I really love TED talks, in fact, I probably have a little bit of an obsession with them but of all the addictions to have it’s actually quite a beneficial one. So, as I sit in my airport hotel, feeling pretty lonely whilst trying to work out the best way to promote my blog I’ve started flicking through some talks and I came across this one by Jon Ronson: When Online Shaming Spirals Out of Control.
There are actually quite a few good TED talks on shame: Brené Brown’s talk: Listening to Shame and the heart rendering one from Monica Lewinski: The Price of Shame. All of these TED talks express the powerful impact this emotion can have on wellbeing, and also the role that faceless text has in committing to it, void of any responsibility.
As Ronson states in his talk – with the way online shaming is going, we could be moving towards a scenario where it’s safer to choose silence than it is to have a voice. And this is how I feel when I go to publicise my blog. Should I be this open with my emotions? Splaying myself out on a plate, exposed for all to see, ready for the judgements that come with it? Will it be held against me when I pitch for my next job in marketing, yachting or for my business venture? Could I be strung up and shamed for delivering an opinion incorrectly?
Can we really target each other with such harmful judgements just because of silly mistakes? I mean, we’re all only human aren’t we?
Sometimes it can seem like everything is black and white. Good and bad. Hero and villain. But if we look at this closely, almost everything is actually a shade of grey. It’s especially good to remember that, before casting a judgement on someone else’s behaviour, because we all have emotions, and we all make mistakes.
I’ve spent the last week feeling quite negative and recovering from a turbulent time spent with a friend of mine, who had come out to visit me. The situation became intense with a series of close connections, vulnerable situations and emotional expressions unravelling. This wasn’t ideal, as I’m still in such a fragile state from my traumas but as difficult as it was at the time I chose to try and be as compassionate as I could in every situation. This was hard because it’s actually really difficult to say “I feel vulnerable” or “I’m hurting” when the atmosphere gets heated and we’re running away with our emotions. Instead, it’s really easy to reach for blame and shame, but what we tend to forget in these situations is that regardless of the words and emotions – aren’t we all only human? And underneath upset words are there not just tightly guarded vulnerabilities?
The thing is that as much as I tried to be compassionate, I know that emotional situations aren’t productive for my current state of wellbeing at the moment. I only just have enough self-compassion to keep myself afloat most days. Therefore, I chose to distance myself from this situation until I’m strong enough to deal with it – check out My Tree and Negative Deflective Tennis for my ‘sketch-planations’.
But if you find yourself in a situation this week where you’re about to cast judgement, blame or shame on someone for a behaviour that you believe is unacceptable, ask yourself this – Have you ever made a mistake, misjudged something or got angry unnecessarily? And if so, wouldn’t you prefer to have a helping of compassion rather than shame?