Why We Need to Rebrand Shame!

We don’t need to closet our shame stories anymore. Open conversations are the best way to rebrand shame!

The pandemic has changed how we view shame. Culturally, shame stories were hidden in closed closets. These were secrets you keep in your closet, that would otherwise bring shame. The bag of secrets got bigger with time and became an unbearable burden.

Culturally, it’s easier to bury things in the closet rather than talk about them. The big change we are witnessing now is: How shame is being rebranded. Deborah Cohen, history professor at Northwestern University, says, “The need to hide something is almost universal.” Family Secrets is Dr. Cohen’s book, explores the changing role of secrecy in Britain, going back to the famously private Victorians. During her research, she came across 19th-century ads for desks and tables with compartments that were not just hidden but locked. “These cabinets were an attempt to maintain familial or individual privacy. When you look at records from divorce trials, you see how this locked furniture was put to use. I think a pretty extraordinary amount is still hidden.”

The shades of people’s secret closet vary. Frank Warren, who created PostSecret, an art project in which people send in anonymous confessions that he posts online, said that not all secrets involve duplicity. Some, he said, “can be hopeful and romantic.” He recalled a confession he received from a man who had built furniture for his family and put love missives to his wife inside.

Turn your shame into courage. In the new shame culture, the opposite of shame is celebrity — to be attention-grabbing and aggressively unique on some media platform. Social media world has made some famous due to their shame stories. But when you want to normalise shame and the secret stories and bring them out of the closet, it can only be done when people are confident about turning their shame into their power. When there’s no element of guilt, when you are comfortable in your skin. When there’s no insecurity in the social system’s inclusion and exclusion game, there’s no punishment or reward for moral codes of conduct. Then secret stories will no longer be shameful. The stories from people will flow easy, we can normalise shame. This would be the big shift in judgment.

Jennifer Jacquet’s book, Is Shame Necessary? believes that there is art to effective shaming. When we feel shame, it’s as though a spotlight is shining on all the shadowy parts of ourselves. Shame is like a magnifying glass for the hideous parts of our identity. Our instinct with regard to shame is to therefore hide that which we are ashamed of.

In a culture of oversensitivity, frequent moral panics, people feel heaviness and hide their stories. Ash Beckham, in his TEDtalk on shame, talks about why we’re all hiding something. He urges, ‘Let’s find the courage to open up. Your closet may be telling someone you love her for the first time, or telling someone that you’re pregnant, or telling someone you have cancer, or any of the other hard conversations we have throughout our lives. A closet — is a hard conversation, and although our topics may vary tremendously, the experience of being in and coming out of the closet is universal. It is scary, and we hate it, and it needs to be done. At some point in our lives, we all live in closets, and they may feel safe, or at least safer than what lies on the other side of that door. But I am here to tell you, no matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live.”

Are you the one to keep things private. One person´s embarrassment over a secret, can easily turn into another person´s gloat if they discover someone’s sensitive secret. Columbia University researchers demonstrated in a study of 13,000 secrets that people may become distracted by secrets, leading to preoccupation with them, decreased feelings of authenticity, and a reduced sense of well-being about satisfaction with one’s life.

Shame is the root of everything that keeps us stagnant, that keeps us sick, and that keeps us feeling broken. If you have to unstuck your life, start changing the me narrative. 

Shame has the power to grow inside you, spread its roots deep into our souls, and stay buried, penetrating every conversation, every relationship, every experience you have. Shame stories make you feel incapable of growth and change. Individually, we must look at the roots of our shame and judge whether it is useful or not. We must tear shame out and start anew. We go through this process on a cultural level, as well. What was shameful and in the closet 100 years ago, isn’t any longer. The cultural norms have shifted. We’re becoming more accepting. When you want your life energy to move at a rapid pace, you can’t cling to finite and labelling narratives, which at the core of everything can keep you feeling stagnant, unworthy, and incapable. Psychology Today in an article decodes shame as – “Shame usually presents itself as feeling overwhelmed with a lack of self-worth, beaten down by others (but mostly ourselves), and feeling not good enough. Write down your shame narratives, and detach yourself.”

Choose your shame, choose your values.  It’s in this way that shame infects our relationships, interfering with intimacy, thus causing us to feel even more alone than before. Good values produce good, healthy shame. It’s time to bring that shame out of the closet.

Talk about your shame narrative. When we create an eco-system where everyone talks about what’s in their closet, we normalise shame stories. We take the sting out of shame, it becomes our braveheart moment. Lean into the discomfort and let yourself walk through it even stronger. Embrace your raw imperfect moments.

How To Rebrand Shame:
* Be authentic.
* Be Yourself
* Own your Story
* Be direct.
* Take off the Band-aid.
* Be unapologetic.
* Speak your truth.
* Forgive yourself for feelings, thoughts, or actions of your “former selves.”

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