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How Shame Can Be Beneficial

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In today’s society, people are very easily offended. People are afraid to say anything negative for the backlash that can follow. People let bad habits continue in the fear of speaking up against them. However, shame can and should be used to promote positive change. Shame is defined in the dictionary as, “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior,” (Oxford Languages). The reason a human feels shame is because they know that their behavior was wrong and should be improved. In the past, shame has been seen as a bad thing. Parents are discouraged from shaming their children because it was believed that it is more important to praise the child and boost their self-esteem rather than shaming a negative behavior. However, shame should be used in order to make the individual aware of a bad behavior that needs change. Shame can be beneficial because it leads to the motivation to increase self-worth, it can be used to educate, and it can improve relationships.

Using the tactic of shame, whether on yourself or others, can often lead to the motivation to change. In an article titled, “Shame and Motivation to Change,” author Lisa Rivero includes a definition of shame as, “a more distortional focus in in which people attend to negative aspects of the self (‘I was a bad person’) and has been linked to distancing motivations aimed at escaping the blameworthy event or hiding from public view,” (Rivero). When a person feels shame, they begin to feel bad about themselves because of an action, event, or behavior. The feeling of shame can promote the motivation to change and achieve a more desirable outcome. The article goes on to explain that feeling shame is a negative emotion that we strive to make changes within ourselves in order to not feel bad. Rivero also states, “Any shame we feel is shame for ourselves based on who we know we should be rather than external expectations. We can work past this shame by striving to live our lives more closely to our own ideals so as to reduce the inner conflict,” (Rivero). It is important for the individual to have a picture of the ideal person that they would like to be. When the person knows who they would like to be, they begin to shame themselves for any behaviors that do not align with their ideal self-image. The shame will push the person to change and better themselves, which ultimately reduces “inner conflict”. When a person recognizes their bad habits and feels shame over them, they are motivated to change. An example of positive shaming is highlighted in the talk show, “Real Time with Bill Maher”. On the episode titled, “New Rule: The Fudge Report,” Bill Maher talks about fat shaming and how it is not as prevalent anymore. He explains that this type of shame is necessary because it is used to tell people that they are unhealthy, and a change should be made. Although it seems harsh, the purpose has the individual’s health and best interest in mind. For example, an individual may decide that they want to lose weight. The first step in making this change would be shame. If they feel shame for their behaviors that have led to being overweight, they will push themselves to change these behaviors so that they no longer have to feel bad. The person will strive to eat healthier and exercise more so they can resolve their inner conflict. In the end, the shame ultimately benefits the person because they have the motivation to achieve a healthier and better version of themselves. Shame is the first step in change because the person is able to recognize a problem that needs to be fixed in order to better themself.

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Shame is beneficial because it can be used to educate yourself or another person. Shame has been used to teach a person how they are expected to act in society. From a young age, most parents generally use shame to teach their children manners and proper social behaviors. For example, as children, our parents most likely shamed us if we did not share toys with siblings or friends. Shaming has been useful in teaching proper behaviors and manners. In an article titled, “Why Shame is Good,” author Joseph Burgo explains why shame is not a bad thing. The article begins by stating that most people view shame as toxic and bad, but it can actually be used to teach individuals how they should behave in society. The article states, “Throughout history, societies everywhere have made use of shame to express their values and enforce expectations for how their members ought to behave toward one another,” (Burgo). The article also lists examples of certain tribes and communities that heavily use shaming to teach its members how to behave. If a member of the tribe disobeyed a law or responsibility, the individual would be shunned and shamed. This shame brought the individual pain and a negative feeling. The person learned how to behave because they knew they did not want to feel the negative emotions that follow being shamed. Shame is beneficial because it is used to teach a person how to function and cooperate in society. Shaming is used for socializing people into society, and it is also used to teach people the evolving norms as well. In the same article, Burgo uses the #MeToo movement as an example. The #MeToo movement is a movement that is used to create awareness and prevent sexual abuse and harassment by dominant men against women. The movement is used to give strength to women and use their voices against men and sexual harassment especially in the workplace. The article states that shaming is beneficial in movements like #MeToo because it is the “very public shaming of prominent men who abused their power to sexually exploit women reflects a major redefinition of our expectations for men in positions of authority. Shame in this way has had a positive effect, serving to discourage predatory behavior and encourage greater respect for women,” (Burgo). Shaming was used against men that acted dominant to women and committed crimes of sexual harassment. Shaming is beneficial to educate the individuals of the changing norms, and how they are expected to act and treat women. Shaming has been seen in many different movements. In the Black Lives Matter movement, shaming is used against people that have been racist to teach and educate them the rights of black people. Shame is beneficial when it is used correctly for the purpose of educating people the correct behaviors in society.

When it is used correctly, shame can drastically improve relationships. Shame can be used to improve friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships. Shame can be used within a relationship to teach what is expected and how each individual would like to be treated. In an article titled, “What Role Does Shame Play in a Relationship?” posted by Evolve Therapy, the article addresses shame and how it can be a good thing in relationships. The article begins by defining shame and why individuals feel shame. The article emphasizes the idea that shame is a good thing because the emotion lets the person feeling it know that they could have acted in a better way, or that they may have let themselves or another person down. Shame lets the individual know that an improvement needs to be made. The article states, “Shame can be productive, it reminds us that we can do better, grow and heal relationships. Next time when someone tells you that you let them down, remember they are asking you to be close and restore what was lost between you. Tell them if you feel shame for hurting them so you can move on together,” (Evolve Therapy). Shame is important and beneficial in relationships because no relationship is perfect. Problems will arise, and it is natural to feel shame if you have done something wrong. It is important to recognize the feeling of shame so that the problem can be addressed and as a result, it will allow for the relationship to grow and improve. It is important to recognize shame and deal with it in a healthy way. The article informs that there are negative ways of dealing with the shame, and it is important to avoid reacting the wrong way to shame. If the person chooses to isolate or push the other person away, the shame will not benefit the relationship because no improvements will be made. As long as shame is recognized and dealt with in a way in which the members of the relationship use it to grow and improve, the relationship will benefit from shame. It is acceptable to recognize shame in a way that the person knows they can do better and improve the behavior in the future so that the relationship can heal.

Shame has been learned from an early age. Most children have been shamed at a young age by their parents in order to be properly socialized. Shame will always be prevalent, so it is important to realize that shame is not toxic. The feeling of shame is beneficial because it pushes for self-improvement in the individual that feels shame, it educates members of society on the proper way to act, and in relationships to grow. It is important to not shame people in a way that comes off as bullying or toxic. It is crucial to use shaming correctly so that the behavior can be improved. To correctly use shame in a way that is beneficial, only the behavior should be attacked. The person should never be attacked, only the issue should face shame. Shame is beneficial to society because it promotes improvement.

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How Shame Can Be Beneficial. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
“How Shame Can Be Beneficial.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
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How Shame Can Be Beneficial [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 21 [cited 2022 Nov 25]. Available from:
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