On Shame

Greyscale Photo of Masks on a Stick

It is not the gods who judge but the herd. The crowd. The masses. The group. The community. When an individual enters a community, it often uses shame to control the individual, and at all costs prevent her from standing out, speaking up or freely expressing herself. Shame is a powerful weapon, characteristic to all layers of society, spanning its vast traumatic implications throughout the strangely fascinating history of humanity.

Shame tends to determine the direction of our lives. For as long as we can hide behind a successful career, a house, kids and status, it doesn’t really matter how we feel. We wear our masks (figuratively and, as of 2020 literally!), sometimes thousands of them, with commitment and pride till we forget our own faces. Till we can’t remember what it feels like to be us.

“We live our roles better than our own lives.”
― Raoul Vaneigem

It feels safe to hide in the stories of others. It is easier to be empathetic to their convictions and suffering than to admit we are like them. Nobody must know that we are hurt, lonely, misunderstood, confused or lost. It is easier to quietly bear the burden of being someone else for fear of being judged and avoided as problematic, dramatic, different, and especially too vulnerable.

We are taught society favors people who have mastered stability and consistency. Those whose lives are in order, who always know what to do until they don’t. Then society moves to the next myth and the next role model available: a celebrity, an entrepreneur or a political leader, and the wicked game starts all over again...


This post is part of a series of short musings on topics inspired by the past 14 years of living as an expat in the Netherlands. Some of the posts may be revised or expanded into full essays. As always, thank you for taking the time to read my work. It is my hope that it keeps adding valuable insights to your life. If it does, feel free to subscribe for new content and share it with others.


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