why we need to talk about shame




We all experience shame. It is not like guilt ‘the feeling that we’ve done something bad’. Shame is the secret feeling that we are bad – that we are not good enough, and we don’t belong. The more secret the shame, the more destructive it becomes and the more pain and isolation it causes.

When children and young people experience shame time and time again, layer upon layer it can change the way they think about themselves, undermine their potential, sabotage the possibilities available to them and causes life long damage to self.

Across all of our projects, shame comes up over and over as one of the biggest barriers for young people. We have found that when we acknowledge our feelings of shame and push through them, what we achieve can be astounding.

The study of shame has identified four ways people express shame:

  • Withdrawal, in which a person tries to hide – by covering their face, locking themselves in another room or even refusing to see other people
  • Avoidance, where the shame is so intense that a person turns to substances or other means to try to numb the pain
  • Attack self, in which the shame gets turned inwards, which can result in feelings of self-hatred and worthlessness, and drive people to self-harm or suicide
  • Attack others, in which a person degrades or assaults other people, in an effort to replace their feelings of shame and vulnerability with feelings of strength and pride

This December, Beyond Empathy’s No Shame: Free to be Me campaign is not about denying that shame exists. It’s about bringing it out into the open, naming it and having the courage to talk about it. Shame thrives on silence. The best way to defeat shame is to talk about it.

No Shame: Free to be Me is an opportunity to celebrate what is deadly and magnificent about your friends and family. Its about pushing back against that negative voice that tries to convince you that you are not good enough or don’t belong.

No Shame: Free to be Me acknowledges and encourages diversity and difference and celebrates all that is magnificent about the unique and special you.

This December we are celebrating our No Shame: Free to be Me campaign & we’d love to hear your stories.

Help us spread the message by following our Facebook page and sharing with your friends and family.

Upload a photo that celebrates what’s magnificent and special about you or your family and don’t forget to tag us @beyondempathy and hashtag #noshame and #freetobeme so we can find your photos.

Let’s break the silence on shame.

If you are struggling and aren’t sure who to turn to, check out Kids Helpline or Beyond Blue. You can also call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.