What does it mean to feel ashamed of others?

The shame of others is a behavior alien to us in which we see ourselves reflected, feeling what we would feel if we were in the place of the other, which produces a vicarious emotion.

We understand by someone else’s shame the experience of modesty, discomfort or rejection that we feel in the first person, before the action of a third person that seems embarrassing, ridiculous or pathetic.

It is a secondary emotion , since it is the result of a conjunction of primary emotions that occurs in a social context. Behind secondary emotions there is an important learning and socialization factor.

Why happens?

The shame of others is based on empathy , which is a capacity of social intelligence that consists of putting ourselves in the place of the other or feeling what we think the other may feel. The greater the capacity for empathy, the more likely there is to feel shame of others.

The cognitive neuroscience has shown that the same brain areas are activated when you feel embarrassed and empathy and complicity: the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. These brain structures are related to visceral feelings and awareness respectively.

Thus, the shame of others is a paradoxical emotion , since on the one hand you approach what the other feels to the point of living it in your own skin, but on the other hand it emotionally distances you from the other, since it produces rejection.

It is subjective and based on social experience

Shame is a social emotion and is related to norms, education, or cultural codes. What is out of the norm generates embarrassment.

Each society establishes its own limits of what is or is not admissible, so what makes us feel ashamed of others will also change generically in different societies.

On the other hand, the feeling of shame of others is highly conditioned by our own subjectivity , and what one person is ashamed of, another may not. This subjective perception is fundamentally based on:

  • The previous experiences we have had.
  • Our own personal beliefs.

It is important to note here that being embarrassed does not necessarily mean that the other person is actually doing something laughable. For example, making a mistake does not mean making a fool of yourself.

Embarrassment can also be modulated by other variables. It is more likely to feel the closer we feel emotionally to the person committing the action. When a family member or friend is exposed, the shame of others increases, especially when they fear how it will affect their image with respect to other people present. We also respond differently if we perceive embarrassment in the protagonist of the action or not.

How to approach it?

  • Understand what specifically makes you ashamed of someone else’s behavior and what you can learn from it.
  • Don’t let it condition you, be authentic . If you often feel ashamed of others, it may happen that you stop doing or saying many things for fear of ridicule.
  • Understand, don’t stay on the surface . Sometimes value judgments are made with little information. Try to understand what has led that person to act like this or what may have conditioned them. Perhaps you are not understanding the whole of the situation.
  • Train your sense of humor , not critical irony or rejecting behaviors.

What you should know…

  • The shame of others is a paradoxical emotion, since on the one hand you get closer to what the other feels to the point of living it in your own skin, but on the other hand it moves you emotionally away from the other, since it produces rejection.
  • When feeling it, the person concludes how he does not have to act, thus differentiating himself from the attitude or behavior he has seen. It can therefore be as a guide that directs our internal decisions in the future.
  • We must not let it condition us, and be authentic. If we often feel ashamed of others, it may happen that we stop doing or saying many things for fear of ridicule. If this conditions you in your day-to-day life, you can go to a psychology specialist , who can help you cope with this feeling.

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