It’s Not Your Fault: Shame in Today’s Society

Our world has conditioned us to think that if we are not productive, then we are lazy. If we’re not using our time wisely, we’ve wasted it. Almost if the time we have was given to us by someone as an experiment to see what’s the most we can do in the least amount of time; meanwhile comparing oneself to family, friends, and social media. The highlight reel that social media serves keeps us wanting more, since it looks like everyone else is doing something all the time…right? 

This pressure women face to “prove” themselves to the world and ourselves is a never-ending hamster wheel. Because in many women’s minds, society has conditioned us to believe that purely existing isn’t enough to be worthy. There will always be something else you could’ve done, or said. This mindset is not our fault. We were raised in a patriarchal society, meaning the outside systemic forces we live in has curated this mentality. Historically men held the power and women stayed at home to raise the kids. In this systemic framework, women are not foundationally meant to work outside the house.

Now in 2023 to many its seems we have gone back in time by fighting for our basic rights. Women work outside the house, own businesses, and even hold power positions in corporate America. Yet, that does not take away the shame women battle on a day-to-day basis.

Shame is the belief that “we are bad”, it focuses on ourselves.  It’s fueled by self-doubt and plagued by unattainable expectations of what we’re supposed to be. What we “could” and “should” be, the ruminating worry of never being good enough. In a capitalistic system, where money, power, and materialism fuels the economy, we’re led to believe there is no such thing as having it all. 

Meanwhile, we are aware that there will always be something else to want, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. Shame could never set us free of that, we have to take the power back. Although shame can talk ourselves into believing we are bad people for combating societal norms, by understanding the societal structure that its rooted in can help us see a different perspective.

5 Ways to Confront Shame

Recognize & Acknowledge

Normalizing the experience of living in a society that preys on productivity, capitalism, and patriarchal ideology can help pinpoint feelings of inadequacy. We are tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed because going 100mph all the time is not natural, we are not machines. Acknowledging where our self doubt is blurring our consciousness is important to sit with. The human experience allows for an array of feelings, meaning placing judgment for experiencing shame over gratitude is normal. As imperfect humans living in an imperfect world, the outside pressure can be curated for us to believe we should be something were not. It’s our job to face that reality head-on, and decide how we will respond.

Set Intention

One thing that shame does not like is connection and vulnerability. Shame wants us to believe that we are not worthy of taking time for ourselves since we haven’t “done enough” that day. Reframing our mindset to help gain perspective can help us understand the misleading beliefs we’re fed. For instance, resting can be viewed as being lazy or a bum, like you didn’t work hard enough to earn that break. However, reframing that viewpoint into intentionally telling ourselves rest is productive can change that narrative.  Humans can’t function without rest; it is required each day, and therefore is needed for survival. Meaning rest is productive, and me being on this earth is enough for me to take time for myself.

Selective Choices

Being a woman living in our society at times can feel so powerless; therefore its important to make choices that you have agency over. These little meniscal choices you make on your own, over time will make a difference in your everyday life. Especially when you’re mindful of the choices and how they’re aligning with your long-term goals. See, if I made a choice to set up 10 minutes for myself every evening to do skin care. I am practicing choice making over my personal time that aligns with my intention to better care for my body. Instead of loosely hoping I complete all 3 steps of my routine, I’m holding myself accountable and doing what I can control.

Psychological Flexibility

Psychological flexibility refers to one’s ability to stay true to their values and goals while simultaneously adjusting one’s behavior and thoughts in a given situation. It emphasizes being present in the moment and allowing thoughts to come and go without judgment. By staying true to oneself, less focus is on each floating thought. Practicing psychological flexibility can be helpful in coping with shame, by focusing on what we value as an individual, and developing resilience to uncomfortable thoughts, and emotions. Accepting who we are and being mindful of where we are headed allows us to set ourselves free from expectations and external factors.

Let it Flow

Thoughts come, and they go, emotions heighten and settle, and events happen then are a distant memory. Allowing ourselves to view the world as a natural process can mitigate some of the expectations of control we crave. Ultimately letting things come and go without force and seeing them for what they are can bring a sense of peace, and forgiveness. Learning to forgive ourselves is essential to maintaining an internal homeostasis state.

By Kennedy Baker

Self-Care, Uncategorized