So I have been studying, exams are on my head. And as part of my syllabus is the article by the great Indian Economist Amartya Sen. In his article Sen talks about how, since Aristotelian times have the scholars tried to define what is it that defines how humans can lead full, lives.
Adam Smith is famously known to have said that, “The ability to appear in public without shame” is a necessary condition to live a free life.
This sentence got me thinking, in an all non academic train of thought (as usual, sigh).
We are all humans, living individual lives, but we are also actors in a play. We all keep facades, wear masks to hide are true selves, or sometimes even to show a shade we seem appropriate. We are all chameleons, changing colours, keeping up appearances to present ourselves as we seem necessary or appropriate. So a high school social butterfly may never reveal how her parents’ divorce makes her cry herself to sleep, or a footballer would never show his love for a chic flick. A teacher may never laugh at his student’s pranks because he thinks that it is inappropriate. (Hypothetical examples, maybe slightly stereotypical, but I think they illustrate my point well)
This brings me to shame. (Look who’s talking).
Shame generally stems from when we are involved in something deemed inappropriate both actively or passively. And is known to be one of the things, that brings us down.
But why is that so? In my mind, it is because of the façade that we have to keep up. I am not saying that shame is bad. In fact it acts as a deterrent and stops us from doing immoral and inappropriate acts. But it sometimes even stops us from doing things that we ought to do. For instance, and this is a silly example, I am known for my tolerance to cold. I generally feel warmer than the people around me. But lately, I have been feeling under the weather and I decided to wear a sweater,(it is November, sweater weather is here) however in the dining hall (I live in a hostel) I was bombarded with questions of how I disappointed my friends since I was supposed to be the hot one (in terms of temperature and not the social definition of hotness) and in my defence I quickly came up with a lie that my mum threatened me on the phone to wear it. (Obedient little daughter)
The point is however, there was no need to lie. My friends wouldn’t have killed me. In fact the ones questioning my attire were themselves wearing jackets and hoodies and woollen pajamas. Yet it was the shame I felt at not matching up to their expectations that made me lie. And this brings us to the next theme-the definition of inappropriate. Now such things are relative, different from culture to culture, age group, and even social position and social relation. However, even in two samples of the same gender, age group, culture, social group etc. their perspectives are ought to be different. Every other factor being ceteris paribus they would still view some acts as appropriate and others not.
And that I think relates to personal ideals and experiences. As humans we all set for ourselves certain ideals that we aim to follow. A person who says that he doesn’t believe in personal beliefs or morals is also involved in the act of believing in not believing which in itself comes in the same category. Often these self imposed restrictions stop us from listening to our hearts, from doing what our intuition might want us to do. And even if we have done something, we carry the burden and shame inside us.
So what is the point of this post? I’d say it is to make me reflect on my thoughts, and give my reader some food for thought. To probably inspire you and myself.
Go and do that thing that you want to do, but are ashamed to own up.
And if you have ever done something that you are ashamed off, let go, free yourself of the burden, and don’t carry it around. (and hopefully after writing my thoughts out I will go and do the same).
Stay true to yourself!