The Shame Game: Turning An Emotion Into A Weapon

Shame has been weaponized.

Savvy marketers, advertisers, influencers and media personalities have figured out that if you make people feel bad about themselves you can get them to buy anything.

Shame itself is just an emotion, a feeling of humiliation or negative self-consciousness regarding an action or aspect of your life. Shame has existed as long as consciousness but the level of manipulated, oppressive shame we feel culturally is a very modern problem.

Have you noticed how many beauty products are on the market right now? There is an $80 solution to everything. Tiny blemishes that exist on every face are now seen as a problem that you can solve with your credit card. And why wouldn’t you!? All of those models have flawless faces so clearly there is something wrong with yours.

Brands are turning normal human attributes into flaws you should feel ashamed for having.

Think about the emergence of shapewear. 20 years ago was there even such a thing as shapewear aside from medical garments and girdles? In 2018 shapewear generated nearly $5 billion and is expected to exceed $8 billion in the next 10 years. Why do you think that is?

It’s because of shame.

Shapewear is marketed towards women as something as essential as clothing itself. Don’t you dare let anyone see you don’t have a perfect body like everyone else! Why would you risk having a lump or bump on your body when you could wear a suffocating bodysuit to suck every last part of you in?

It’s not just brands doing the manipulating, media has always had a big role in the shame game. Now instead of glossy magazines making use feel less-than it’s social media.

When was the last time you looked at Instagram and felt happy? Finely curated feeds of manipulated images are everywhere. People are always happy and thin and perfect. They may not be telling you something is wrong with you directly but seeing these lies over and over will get into your subconscious.

You will start to notice that none of these women have dark eye bags like you do, so you will look up concealers or fillers. You will notice that everyone seems happy and fulfilled in their lives and you will feel ashamed for not reaching their career or life milestones.

If someone was telling you directly that you need to fix your eye bags you probably would be defensive and tell them to fuck off. But since these messages are seeping into your subconscious you give them a lot more importance because it feels like something you are telling yourself.

Over the last few years people have been publicly and vocally fighting against shame. Airbrushed images are now passé and body positivity is all the rage. But shame is still being used against us. How can we fight back against something that is so hard to see?

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