Being ashamed of your family: what to do?

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Louise Hay

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Being ashamed of your family: what to do?

When we are ashamed of our family, the truth is that we are ashamed of ourselves. This happens if we have not taken a clear position on an aspect that seems to us to be criticized or because we drag a complex from childhood and overestimate the judgment of others. 

Last update: June 27, 2022

Behind the feeling of shame towards one's family often lies a knot to be solved or a difficulty to be solved. Most conflicts with family members arise during adolescence; this is the period in which our eyes are more critical and relentless and it is common to be ashamed of one's family. We would like to be different from our family members and we begin to take note of their every flaw and error. It is part of the normal development process.

Sometimes, however, we drag these conflicts to maturity, making them part of our adult personality. Shame is a feeling that revolves around the judgment of others. It is proved when an aspect that concerns us and that we consider criticizable or censurable comes out. At the center of this dimension is the gaze of others.

"Men are ashamed not of the insults they do but of those they receive."

-Giacomo Leopardi-

To be ashamed of one's family means, in one way or another, to be ashamed of oneself. Humanity is a big tree and each of us is a leaf hanging from a branch. We are part of that branch: we are born from it and our life takes shape from it.

Likewise, we are part of our family and it is part of us. It is something that defines us. Is it right to be ashamed of it? Or do we have to work to overcome this feeling?

Shame as a feeling

You can feel ashamed for many reasons. Some of them are justifiable, others less so. Sometimes we feel ashamed of a specific event, situation or reality. In other cases it is a feeling that always accompanies us. In extreme cases we are even ashamed of existing, of ourselves.

Without going to the most extreme cases, we can say that the feeling of shame comes from a rigid conscience. More than the others, it is precisely it that points its finger at us. Sometimes, of course, this conscience coincides with someone's accusing finger. But the reproach, whether it comes from ourselves or from others, is accompanied by another element: something we want to keep hidden. 

This is precisely where the difference between shame and guilt lies. In guilt there is reproach and also a certain feeling of unworthiness. But in those who feel ashamed there is a kind of invasion of their own intimate sphere.

Something that you want to keep hidden comes to light, something that we ourselves condemn. Shame stops taking shape when this element is revealed and we think (or verify) that it can be criticized or condemned by others as well.

Ashamed of your family

If you feel embarrassed towards your family, there are probably aspects of your immediate environment that appear to be questionable and that you would like to keep hidden from the eyes of others. These aspects sometimes have to do with an objective reality, but at other times they depend on personal judgment. 

We may be ashamed of our family, for example, if one or more members engage in illegal activities. In this case, the shame is more than justified since its good name is at stake. There are, however, many cases in which the reason for such shame is poverty, a physical defect or, simply, not conforming to a family ideal that one has in mind.

In any case, there is a problem waiting to be solved, an aspect of life that has not been consciously accepted. Shame is the awareness of having two faces; the healthiest attitude is to integrate these two dimensions. To do this, you have to take a position towards your person and your values.

If you are ashamed of your family for an objective reason, the ideal is to distance yourself. Not necessarily in a physical sense, but from their actions. This can be done openly, without having to hide.

In case shame has it at the base a complex linked to status or other conditions, perhaps a reflection on one's values ​​is necessary. The problem, then, may not be the family, but an unsolved complex. This possibility is worth considering.

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