Men who avoid vulnerability, excessively criticize themselves, struggle to accept praise, and exhibit anger as a defense mechanism may be overwhelmed by hidden feelings of shame. Isolating themselves and misusing drugs or alcohol may be other ways their feelings of shame turn into self-destructive behaviors. In this blog post, we’ll explain what causes shame in men, the barriers you face in getting help, and how working through shame is within your reach.
Shame is the unfavorable evaluation of oneself as faulty, defective, or unworthy. It is accompanied by intense self-criticism and self-judgment. It can be caused by abusive relationships, societal norms, family dynamics, trauma, and other factors. Its ability to damage your self-esteem can lead to numerous other issues in men, including self-destructive behaviors. Overcoming shame in healthy ways is possible through participation in support groups, education on gender roles, and listening to the perspectives of a diverse range of people who can share their experiences with shame.
What Is Shame?
Shame is a powerful and unpleasant emotional experience that stems from a sense of personal failure, unworthiness, or inadequacy. It is a complicated and self-conscious emotion characterized by humiliation and a strong sense of self-disapproval. It can be felt by someone whose breaking of societal norms leads them to believe they’re inherently flawed. Shame is a self-conscious emotion, which means it makes you more aware of how others see you. It often involves a fear of being judged, rejected, or ridiculed by others, and it can cause people to retreat, isolate themselves, or hide their perceived defects or mistakes from others. The effect on self-esteem might also be significant.
What Causes Shame?
Shame is a complex emotion that is impacted by a variety of situations. Understanding these aspects may be helpful in developing self-compassion, challenging your negative self-perceptions, and seeking help to overcome shame.
Societal and cultural influences: Norms, values, and expectations in society and culture all have a part in molding your perspective of what is acceptable or desirable. You may feel ashamed if you believe you fall short of these norms.
Upbringing and family dynamics: Early family and childhood experiences can impact how you view yourself and your actions. If you were raised in a home where faults or imperfections were frequently criticized or punished, you may acquire a shame-prone attitude.
Critical or abusive relationships: Relationships with people who are critical, judgmental, or emotionally abusive can lead to feelings of shame as well as low self-esteem.
Traumatic experiences: Abuse, assault, or serious mistakes can all profoundly influence your sense of self and lead to intense feelings of shame. Shame reactions might be triggered by the event itself or by the ideas connected with it and how you interpret them.
Internalized beliefs and self-perception: Internalized views about yourself, such as negative self-talk, self-judgment, and self-criticism, can all lead to shame. Harsh self-evaluations and a tendency to compare yourself negatively to other men may increase these feelings.
Perfectionism and high standards: Setting overly high expectations for yourself and aiming for perfection might lead to constant feelings of failure. You can experience shame for perceived inadequacy or failure if these high criteria are not achieved.
Social comparison and judgment: Comparing yourself to other men and seeing yourself as inferior or failing to measure up and the constant fear of being judged, rejected, or ridiculed by others can lead to feelings of shame.
How Does Shame Affect Mental Health?
Feeling shame can have significant negative impacts on a man’s mental health and well-being. It can harm your self-esteem, leading to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and self-disapproval. You may engage in negative self-talk and reflection, replaying past events or perceived failures, which can contribute to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Many men may turn to self-destructive coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or disordered eating, to cope with the intense emotional pain associated with shame. They also may withdraw from social interactions and isolate themselves. In addition, shame can hinder effective communication, lead to defensive behaviors, and create barriers to authentic emotional expression.
Barriers to Dealing with Shame for Men
There are various barriers that could keep males from adequately coping with shame and other self-esteem concerns. These obstacles might differ depending on society’s expectations, cultural norms, and personal experiences. For men, traditional cultural norms frequently stress attributes like strength, independence, and emotional stoicism. Men may feel pressure to conform to these standards, making it harder for them to recognize and express vulnerability, such as feelings of guilt or poor self-esteem. They may fear being viewed as “less manly” if they admit to having shame-related difficulties. These societal standards might discourage males from talking honestly about their feelings and limit their opportunity to do so. Also, men are less likely to have male role models with whom they may relate and draw support through freely communicating their experiences with shame, low self-esteem, and unstable emotional well-being.
It is critical to question cultural conventions and build a more inclusive and supportive atmosphere for men’s mental health to overcome shame and these barriers. This includes encouraging open dialogues about emotions, educating men about healthy masculinity, and creating safe venues where men may seek help. Promoting self-compassion, fostering emotional expression, and assisting men in building beneficial coping methods can assist them in constructively to overcome shame.
1. Model self-compassion among men.
Set a good example for other men by practicing self-compassion. Share your experiences with practicing self-compassion and how it has improved your well-being.
2. Educate yourself about healthy masculinity.
Educating yourself on the harm of toxic masculinity is an important step toward promoting healthier and more inclusive notions of masculinity. Seek out online resources, read the articles by experts in the field and follow their discussions on social media, and join workshops, webinars, or conferences that specifically address toxic masculinity and gender norms.
3. Find safe venues for men to discuss shame in person.
Look for therapy groups or support groups run by mental health professionals who specifically focus on men’s mental health, self-esteem, or shame. Some organizations, community centers, and faith-based entities offer programs or support groups tailored to men’s mental health and well-being, and some professional networks also can be a resource for discussing personal development and emotional well-being.
4. Listen to different perspectives of other people, not just men.
Engage in active interactions with people of all genders and backgrounds to develop a better understanding of toxic masculinity and its consequences. Listen to their stories, viewpoints, and thoughts, and be willing to question your own assumptions and biases.
Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1019.