Shame is a master emotion that tells us we’re not good enough. It enforces deep seeded feelings of unworthiness of love and belonging. It’s that voice in our heads that holds us back from venturing out of our comfort zone and into the uncomfortable. Not trying from fear of rejection will stunt our own growth and evolution. Our negative evaluation of who we, emotional and mental distress, powerlessness and worthlessness is tied to how we experience shame. It’s self-critical, creating mistrust of ourselves and others. It’s an armor we put on to contain our vulnerability because we’ve been taught by our society that expression of feelings is weakness. The inability to recognize feelings of worthlessness feed socialized behaviors that makes us hold our shameful emotions in, festering into rotten states of secrecy, judgement and fear. Is shame deeply personal, or is shame collectively taught to tolerate complacency and accept oppression or perceived power?
Shame is a tool of colonization that gaslights people (especially non-white folks) into feelings of not being enough, of not working hard enough, of not being grateful enough when we really don’t have enough structural resources to become enough – to actualize our infinite potential. Unrealized shame hurts everyone within the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that we live in, even lower-income white people who’ve been taught to expect wealth and abundance. It doesn’t afford us all to live in optimal well-being, but connects well-being with materiality. It strips us of our humanity to be working to the bone to make enough, to have enough as a way to be enough.
I see how shame manifests in each part of my internal self and represented through my behaviors in the external world. It shows up in me being overly apologetic, subscribing to the Imposter Syndrome, feelings of unlovability, a lack of belongingness, waves of self-hated and cyclical depression. Unearthing my shame has been synonymous to my unlearning of assimilation to whiteness. I want to manifest collective growth into our best, empathetic selves in support of each other. I believe in the healing power of naming our shame and aim to facilitate in sharing them through the Flesh Mesh Shame Quilt. How does shame show up internally in you and externally in how you move in our world?
I created a quilt made of sheer “flesh” colored fishnet material to hold each of our individual shame, to collectively hold the porcelain medallions, physical tokens of shame. By inscribing verbal manifestations of our shame onto the ceramic pieces, we are giving voice and vocabulary to an otherwise abstract source of what makes us feel our shame. Rather than hold it in privately and form ways to live with it, avoid it, and nestle it in with creature comforts, I want to discuss our shame openly with transparency. It may be uncomfortable to confront, but we don’t need to continue carrying it if we’re ready to let it go.
(Thoughts on shame influenced by the teachings of bell hooks, Angela Davis, Cathy Park Hong, and Brene Brown.)
Flesh Mesh Shame Quilt
fabric, thread, porcelain, our shame
98” x 93” x 38”
2019 - 2020
Installed at Wavepool Gallery Nov. 14, 2020 - Feb. 27, 2021
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