kind of shaming would be considered toxic shame. This is not the kind of shame I am going to be referring to throughout this blog.
My viewpoint on doing what you want is as long as it's working for you, you're good to go. This means, as long as you aren't harming anyone else's free will, you're not forcing other people to take care of your lack of responsibility for yourself as a person, and you consider other people's wellbeing before acting on your impulses... great! In this case, I think you're allowed to do whatever you want and no one should judge, reject or abandon you for it.
Our avoidance of shame becomes a problem when we are so scared of shaming each other, and making other people feel bad, that we let everything and anything be okay. This prevents us from being fully formed adults who take responsibility for their actions and act with integrity.
It is especially hard for us people who aren't used to placing healthy boundaries due to adverse childhoods to proactively face with the anti-shame movement. It makes it more difficult to have hard conversations about what you need respected for your wellbeing because you feel like it's wrong to make another person feel healthy shame. Any kind of shame has now become bad and out of line.
In my eyes and how I'm currently relating to this is that it's a part of the much larger problem of spiritual bypassing.
I'll use a real life example so you get what I mean. This isn't intended to make my mom bad or wrong, it's just the truth of an experience I am facing with her and have faced with her throughout my life.
My mom, notable for her spiritual bypassing, will tell me that I am shaming her for who she is because I am not okay with many things she does.
Here's the breakdown of the truth...
I am not shaming her for who she is. She can be whoever she wants to be. And I truly mean that. I love that she's an eccentric dreamer even if this isn't who I am too. I have learnt so many amazing ways of being from her because she is a hopeless romantic, prioritizes fun and pleasure, does things impulsively and on a whim, and runs the show to the beat of her own drum. I love that I have these traits in my personality too. The problem isn't that she is who she is. The problem is that she is impacting other people's free will with her actions, and not taking responsibility for herself as a human being by doing the things that she does, regardless of if she's an eccentric dreamer or not.
In her world, she sees me as though I'm telling her she can't be an eccentric dreamer when I ask her to show up and stick to commitments. She feels my disappointment of her actions is a shameful reaction to her being who she is.
This is a narcissistic thing to do. Act badly and then blame the person calling you out on it for not accepting you, flaws and all.
When really, I am not okay with the things she does because it impacts other people at their core, myself included. It's not that I don't want her to be allowed to be who she is. This is the difference.
If she was a gypsy type of person who always followed through on her promises, then cool. It's not that her being a gypsy archetype is the problem for me. It's how she is flighty and I can't depend on her for things she promises me I can depend on, leaving me in sticky unfair situations.
I am saying her behavior is impactful in a negative way on other people and I think she should look at that because it hurts and isn't acceptable if she wants to be in a relationship with me that I feel safe in. I am not saying she is wrong.
I want to start a conversation around this - we aren't bad human beings. But at times, we may be acting badly, and if we're hurting people by doing so, we need to be made aware of it to have the chance to course correct.
We can't use the anti-shame movement to our advantage by not truly feeling what we're doing wrong and avoiding the course correct.
The problem with the anti-shame campaign is that there is no accountability for acting poorly because we don't want to insult anyone.
Some of us are using it as a way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions, and confusing people into thinking that they are shaming us for who we are if we don't accept their behavior since it is unhealthy.
The truth is healthy shame is GOOD for us. I learnt this from my nervous system health teacher and somatic experiencing practitioner Irene Lyon.
We need to feel healthy shame to change something.
If I am acting in a hurtful way, I need to feel healthy shame to course correct it. If I don't feel bad about it, I'm going to do it again.
Of course, there are nuances to this. For example, if you're dealing with a narcissistic person telling you that all your actions are hurtful, then this concept has little merit, and you need to seek counsel with a professional to navigate this issue.
But generally speaking, if a person is a regulated, safe, and healthy human being and they're telling you something you are doing isn't okay, you've got to feel healthy shame about it to resolve the issue if it means something to you to be in integrity.
I'll use one thing I was doing wrong to illustrate my point further.
When I first started my coaching practice, I often acted from a place of entitlement, especially with my connection with Spirit. I felt like I had the answers, and people who didn't agree with me were assholes trying to dim my light. Sound familiar? We gotta be careful with that one.
I am glad I was able to see that using blanket statements such as 'everything happens for a reason' or 'we always have a choice' without taking into consideration how this isn't always the case, was a poor way of using my authority in the world. I felt healthy shame about how entitled and privileged I was acting as a white woman who was a life coach. I don't act or talk as though I know everything without considering other viewpoints anymore.
And that is why healthy shame is important, folks. It makes us better people.
Let's not be scared of it. We won't die from feeling shame. We aren't bad. We just sometimes act poorly and we can course correct it when we are made aware of it and we feel its implications through healthy shame.