What We Know About Shame


Shame as an emotion of self-assessment. Shame causes a person to experience anxiety as that person worries how he or she will be judged by others.  The emotion of shame can range from being slightly embarrassed through to total humiliation.

Shame can focus on two types of evaluation: external shame, which is externally focused on how others evaluate the self; and internal shame, which is focused inwardly. Both types of Shames are closely related, with internal shame involving an identification with others’ negative evaluations such that the individual self-devalues and self-criticizes.

Self -criticism entails the internalization of shame.  The self-criticism has distinct functions: one involving perceptions of inadequacy and inferiority, as well as desires to correct one’s flaws and a more severe form of self-criticism involving feelings of self-hate and contempt, as well as desires to punish and harm the self.

Importantly Researchers  like Brene Brown have discovered that that shame experiences happening in childhood and adolescence can become central to self-identity and a person’s life story, becoming an important  element of a person’s sense of self and a reference point for everyday inferences and expectations, as well as greatly influencing one’s social interactions. Body image issues are a component of shame.

Body image has been identified as a particularly salient foundation of shame because it represents a measurement of the self that can be easily assessed and scrutinised by others.  In fact, the display of a body image with valued features has always played an important role in the interplay of others’ and self- evaluations

In particular for women, physical appearance has been a fundamental dimension for self-evaluation and for determining whether one is accepted and valued by others. There is growing evidence pointing towards that body image-related shame plays a significant role in the development 0f Binge eating in woman. Body image in men seem to be influenced by what is valued by the social group. It could be argued that, for both men and women, the internalization of the ideal body image—that  there is, drive for thinness in women and drive for muscularity in men in current Western society. Thus, it then is logical to conclude  that both genders are similarly affected by evaluations that one’s physical appearance lacks qualities to create a positive image of oneself in the eyes of others and that instead potentially promotes their desire to criticize, reject or attack the self.

In conclusion shame has a significant impact on an individual’s perception of themselves. Shame is directly connected to how a person perceives themselves, and how they think other’s see them. This can lead to negative  body image of self and can manifest into eating disorders.

If you need help with thoughts and feelings of shame, you can contact a qualified counsellor today. I offer free chats to help people dealing with shame. 0418 720 176

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