Why We Need To Talk More About Shame & Self Esteem

I sit down to write this as I reflect on a recent therapy session I had with someone recently. There was a moment where she looked into my eyes and I could viscerally feel all the shame, pain, and anguish they have suffered through. All I kept thinking was: ‘If she only knew how precious she is’. If she had a shield to protect them from everything that they went through which lead her to feel ashamed of her sexuality, then perhaps, she could have missed the encounters/experiences that lead her to feel this way and ultimately shape a major aspect of her life. Unfortunately, no such shield exists.

We feel shame when we violate the social norms we are invested and believe in. At such moments we feel humiliated, exposed and small and are unable to look another person straight in the eye. We want to sink into the ground and disappear.

Shame (sexual or otherwise) makes us direct our disposition inward and see ourselves in a negative light. Feelings of guilt, in contrast, result from an action for which we accept full responsibility. With shame the focus is on yourself while guilt causes us to focus on the feelings of others. Depending on what has happened, you can even feel both at the same time.

The experience of shame can be extremely uncomfortable. Shame has the potential to change the way we see ourselves and may lead to long-lasting difficulties across the spectrum of our lives. In some people, this may inspire a change in behaviour. In others, shame can be paralysing.

Where Does Shame Come From?

Shame has many sources. Sometimes a person is plagued by feelings of shame without a clear cause. This is more common among people with mental health diagnoses. Some studies have linked conditions such as depression or social anxiety to shame. Because mental health conditions remain stigmatised, a person experiencing shame due to a mental health condition may continually become more ashamed of themselves and their condition, exacerbating symptoms and making it difficult to seek help.

Some other common causes of shame include:

  • Cultural norms. Many cultures stigmatise certain sexual interactions, such as homosexual sex or sex between unmarried people. People who transgress these cultural norms may feel shame. In collectivist cultures, some people experience shame when loved ones violate cultural or moral norms.
  • Self-esteem issues. People with low self-esteem may struggle with feelings of shame even when they can point to no specific source of the shame.
  • Religious conditioning. Many religions urge people to feel shame for violating religious prescriptions. Some use shame to “inspire” people to do better.
  • Trauma and abuse. People who experience trauma and abuse often experience shame. Childhood sexual abuse is a common cause of shame in adulthood, especially among adults who feel embarrassed about their abuse experiences. Some abusive families shame members who set clear boundaries or who call the abuse what it is. Gaslighting—attempting to convince someone that their perceptions are wrong—can lead to shame.

Shame And The Kink World

In the lifestyle, we don’t talk enough about  shame,  self esteem or self confidence – and we should! I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have heard people say how the lifestyle is so liberating, it’s freeing, they’re not judged. No, I’m sorry to say, you are judged.

Yes, some people think your breasts are too large, or so flat that they judge your femininity.

Yes, some people think your penis is too small and your masculinity is called into question – and not in a consensual erotic humiliation sort of way.

Yes, some people think you are too much drama, too much of a handful and that your kinks are weird.

Those are just opinions, and feelings – they are not facts. Maybe your breasts are large – but too large for whom and compared to what?  Maybe your penis is small, but if someone gains enjoyment from it, if you enjoy it, doesn’t the size of it become irrelevant?

What if though, we could all get to a place where we are accepting of who we are, what we are, and we all felt as though we belonged? Maybe not fit in – because fitting in means being exactly like everyone else – and how boring is that? Belonging though – worthy of love just for being alive. Each of us having a unique place of diversity in the lifestyle.

What if submissives felt so good about themselves that when the Dominants come sniffing around them, trying to find their weak spots, swinging at low hanging fruit, that was shut down by diffusing shame and shame resilience?


What if we could completely ignore that submissive who played a game of need and avoidance ghosting – not tempted by her attentions, and choosing instead to be happy, to wait for someone who was secure in their attachment style?

What if we could give ourselves the love that we sometimes desperately seek from others?

Shame, low self confidence/self esteem are major issues in society. They can make us easy prey, because the moment we get a little bit of reassurance, a little affirmation, praise, attention, affection – when we get the thing we want most that we can’t seem to give ourselves – we lose perspective. 

We give away the one thing we should hold most precious – our trust. We trade our trust so cheaply, we trade our security for glass thinking it is diamonds. Sometimes we even wrap it up in the guise of a fetish – we say we’re into humiliation and degradation, but is it that we’ve only found an outside source to give us even more pain than we can give ourselves?

The mind will only take so much self punishment and self loathing before it shuts down as a protective measure. Sometimes we seek to short circuit that protective mechanism by consciously or unconsciously seeking out those who would do us even greater harm. That’s not victim blaming, because we are never responsible, nor accountable for the actions of others. They make a choice, they exercise free will, nothing we do is ever a justification for their choices. Sometimes though, we are seduced, lured, we feel we have something to prove, we trust too easily, we ignore red flags.

If tomorrow morning we all woke up accepting who we are, right where we are, as we are, without needing external validation, entire industries would collapse. The beauty corporations would cease to exist and the experience of social media would dramatically change. But this thought experiment wont happen and that means a hell of a lot of unresolved shame exists in the world.

Unresolved Sexual Shame

Unresolved sexual shame (and any and all types of shame) can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Living with shame, regardless of the shame’s source, can be a lonely and demoralising experience. 

In addition to seeing ourselves as part of the (imperfect and flawed) human family, we need to take responsibility for our problems and own them. If we don’t own them, they will own us. Our problems with sex can be minor or major, or anywhere in between. They can serve as petty annoyances, minor dissatisfactions, chronic frustrations or devastating catastrophes – to our psychological balance and our relationships. 

We need to stop being silent, we need to start sharing our stories, our shame, how we feel, with those we trust, with those we have a relationship with that can bear the weight of the telling of our stories. We need to start a dialogue regarding how nothing of value ever came from shame, it does not modify behaviour, only makes it worse. We need to get the help we need if its an issue that needs outside help. The aim of shame is to cause who and what we are to go underground – and we need to start bringing these shame stressors to light.

We need to talk about and work through these things to release the power they have over us, to set ourselves free, to give us back the birthright we had that we are amazing, wonderful, human beings that desire love and belonging.

That is why we need to talk about and work through shame and self esteem issues – to make us whole again and living our fullest potential.

What Can Be Done About It?

First step. Acknowledge it.

We take an important step in life when we simply acknowledge the shame we feel about a given personal issue. We take a further step when – instead of minimizing it or neurotically ruminating about it – we decide to talk to someone about it. This could be your partner, a friend, a therapist, a trusted adviser, a spiritual mentor, or even an anonymous person in a supportive online forum. The key is to break the silence and admit that you need help.

Second Step. Reach Out And Communicate.

Talking to someone about our concerns regarding our sex lives is the antidote to the shame that keeps us bound up in fear, guardedness and repression. Once we do this, the awkwardness and embarrassment we feel begins to decrease, and we begin to feel freer and less imprisoned by our own thoughts and feelings.

Im biased towards the therapeutic route because I know how effective and quick it can be. Cutting-edge therapy techniques help by directly addressing the underlying cause. When shame is due to a past misdeed, the right therapist can support a person to make amends or move on.


If you are reading this and want to deal with shame/guilt then contact me to discuss what can be done about it.

Third Step. Thrive

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