Humiliation is an unpleasant emotion brought about by feeling that one’s social status or public image has decreased. It is the opposite of pride. People experiencing humiliation may have diminished feelings of self-worth.
What is Humiliation?
Humiliation is related to embarrassment, but is typically longer-lasting and more painful. A person might feel embarrassment after misspeaking or performing poorly on a test, while humiliation tends to go alongside more significant public failures. Humiliation also sometimes occurs with trauma, particularly physical violations. Rape and assault victims, for example, often report feeling humiliated.
Humiliation is sometimes characterized as a desire to hide or escape. It is closely related to shame. While guilt is generally associated with feelings of doing something wrong, shame is correlated with feeling like a bad person. A guilty person might say, “I made a bad decision,” while a shameful person might say, “I am bad.” People experiencing humiliation commonly experience shame, particularly when the humiliation is public or involves a behavior closely tied to self-esteem.
Initiation rituals sometimes use humiliation. For example, hazing often causes its victims to be humiliated. Humiliation also sometimes plays a role in sexual relationships. Sexual mishaps can be particularly humiliating, but some people also choose to participate in consensual humiliation by participating in sadomasochism, bondage, domination, or sexual discipline.
Effects of Humiliation
Incidents and feelings of humiliation can both lead to serious mental health problems. Generalized anxiety and depression are common among people who have experienced public humiliation, and severe forms of humiliation can be crippling, causing a person to abandon his or her interests or stop pursuing goals. When parents use humiliation as a form of punishment, the consequences can be particularly damaging. Children who have been humiliated by their parents may suffer from chronically low self-esteem as well as a host of mental health problems.
- Humiliation. (n.d.). Emotional Competency. Retrieved from http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/humiliation.htm
- Rosenberg, S. (n.d.). Humiliation. Beyond Intractability. Retrieved from http://www.beyondintractability.org/bi-essay/Humiliation
Last Updated: 08-7-2015
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GaryJanuary 20th, 2018 at 12:50 AM
This is why public naming and shaming is abuse, particularly on the internet. A person’s reputation can be destroyed instantaneously and permanently, leaving people with no choice but to take measures such as suicide. Regardless of whether a person thinks the shaming is warranted, the intention to humiliate another individual online is a low, low act. In fact, it is the ultimate form of bullying. It seems to be a great sport to kick people when they are down or when they make mistakes. As the saying goes, in order to belittle, one has to be little.
James C.March 9th, 2019 at 11:48 AM
You are right.
Michael P.September 7th, 2019 at 1:34 AM
JayDecember 30th, 2019 at 8:39 PM
I experienced years of public humiliation daily going to and from school in the form of chanting that I was gay . It is still with me twenty five years later. I was crushed and have never recovered.
NataFebruary 16th, 2020 at 12:45 AM
I’m so sorry you went through that. It hurts like emotional hell, I know. I’m happy to see one can survive this crap.
MichaelFebruary 4th, 2020 at 10:11 AM
Medical treatment is too often humiliating and unnecessary. Such as the use of the Foley catheter. Other procedures such as colonoscopies and prostate biopsies are not only degrading, but too often cause physical harm and damage to a patient’s quality of life. All in the name of preemption. This goes way beyond so-called modesty issues. It’s as if as soon as one becomes a patient they no longer have any human rights. The right to refuse is often ignored or challenged. Patients are routinely labeled as having some kind of mental disorder (or phobia) when they object to unnecessary and unwanted “procedures”. Or fear shaming is deployed by medical staff. Too much of today’s medical practices are medieval. The first rule of medicine, “First do no harm”, is routinely violated. A great deal of harm is caused patients. Physically, mentally and to the patient’s quality of life. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment are often involved. As a result, many people avoid doctors, and only see them when it’s mandated by a third party, such as a school, an employer or one’s insurance provider. A patient’s dignity and quality of life counts, because without that, what’s the point in living in the first place? If doctors are just half as intelligent as they pretend to be, they should be able to care for their patients without putting them through unnecessary trauma. A big part of the problem is the profit motive. More so-called treatment means more money.
OdezueMay 10th, 2020 at 4:27 PM
I have been seen naked while dressing up, called to the assembly floor to brush my teeth and laughed at while presenting in a debate. All these happened in the same school and since then, I’ve lost the confidence to talk to a girl or present in front of a crowd. I always anticipate myself making a mistake before I do anything and memories of those events have been stuck in my head like forever.
GaryMay 29th, 2020 at 12:37 PM
Jay I’m sorry you had to feel that way. I too understand what this is like I live it daily hence the reason iv been looking for support. I’m litterly at my wits end and have lost all control of my anxiety and self worth. Yet still try to keep a brave face daily and it seems my bubble is getting smaller. I’m one of the kindest people you could meet and I’m hurt beyond words at how people can treat another. Iv been drinking for the last 10years to try cope with it. I’m 9 weeks sober today and I’m 33 and praying that I meet people I trust and I no to do this I need my confidence back. Im sorry to anyone who has had to suffer simular things and I can just say hang in there if you ever need a talk you can email me and I’ll help all I can. I say to myself think about the goal and not the journey I hope you do too 💚
EMJuly 22nd, 2020 at 9:11 AM
Since moving to a different state I experience personal humiliation with any job. My coworkers normally are friends or family and I am different. I look different, sound different and moved from a different place. No matter what I do, I am teased. I try to start a new job, and always ends up in being mocked, teased and humiliated at every single one of them. I try to learn from the experience and try to change to fit what I think they want, but it never works. It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to work any more because the same will happen. I’m also becoming more cold and callous because I have been hurt so many times, even after trying to accomodate others. It’s hurtful when it’s every employee that is making fun of you.
HmmmSeptember 13th, 2020 at 10:37 AM
Publicly exposing child predators and their enablers is right and a great service to the public.
StellaJanuary 8th, 2021 at 2:56 AM
My entire family, extended family, neighborhood, friends, teachers etc humiliated me regularly and severely. It evolved into my teen relationships, sometimes it was because of social mis steps and sometimes just for the fun and it carried on into my adult life. Partly organically, like, if I met someone in a group who knew me as a child, they would then let everyone know of my misdeeds as a child so they could get a laugh at my expense and all of a sudden I become that person again. I moved to a new city but still, I think because I just don’t know how to act around people because I was always so ostracized… I’m now very sensitive to even the most mild humiliation like being left out (which happens on the rare occasion I try to “put myself out there” and have friends), or being used or talked about etc. I can’t handle it and I just recluse sometimes for years.
Currently I don’t have any friends and I am no contact with my family. I mainly only see people at work and many of them bully me online even today and I’m middle aged! I don’t like walking past my neighbors I just feel the pain of harsh judgement regardless that they don’t even know me and they only have said kind things like “hi how are you?”. I’m terrified they will get to know me and make fun of me behind my back. I’m on the autistic spectrum but just enough to baffle people, not enough that it’s super obvious, people just think I’m odd and I don’t know what I do that makes them ridicule me but I know it’s me at this point and it’s so painful. Sometimes I’ll even take alternate routes to the corner store through back alley ways because I can’t stand strangers seeing me walk by. I feel suicidal often but I don’t show it to anyone. Humiliation is incredibly damaging. I even confided my autism to some people at work who were kind but now they treat me differently like overly careful but disconnected so that adds to the humiliation. Before I was the fun quirky girl and now I’m special needs if that makes sense. I get the sense now that their kindness is more charity than friendship. I should have just kept it to myself.
IsaacJanuary 13th, 2021 at 6:46 AM
This world can be a cruel place. I understand your feelings of humiliation. Although, humility is not a bad thing. Before Honor is Humility. You are so brave and have so much courage. And hey Stella, I love you. You are not alone. I’m here!
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