Can shame make you a better person?

Can shame make you a better person?

Confucius and other ancient Chinese philosophers believed the feeling isn’t all bad – and can lead you toward your best self

What was the last thing that you felt shame about? Perhaps you couldn’t afford a new outfit for your friend’s wedding, and felt chagrined around those in more chic attire. Maybe you hid your homemade lunch while your co-workers ate takeout, or you didn’t call your mom on her birthday and felt bad to have missed it.

Shame can emerge in everyday situations like these, or can be a more pervasive emotion that darkens your view of who you are. The British clinical psychologist Peter Fonagy called shame the “feeling that destroys the self”. It’s unsurprising, then, that when a person is more shame-prone, they can be at higher risk for anxiety or depression. “One thing that shame often does is prompt people to want to hide, to escape, to essentially want to sink into the floor and disappear,” said shame researcher June Price Tangney, in an interview with the American Psychological Association.

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