Test Case

A self-help book editor uses what she learns at work and in life to help herself.

Shame on You! Do You Use Shame to Control Others?

Shaming others is a way we can often get people to do what we want, but is it worth it? Read More

My blog emails

I have a blog. It's pretty benign. It has posts on it about that are designed to inform. I write about hiking, tubing and various interesting topics on my urban environment. My blog allows for me to put any picture I want next to my blog title. Sometimes I put pictures of myself, a reasonably pleasant looking woman, and sometimes I pick another picture.

When I have a picture of myself about once a week I get emails, not blog comments, from people who attempt to shame me. They'll take snippets of sentences that I've written and explain that I should be ashamed of myself for hurting people. They tell me that I need to delete entire pages of my blog and make changes. They tell me I need to do more research and write, well, what they want me to write. They write long emails about how much personal pain they are in, how their families have hurt them, how they feel powerless and helpless. I don't respond to them, all this happens without any communication from me. They almost always use "anonymous" as their username.

But when I change my picture to a building or a mountain top, the emails come to an abrupt stop. Since I've had the blog for so long I've had a lot of time to think about why people do this. Shaming people, especially bloggers you don't know, makes people feel powerful and moral. For just a few minutes they are God, telling somebody else what is right and what is wrong with them. Since they are doing under the cover of anonymity they feel there will be no repercussions, no blow back. I assume these shamers are also shaming their loved ones, and I can imagine the trail of pain, hurt and abandonment that leaves.

I also am amazed that when they know I am a pleasant looking female people feel compelled to shame. This is probably because women are under intense pressure to behave in a submissive nice way, and pointing out when a woman is stepping out of line is somehow culturally acceptable. Shaming is acceptable to do to women, not so much for men.

Shaming emails almost always come to me late at night, after 2AM. I picture people angry about their day, angry about their interactions with loved ones, suffering from insomnia firing up their computers and finding somebody, anybody to vent on. Their loved ones might not be responding to their shaming so they turn their attentions to the world of unsuspecting bloggers.

I always wonder how these people feel after they finally get the rest they need, wake up and realize they've spent the night spamming hateful emails to perfectly decent human beings who take the effort to share useful information with world wide web. The shamers are pathetic meek creatures who need help. It's sad there is so many of them out there.

Re: My blog emails

I'm so sorry this happens to you! I also wonder if they'd do it if you were a man. It's hard to say, but I definitely believe people only shame others when they think the other person is inferior to them. Remember that they're doing that because they're insecure, in pain, or were harmed in some way. It doesn't make it any less hurtful, but at least it makes it less personal. And good for you for not "taking the bait" and getting in a war of words with them. The delete button is your friend!

Yes my mother tried to use

Yes my mother tried to use shame and so did others in school. It just taught me when people try to shame you tell them that just because they think you should act,eat,sleep,play like this doesnt mean its right for you. Everyone has a right to live how they see fit and usually those who try to control others PERIOD have issues all their own.

I make sure to point out that they should be more consumed with their lives than mine :)

Re: Yes my mother tried to use

"I make sure to point out that they should be more consumed with their lives than mine :)"

Good one!

Using shame to control others

Using shame to control others is extremely unhealthy. I believe it stems from the need for the person doing the shaming to feel superior and in control. They somehow feel threatened by the person they are shaming and their own self-esteem is lacking. It seems very passive-aggressive in a sense.

Re: Using shame to control others

I agree!


Why do adults (spouses) shame their partners. I am wondering because frequently when my wife complains about something that I do that is hurting her, she uses shaming language that is aimed not just at expressing her own feelings (which I would appreciate at that moment) but at telling me how I've done that to other people or how "no one likes that" about me. It is a pretty awful cycle that usually leads to a prolonged fight instead of a more quickly communicated and understood problem that we could then resolve (somewhat more quickly).


Thank you!

A wonderful article that I am just finding now, thank you! It eloquently stated a lot of the things I feel about shaming.

My mother used a lot of shaming techniques growing up. Not overt verbal abuse, but just what you said in the article, eye-rolling, sarcasm and implying others (men, society, but never her) would look down on me. While it's kept me on the straight and narrow, it has really taken a toll on my personality: My siblings and I all have terrible self-esteem and we don't handle criticism very well, in my case I become overly emotional and cry over the smallest slights or failures. What can I say? all those negative comments pile up and wear you down, and eventually you develop a hair-trigger. Even now I can acknowledge the success I've achieved, but I'll never not have that internal monologue reminding me that in spite of all my good work I'm still fat, gross, unlovable and one mistake away from pissing it all away.

At least I realize this and make efforts not to do it to other people, and though I'm not perfect (I sometimes over do it when shaming my SO for racist and elitist comments), I still try to avoid it.

I hear you

Although you posted this a long time ago, your admission really hit home with me.

I experienced much the same from my mother and am still struggling with those feelings of inadequacy. I hope you have learned to accept and love yourself. It's a daily struggle, but I'm learning : )

Thank-you for such an

Thank-you for such an enlightening and informative article on shame.

I have just realised that some of us can carry the shame that others have imposed upon us around for years.
I never really understood the horrible feeling of shame that I have and each time someone shames me it returns with vengeance.

WOW it is not me who is no good, useless, not worthy, inferior etc! I will no longer have to try and over achieve woohoo.

I came on this site after reading Louise Hay's "you can heal your life" I have a kidney problem. In her book Kidney problems are criticism, disappointment, failure, shame, reacting like a little kid. I couldn't for the life of me understand what all this meant. A quick google of shame brought me to your article and the pieces fell into place for me. I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders or should I say my kidneys.

Many thanks.

I can relate to this so much

I can relate to this so much because my wife has shamed me for nearly 20 years with so many things.

I'm confused to know exactly how to then understand if "i " have some bad traits. For example at the moment the marriage is at critical stages because she is 100% convinced that I am a full on narcissist and that she is only a co dependant, and yes I can see some of the smiliarities in my behaviour, but I hoenestly believe that she is now using this "new" finding on her behalf to just shame me even more and to divert attention away from the massive amount of shaming she has done to me over 20 plus years. Any advice or help would be a massive help for me to try and understand if in fact this is what she is doing

Thanks you

I read the book by Brene

I read the book by Brene Brown. I think I've been using shaming as a tool for most of my life. I can shame a person with just a look. Like you said it's genius and it's nefarious (I had to look that word up). I do have a lot of empathy for others also, most of the shaming I do I have justified in my mind as they deserved it. Those people who have trouble discerning the truth, the takers, the blamers, the abusers, and in my opinion those that just generally are too lazy to carry their own weight or responsibilities on this earth have been my targets. Regardless of my perceptions of these people or anybody - I know that I need to stop. Shaming others is a form of bullying. It's one of my life lessons to learn on this earth and something I need to change.

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Melissa Kirk is a writer and editor who works as an acquisitions and developmental editor at New Harbinger Publications, a self-help psychology publisher in Oakland, CA. 


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