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Shame and Social Change


The Shame Lady's Blog

Shame and Social Change

Kristina Eklund

Lately I have felt so inspired by people who learn this way of working with shame, and carry it forward. If I’m lucky, I get to witness a ‘housecleaning’ of sorts: people doing a systematic review of the ideals that are held by the groups they belong to.

Why do group ideals matter? Because shame arises when we are failing to live up to these group ideals. Yes, even when we think our shame is all about us, shame really has more to do with our need to belong.

For example, we might feel body shame if we fail to live up to the ideal of a fashion-model figure. Or we might feel ashamed that we weren’t raised within the ideal happy-home environment. Or we might feel ashamed that we don’t earn the ideal income. And that shame might show up differently with our family, our friends, or people at the beach – our various groups, because different groups may hold different ideals.

These group ideals – what we hold to be exemplary – shift from time to time, and they can benefit from a periodic review. Kind of like leftovers that have gotten pushed to the back of the fridge. Not surprisingly, some ideals are just bad and can be tossed (like forgotten rotten tomatoes). Some ideals just need some sprucing up (we’ll just shave the edges off that cheddar). And some are still just fine (fruitcake lasts forever!).

When we feel shame, we can ask: what’s the ideal I’m not living up to? In which group? If we can answer these questions, then we can have the incredibly empowering experience of fully articulating our shame. One way to further work with the shame, is to ask: do I really want to buy into this ideal?

This process has led to some amazing discussions about what ideals we collectively want to continue to uphold. These are the conversations that can drive social change! Consider the ideal of heterosexual relationships vs. the emerging ideal of authentic expression of innate sexual orientation. We’re seeing #LoveWins

This topic – of shame, ideals, and social change – will be the focus of my presentation at SXSW 2016 – but I need your help to get there! Please give my presentation a thumbs up at

I’m humbled to be sharing this empowering way of working with shame. I’m so grateful to those who tell me I inspire them, and I want you to know that you also inspire me. It’s been an amazing journey from a cycle of shame to a spiral of inspiration!