Shame Doesn’t Define Us


Experiencing shame is an emotional trek. There are instances where shame becomes personal or observant. Either way, we tend to judge shame on various emotional levels. The question is, “why?” What triggers shame into something so emotionally driven that is sometimes consumed how we perceive self versus others view us? The fact remains that shame begins with emotion but manifests into something more significant because assumptions are somehow believable facts when actually they still stay as emotion.

I chose to share a mug shot of myself taken years ago. It is not one of my proudest moments nor represents how I look. But it does share a brief moment of how I felt. The expression is angered, disappointment, emotion, and of course, shame. But the sentiment extends to areas I cannot control. Those areas are how others interpret the mugshot. The question I must keep asking myself is, “does that mugshot define me?” and “does it matter anymore?” The quick answer is, “no.” My mugshot is something that stirs shame and embarrassment at first. However, I began to look at it and wonder why it triggered shame. That is the moment I decided to take that mugshot and make it no longer shameful.

The first step in dealing with shame is to confront it face to face. That implies that I must take steps to de-escalate the emotion replacing it with a bit of laughter, mild anecdote, and restraint. Our lives are made up of decades of decisive moments yet sometimes a shameful moment of a few hours erases all the celebrated importances that do define us. My first step was to buy a really nice frame and print out my mugshot to hang somewhere prominent in my home. While this sounds ridiculous to some, it was a change to desensitize an emotional moment and perhaps introduce a talking point should someone ask, “is that a mugshot of you?” It is at that moment I am able to practice how to overcome fear, shame, and embarrassment by providing a short story of a chapter in my life that demonstrates perseverance over a brief moment to keep moving forward. It is someone similar to how the author Stephen Covey mentions the “inside-out” approach in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The suggestion is to develop a reasonable, workable, and controlled mitigation plan so that you are in control of information that may be continually available to the public. Without these tools, at our side, there will always be shame thus placing an emotional gravemarker in the way we live and move forward.

Yes, there will always be discourse, criticism, vulnerability, and of course argument about public records, mugshots, and sensitive information in our daily lives. The sex offender registry presents a valid argument in how public shaming has become a targeting mechanism for the welfare of safety and perception by others. But it is that emotional and mental grave-marking that allows many to further disconnect from society because of shame and minimized voices with nearly one million registrants silently and quietly attempting to move forward leaving the first voice to allies. I would suggest to anyone on the sex registry to discover how to find your story, strength, and willpower not to hide with shame, but to confront it along with materials accompanying it.

Shame and public shaming is an emotion. Mugshots are a fact of public record that cannot be controlled but may be mitigated. A definite part of mugshots is that it provides an expression the emphasizes pain, hurt, and emotion. When others attempt to amplify that the accused wasn’t remorseful, expressed guilt or shame. I would argue to look at any registrant mugshot; you won’t find anyone smiling.

Author: Dwayne Daughtry

“You’re punching, and you’re kicking, ​and you’re shouting at me / I’m relying on your common decency?" I tried to become vegan (it was the worst 6 hours of my life), Registered Lobbyist, Legislative Consultant, Blogging Columnist, Army veteran, Arizona State alum | B.A. Organizational Leadership | M.S. Political Science | Ph.D. student Public Policy

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