Much has been made over the last few years about shaming. It seems that every word, sentiment, or feeling you express must be carefully parsed over to make sure that by exclaiming your own deeds and successes you are not inadvertently putting someone down. It does not seem to matter that you may never actually make anyone but yourself the subject of your exclamations. What matters most is how others may feel about what you have said. For instance, I ought be careful to publicly reveal my newly toned body and the hard work that it required lest I shame someone who has not had the same success. This is prevalent in many social realms, albeit inconsistently. We still find it socially acceptable to shame people for many things and I will not pretend that such shaming has no ill effects on people, particularly children. It’s potential damage being stated, I write to you today in defense of shaming.
The modern mainstream spectrum of thought surrounding shaming has been narrowed to “It makes people kill themselves” to “Oh get over it.” I argue that, for some, shaming is a positive exercise. It is the proverbial kick in the butt that takes the subpar past the lowly realm of mediocrity and through the event horizon that is unquestionable dominance, self-confidence, and passion. Now I was shamed as a child, we called it “made fun of” back then, but I did experience the wrath of children seeking to establish dominance in their small, insignificant worlds. It took its toll on me emotionally and caused me to question myself in many ways. I was short for my age, very dark-skinned, never dressed with any modicum of style, and was remarkably smart. All of these made me fodder for any other kid with a knack for wit. Oddly enough, although I was bothered, I never fully sought to release myself from the characteristics that made me a target. I excelled academically even moreso than before. I tried a pair of Air Force Ones (I think those were cool at the time) but never really got into shoes. Without direction, I seemed to harden to the opinions of others. This is not to say that they did not affect me at all, they still do today. It is to say that I had managed to find refuge from the shame in myself and my larger goals. I was smart because I craved knowledge, I dressed poorly because I preferred video games to new clothes. I was so in tune with my own desires that pleasing others was barely an afterthought. I give you this peek into my childhood not to act as though mine is reflective of every kid’s. I know that for some children, fitting in is literally a form of survival so being “yourself” is nearly impossible. I mention this story to give background for my (and likely millions around the country) current view on shaming as a motivational art form.
“If that hurts your little p***y a** feelings…makes you wanna cry… Don’t look for a pat on the back from me muthaf***a ‘cuz I don’t have one for you.” -CT Fletcher
“Come on you can do it! I believe in you.” -Everybody else
Which one of those would make you get up off your butt and do “it? Without a doubt, many people will say the second quotation, and that’s fine. But the first quotation by CT Fletcher, with all of its vulgarity, machismo, and utter SHAMING… that quotation drives me. Those words force me to look at myself and only myself. I can’t look at you or my parents or my friends or my disability or my aching muscles or anything. I can only look at myself for the answer. No one is going to give me a pat on the back and quite frankly, if someone did I would be even more disgusted with myself. Don’t comfort me in my failure. Push me to succeed or leave me to wallow alone. As harsh as that sounds, for some people that is the only way to truly motivate them. Love does not motivate them. Care and compassion does not motivate them. The only thing that can motivate them is staring failure in the eyes and knowing that the one thing keeping them from meeting one another is effort, pain, sweat, blood, tears, and fortitude. The shame is fuel because we know we can escape it. But the only way to escape it is to work! Sometimes knowing that rock bottom is lonely will compel you to achieve by yourself. This does not mean you can’t encourage or receive encouragement. It simply means that you must never lose that bone-shaking, stomach-turning, vomit-inducing fear of failure. BEING AFRAID TO FAIL SHOULD NEVER MEAN BEING AFRAID TO TRY! So do it, but know that if you do fail a whole heap of shame is headed your way and at that point it becomes your responsibility and yours only… to fight through it and back to the top.