By DaiJhah Owens
There are few things more powerful than shame. Few things have the power to oppress someone into submission the way that shame does. Shame humiliates us publicly and instills fear so that behaviors deemed inappropriate are eradicated. Shame can be useful when punishing those who seek to harm, either mentally or physically, other humans. But more often than not, when used to control people, shame can be deadly to the soul.
In our society, shame is often used as a tool to control people, especially black women. Black women are shamed for being too big, too small, having a big butt, and having no butt. We’re shamed for having sex before marriage, not having sex at all, not having a husband, not wanting a husband, not having children, not wanting children, and having too many children. We’re shamed for pursuing professional success over traditional woman duties, for being a stay at home mother. We’re shamed for resting, for being too busy, for treating ourselves to luxury, for stacking our coins. We’re shamed for how we wear our hair, rather we wear makeup or not, the way we choose to dress. And this is just a shortlist. rolls eyes
It seems that black women can’t breathe without being criticized and shamed for something. Because of this, many of us have internalized the shame and created entire personalities and identities around it. This can manifest in different ways such as; negative thought patterns about ourselves, extreme policing of our body/behaviors, suppressing who we truly are, becoming extremely critical of other women, perfectionism, jealousy towards women who challenge the status quo, trusting everyone else but yourself, low self-esteem, guilt for having certain desires, and making decisions based on what is socially appropriate instead of what you want.
Most of the time, we haven’t even done anything that warranted being shamed (not that anything should warrant such harmful tactics); it was simply a way to ensure we stayed in line and didn’t challenge harmful societal norms. It can be hard, but releasing shame-based identities is a big step to coming home to your true self. Operating out of shame can chip away at your humanity and leave you paralyzed in a cycle of self-hate.
Some simple ways to get started releasing shame can be to start doing things just because they bring you joy, stop allowing others to be the loudest voice that matters in your life, and most importantly, never shame another black woman for the decisions she makes for her life. The more black women that begin the journey of coming home to themselves, the less power shame will have over us!
DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!