There’s a new culture creeping into our society known as the shame culture. Social media has led to this rise in shaming with people everywhere consumed with the number of likes, shares, or reel views. It’s forced people to crop out the reality of life and only post Instagram-worthy pictures. If you don’t have a certain number of followers, it’s easy to let shame sneak into your life. In his journal Cultural Sociology, Thomas Scheff spoke about this shame. Shame is “the most obstructed and hidden emotion, and therefore the most destructive. Emotions are like breathing—they cause trouble only when obstructed.”Changes must be made to help individuals feel free to be authentic. We need to open our hearts and our souls to people in all walks of life. If someone is feeling ashamed for not fitting into the social norm, we need to extend love. Our spirits were meant for bonding, not shaming.
Cultivate a Kind Heart
There’s not enough kindness in this world. “When one feels ashamed, that person may experience stress, hopelessness, and self-loathing. Feeling these effects of shame can negatively impact a person’s view of his worthiness, dignity, or sense of ability to change maladaptive behaviors” (Rachel Camp—“Shame in American Culture: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly). People who may be feeling ashamed of something they have done or simply because they don’t fit in need extra love. They need to know they are needed and valued—because they are just as much of a spiritual being as you. Show kindness not only in your words but in your actions. Body language is the first indicator of how someone feels. Be welcoming with a smile and show them you care by making eye contact and deeply listening. Make sure your body language shows you are present and not anxious to get somewhere else.Listen to your inner voice for ideas on how to show kindness to those that need it most. Be present and observe who needs additional love. And then act. Kindness begins with you. Try this 3-minute exercise for the inspiration you need to make your influence more beautiful to those around you.
Individuals plagued with shame need an outlet. They ache to connect with others because their underlying shame makes that very difficult. So, open your ears and open your heart. The Crisis Prevention Institute teaches the importance of listening with your heart: “Empathetic Listening is a dynamic and compassionate process that calls for more than just taking in someone else’s words. You’re communicating with that person as well. You’re showing that you care about them, their thoughts and feelings, and are willing to take the time to hear them out.”Empathetic listening goes a long way. Help this person in your life—the one hurting from the damaging effects of shame—understand that their worth hasn’t changed. They still have an inner light and spiritual identity. They are loved by their higher power, regardless of how they feel about themselves. The most powerful influence you can have is to remind someone of their worth. So listen with love and help reignite their inner light.
A step you can take to help avoid the shame culture is to recognize and celebrate diversity. Not everyone needs to fit into one social, physical, emotional or spiritual mold. In fact, embracing diversity will help you expand your perspective and possibly lead to new spiritual insights. As you listen to someone who has different values and views, you’ll find your spirit opened and ready to learn.Ghandi shared this powerful insight: “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” Diversity truly is beautiful. It adds color and personality to life. It would be awfully boring to all be exactly alike. Help change our society and advocate for unity rather than giving in to the shame culture.Unity brings better relationships and inner peace. It’s what keeps society running without constant contention. So, embrace the diverse personalities and perspectives around you and open your heart. Celebrate the differences and work towards unity. Learn to love someone different than you.As you focus on unity, there will be no room for shame. Help stop the damaging soul effects of our shame culture. And start a kindness movement. One of love, listening and uniting despite differences.Need some direction? Check out Skylight’s spiritual wellness app. Regularly practicing your spirituality will guide you down a path of kindness and love. You could change the world with your kind heart. Why wait?