Does Shame Discriminate?

Yesterday during a talk I gave on getting happy with our body, a gay gentleman revealed his body shame. He spoke of how within the gay community, there is a significant amount of harsh criticism and judgment around how men’s bodies look. A woman in the back of the room murmured “…try being a woman”.


I get it. We, women, have significant pressure surrounding our bodies whether it is how we look, how we act or what we do with our bodies. But the more I thought about this interaction, the more I felt I had something to say. And that is shame is shame. The feeling of shame and disapproval is damaging no matter what gender, sexuality or race. The emotion lands and eats away at us whether we are a slight 110 pounds or 300 pounds. It doesn’t matter our shape, size, gender or sexuality. What matters is how deeply we feel unacceptable.

Not being good enough.

A failure or disappointment.

In a word—-separate.

Sound familiar? Yup, shame is a universal human emotion.

However, there is relief.

Relief that doesn’t include taking a pill or starting a new diet. Or the plastic surgeon’s knife. Sure those tactics may help, but usually, they end up being a temporary band-aid.
The long-lasting relief to shame and separateness is–  self-compassion.  That’s right. How can I be kind to myself? I like to say, “Kind as a kitten.”

When the woman in the room murmured “try being a woman”, she was revealing her deep hurt. And also revealing how that pain separates her from recognizing an other’s pain.
When we lack a level of compassion for others, it reveals how very hard we are on ourselves.

There’s hope within the practice of bearing witness to your levels of compassion. You can learn self-compassion by watching how compassionate you are to others. AND you can learn how tough you are on yourself by watching how tough you are on others.

Either way, the end goal is the same– to connect. To feel less separate and to begin seeing how we are all having our unique experience, putting the pieces together and working our way towards feeling “good enough”.

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