Shame exists as one of the most powerful negative emotions people have. In healthy doses (and under certain circumstances), shame is formative, helps shape behavior, and gets us to improve.
But sometimes, we take it too far and wallow in the feeling. We punish ourselves instead of having the courage to be kind to ourselves.
In reality, there are some things we shouldn’t feel ashamed of at all. We’re all different. We have different likes and dislikes, passions, hobbies, and experiences—and we should embrace them with confidence.
Here are four things in life that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of.
The nature of dating and being single
When I was married, it was almost a rule that we hung out with other married couples. The mindset and lifestyle was more aligned. As soon as I got divorced, things got awkward. I was the 5th and 7th wheel at parties.
The saddest thing I thought about, and even spoke about on dates with other divorced people, was how bad some existing marriages were. It was clear that some of these couples were only together because they had kids or because they had too much shared history.
What’s even stranger is how desperate so many people are to be in a relationship. I’ve seen it at every stage of my life. There’s always someone who immediately dives into another relationship after a breakup.
There’s virtue in knowing that you can exist on your own, free of the demands of a relationship. My sister was a chain dater most of my life. I tried desperately to convince her to meet more people before settling down. But she locked in without knowing the person.
Some of the best times of your life can be the years you spend on your own. You have nobody to be accountable to but yourself. There are no expectations and commitments you have to honor. Time is a precious resource, and you’ll never have more of it than when you’re single.
In fact, it’s proven that many people are happier when they’re single. So don’t spend that time feeling ashamed of your singleness. Embrace it and make the most of it.
The process of aging and losing your hair
I started noticing my hair falling out a few years back and felt deep sadness that I didn’t quite anticipate. Many men go through this. We all understand that we get older. Yet, in our own desire to stay strong and vigorous, we still subconsciously reject the signs that inevitably arrive with time.
Most men will lose the majority of their hair. Many people struggle to accept aging, and the more you reject this notion, the harder it will be for you.
This general disdain for our biology seems to linger in so many aspects of life. We get coy and weird about sex and become afraid of buying condoms. We don’t want to show our real age, so we dress to look younger. Or invest in products that promise us we’ll look ten years younger.
If you want to find something about your body to feel ashamed of, you’ll certainly find it. We’re all a blend of features and imperfections. When I see someone who’s completely warped from plastic surgery, with their face peeled back or other work done, I don’t feel the need to criticize. I feel bad for them. There’s no problem with plastic surgery per se. But there comes a point where people are desperately trying to conceal their age and dramatically alter their looks.
But getting older isn’t something to dread or feel ashamed of. It is a privilege that’s not afforded to all.
Aging reminds us that we’ve grown. And instead of feeling embarrassed, we should be proud of how far we’ve come, even if we don’t look “perfect.”
Your “closet” hobbies
The funny thing about insecurity surrounding guilty pleasures is that so many people actually have them.
I used to build and paint miniature figurines (from a game called Warhammer). Dorky, right?
Knights. Horses. Centaurs. Demogorgons. Taurus Warriors. Dread Saurians. Skink Archers. I can keep going.
I sat in my room hunched over my desk, trying to paint the tiniest little details on these 2-inch-tall goblins. My room had turned into an art studio and reeked of art supplies.
And nobody knew it. God forbid any girls at my high school knew, or I’d have felt humiliated.
The funny thing? Today, Henry Cavill, the stud who plays Superman, openly talks about playing this same game. He doesn’t hide behind it. Quite the opposite:
So, as you can see here, the obvious might look a little bit like a tiny helmet…which it is. One of my almost lifelong hobbies, that I’ve been following but not actively doing, is this. A company called Games Workshop…or plastic crack as ‘we’ call it. Genuinely can’t get enough of the lore they have built over the decades. They have been some of my most enthused reads! If you were in denial about me being a geek before, you can’t hide from it now.
When we open up and take ownership of who we are and what we do, we convey confidence. It’s attractive and reflects a strong comfort in our identity. It’s attractive even when it’s dorky. I’ve long maintained that nerds age well in the eyes of women. She’d rather the guy who likes painting than the party boy she has to worry about when she’s out of town.
Sure, it helps to look like a Greek god if you’re nerdy. But even still, just own it and laugh about the quirky things you enjoy doing.
I low-key listen to Adele. I love puppy videos. They warm my heart. No apologies.
Going to the gym without looking like a fitness model
People get very self-conscious when it comes to going to the gym.
And one can sympathize with this. I go to LA Fitness sometimes (here in Tampa, Florida). I don’t particularly like the gym, but it’s across the street. The gym turns into a fashion show half the time. There are a lot of hard bodies and people checking themselves out in mirrors.
I was walking by a fitness class one time. And in the class, there was a group of about 20 women. Most were thin and in shape.
There was one woman who stood out. She was heavier than her ideal weight. But she was still in there getting after it. She was red-faced and sweating but not shying away from training. Her confidence was motivating. It’s rare to see that in exercise classes.
Step through your own self-doubt and just go for it
Most of us are too wrapped up in our own insecurities and egos to be concerned about yours.
Let go of shame over toxic cultural norms. There isn’t one right way to do life. Real people age and don’t look like they came straight from Hollywood. And we all have our quirks.
Think about who you want to spend time with. I’m guessing it’s not the narcissists snapping those mirrored selfies. People who are comfortable in their own skin, unapologetically themselves, are just naturally likable.
You can get there, too.
Remember, change happens when you embrace who you are.