Humiliation

Man hidden behind a paper bagHumiliation 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.

Ritualized Humiliation

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.

References:

  1. Humiliation. (n.d.). Emotional Competency. Retrieved from http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/humiliation.htm
  2. 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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  • Gary

    Gary

    January 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.

    James C.

    March 9th, 2019 at 11:48 AM

    You are right.

  • Michael P.

    Michael P.

    September 7th, 2019 at 1:34 AM

    Nice

  • Jay

    Jay

    December 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.

  • Nata

    Nata

    February 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.

  • Michael

    Michael

    February 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.

  • Odezue

    Odezue

    May 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.

  • Gary

    Gary

    May 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 💚

  • EM

    EM

    July 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.

  • Hmmm

    Hmmm

    September 13th, 2020 at 10:37 AM

    Publicly exposing child predators and their enablers is right and a great service to the public.

  • Stella

    Stella

    January 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.

  • Isaac

    Isaac

    January 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!

  • Jelena

    Jelena

    February 12th, 2021 at 5:04 PM

    There is nothing wrong with you, many people feel that way. It may be due to our false believes about ourselves, you might be in the wrong environment and you would blossom in the right environment. Just dont beat yourself up so much about it, it is going to be better. <3

  • Charmaine

    Charmaine

    May 10th, 2021 at 10:58 PM

    My husband uses humiliation as another form of abuse against me. I reverted to islam and am living in his country, Morocco. I am a firm believer in the faith and believe in obeying Allah’s laws and guidance for living the best life possible. The truth is he would rather not be married to me anymore but we have 2 son’s, the younger being just 10, and he is unable to financially afford 2 wives so this holy month of Ramadan, he brings this widow and her 2 children into our home regularly to break the fast with us, which is a good deed of course. I have told him however before that he shouldn’t be ‘friends” with her as this is inappropriate. He will not give up this friendship. He did ask me if he could invite her to break the fast with us and I know from past experience that if I say no, his anger, hatred and abuse, mostly verbal and emotional with some pushing and man handling, increases so because it’s a good deed and I don’t really see have an option I agree. He also needed and still needs to take me to Rabat to get my IDs which he deliberately let expire. I am in the position of not having a proper I’d right now cause he refused to get it renewed on time. He cannot make me disappear physically so he obliterated all my forms of ID instead…. it’s slowly getting sorted out now… including our official marriage certificate which was supposed to be sorted out 3 years ago already. My life with him is one story of humiliation after another. Anyway, his friendship with this woman is inappropriate , he forces her presence upon me again and again and no doubt we will spend some time of Eid with her too. When he takes her home, which is actually in our 2nd house, we have 4 apartments and she lives in one, he says he has a driving job, every single time he takes her home and he doesn’t return home, except the next day. He clearly doesn’t care about me or my feelings. He covers her with a blanket when she sleeps on the couch in my home but is mean, rude, abusive and unkind to me. It’s beyond hurtful and humiliating but I shall endure so I can have my son’s in my life. The truth of the matter is, the only protection I have, is the fact that his father is still alive, although his father told him to either marry this other woman or stay away from her, and he hasn’t listened to him. The older his father becomes, the weaker he becomes, the bolder my husband becomes. What will happen to me when his father becomes completely powerles, will my husband try to take my son’s and divorce me? He doesn’t want me to have custody and that’s why it’s better to put up with the abuse and humiliation of having this other woman in my life so I can be a mom to my son’s. It’s a life so far from what I expected to be living.,.. married to a man that hates me most of the time and wishes me harm. I pray to Allah to set us free from his abuse. Ya Allah no more abuse from this man. I am thankfully becoming more financially independent but am afraid that he will use my financial independence as an excuse to leave me and take our sons, as he threatens to do, or of course, as he already does, financial control of my income. Abusers are very creative in the many varied ways they will abuse you and humiliation is just one of them. Involving this woman in our life is just another way to abuse me. Yes in Islam we must take care of widows and orphans but in a halal fashion, he uses her as a weapon against me. Allah knows the intentions of everyone and rewards us according to our good or bad intentions. He clearly cares for her and not me. I am his wife that he despises and she is the woman that he perhaps pretends he wishes could be his 2nd wife, if he could afford it… Who knows??! Anyway that is my life. I pray for a better one. Allah is my strength and I trust Him. Allah will give you strength to endure all kinds of abuse and humiliation, turn to Him with patience and prayer. 🙏🙏🙏🙏🌈🌈🌈🌈

  • Robert Hayden

    Robert Hayden

    June 21st, 2021 at 6:16 PM

    Medical professionals, including nurses, view themselves as a class above the general population, and they are. Hubris is natural to them, so is contempt for “lesser beings”. It’s all about class level and treating the lower-educated like dirt.
    I’m deeply sorry for those who’ve commented on their rotten experiences here. God bless you all, you will triumph in the end.

  • Inge

    Inge

    June 27th, 2021 at 9:46 PM

    Wow, I find this all so interesting. I am a nursing student and was in my last semester or school when I experienced bullying from faculty and they are trying to prevent me from graduating even though I have good grades. They just don’t like me because I speak up against arrogant abuse. I became their target. I’m learning that this is a huge problem in among nurses. My heart goes out to all of you who have experienced this in an ongoing way. This is tragic. It really is soul crushing. I am 44 years old and I just think of all the young people who have or are experiencing this and don’t have the life experience to draw from. What I do know is that it usually gets worse before it gets better and it’s important to find things we are good at and that we do have confidence in to carry us through fighting back against this oppression. The best therapy is justice. I am beginning my fight against this university. I will prevail because I have truth, documents, and recordings on my side. To the people here that are dealing with this in the work place, there are attorneys that will take your case on contingency and get paid when you get paid. To the people in relationships like this, get the f out ASAP, it only gets worse. May goodness and truth prevail. Fight the good fight and win.

  • ayee

    ayee

    June 28th, 2021 at 2:19 PM

    just feels good to talk about my own story. i’m in high school and last summer an old bdsm twitter account i had used was picked thru to find tweets that look suspect and were put out on a instagram page that showcases abusers, assaulters, and dangerous people. ive never done any one thing like the people that were surrounding my post. my old best friend who i had been with through a lot had one day turned her back on me when i told her i thought “all men are trash” was a dumb saying before i understood its meaning. (it’s like acab, someone explains to u and u understand) this literally ended our friendship. she said i was hypocritical for saying all men aren’t trash and sent me a bunch of my old tweets as blackmail. i was so taken back and the friendship was over then and there. insanely bizarre, and two days later she reported me to the school (even though she had had possession of the tweets for 5+ months already) and literally four months later she decided to get drunk with her friend and leak it on an even wider scale. that account my tweets got posted on had 5k followers all in my city, and i was getting shamed by my own classmates in the comments. i literally just like bdsm and have never and will ever do anything non consensual or act any way towards anyone who doesn’t want me like wtf?? people think that because i tweet out bdsm shit that i want to tie everybody i see up and fuck them ???? it’s so fucking disgusting to think that everyone i’ve been around for years could suddenly be presented with a single piece of evidence that proves there’s some malicious dangerous side of me. i’ve always thought i’m a nice person, i’ve always valued people around me and i know i have a good and big heart and every single value i held started getting shot at. when you cherish ur friends and social life more than anything, seeing almost all of it turn on u during a pandemic while ur locked inside was the most anxiety inducing and depressing experience i’ve ever been through. it’s affected me deeply, and i went through an entire year of online school in private school classes with these people. i was unbelievably paranoid and anxious about seeing anyone, and have only seen a few since that summer. i chose to leave this private school to go to public for a change of scenery, but i’m still very anxious about being judged or doing anything wrong when i meet people even tho i’m a genuinely nice sociable fun person. i had so much confidence and it feels like it all got ripped away by just being humiliated. i lost so many friends that i’ll never see again, on top of my self respect and feeling of worth going from 90 to 1 because i let what i think people think and what i heard people say get in my head. it feels like i got cheated out of the things i value the most, and now i’m left with a shell of myself. i’ve had people from out of school and in school reach out to me to reinforce me and just honestly tell me how unbelievably fucking dumb this situation is. i have consoled within my close friends but i don’t feel confident in how much they like me and they spend much more time with my now old friends than me. i’ve only seen them a few times in a year and a half, but we talk almost all day every day on snapchat still. i really just want my confidence back and really hope i find self worth and value and can get back to enjoying my life and meeting new people and not being so incredibly anxious about how my life changed so quick and i don’t know what to do anymore.

  • Inge

    Inge

    June 28th, 2021 at 4:33 PM

    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of strength to live outside of norm set up by society. The deepest animal need is to make sure we belong to a group. I have horses and if you separate a horse from all of the other horses that horses is extremely stressed. In nature animals (in general) survive better in groups. So one of the worst pains emotionally is to be ousted from a group. This is in fact what makes originally sort of neutral people lean toward the main bullies perspective and then gang up on the one being ousted. Simply because at a deep level they don’t want the same to happen to them. We unfortunately live in an extremely puritanical society where we both don’t discuss sex and any variation from missionary position between a very religious husband and wife unit while at the same time making corporate marketing sexualized, songs sexualized, porn is I think the larger of the two movie industries. This is a very interesting experiment that shows this need to conform to belong youtu.be/TYIh4MkcfJA It’s called the Asch Conformity Experiment. You are learning an amazing lesson of resilience, independent thought, self protection, and self direction. I can’t imagine being a teen right now with all of the social media madness. People can be extra cruel online behind the protection of their screens. Limiting time online can help support mental health. Making sure we are using it as a tool and it’s not using us as a tool. You will find good friends in your future and this will be a distant memory. I know this because I’m in my 40’s and all that crap that seems so important in your teens doesn’t me a damn thing later on. Hang in there. You got this!

  • Shuttered

    Shuttered

    July 3rd, 2021 at 1:11 PM

    Sorry to hear about the so many people who have gone through humiliation. I currently are dealing with an incident where my partner disrespected me by giving my sentimental items out right Infront of me. There have been other incidents of humiliation that I am considering to take my life. This items are so sentimental as they are from my parents who adopted me as a child and are now dead. This is the only connection to my lovely parents. The baby showls, my dad,s coats and shoes and all.. plus his books. This act ripped my heart out. I feel a plethora of emotions,hurt, humiliation, embarrassment, unbridled anger, sadness.. the list is endless. I have even planned my funeral… I can’t bear this pain.. and it has been well over 8 years.. please help.. please

  • Inge

    Inge

    July 4th, 2021 at 9:15 AM

    Doesn’t sound like a partner at all. He’s isolating you to be dependent on him. This is what abusers do. Hopefully you can find the courage to respect and care for yourself, leave, and have a better relationship in the future. It’s hard, but worth it.

  • Sebastian

    Sebastian

    July 19th, 2021 at 11:59 PM

    I have been bullied many times by my peers up until Grade 6 because I was Autistic. Sometimes they would entice me to bad things that landed me in trouble and i didn’t know and i was humilated for it after leaving the Principals office. Even at 25 years of age i sometimes get humiliated and it’s not fun i have been Humiliated by own own friend many times that i knew for 6 years. Everytime he would be stressed out and we would hang out someone he will have a tendancy to point something out that ends up being something personal or he would be trying to help me with something and use it to make me look like a fool intentionally to try and get me to act a certain way or change something in my life and claim he is only trying to help. No true friend ever humilates someone to try and get them to turn there life around and worse he is my Co worker as well.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    July 24th, 2021 at 6:05 AM

    It’s sad to hear so many people going through similar experiences. I hope some/all of you are doing better now. I thought I was doing ok and had recovered. I was bullied throughout childhood both at school and by my dad, then handed over to a pedophile, raped, stabbed and treated as a sex toy for a while in my teens. I had an interesting start to life. Then later on as an adult I had a very abusive relationship with someone that left a few more scars. But I had a lot of therapy and had built up my self esteem again and was starting to do ok.

    Then I met someone at work that was my idea of perfect, who made it clear he liked me too. He started openly flirting with me, treating me like I was the best thing since sliced bread, getting jealous when I complimented other people, etc. Other people noticed and pointed it out to me and I stupidly thought he was being sincere and actually liked me. I was told he was recently divorced, which was technically true, and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. So I let my guard down like a naive idiot. I later found out he had remarried, regretted it, and decided to drag some random other woman (me) into his mess. I was embarrassed that he had openly flirted with me in front of other people, I’d done the same thinking it was mutual, and they hadn’t bothered to tell me about the second wife. Two of them were encouraging and teasing me about him and didn’t give a damn when I found out about wife #2 and was hurt. I felt like a complete idiot. I then had the wife ask myself and another woman if we knew any wealthier guys who were single, which made it even worse. I felt like I was being used as a pawn in some screwed up game.

    Eventually I guess he realised he wasn’t going to get his affair and after ignoring me to the point of making my job really difficult he decided to start using me as a free marriage therapist for months, announced to everyone in the company that I wanted him to get divorced, and started acting as though I’d been the one chasing him. He would do stuff like stare at me, ask if I was going to the gym after work, then make comments about how great his wife looked. I’ve never deluded myself about being ’hot’. I was the awkward nerdy kid in school and haven’t changed much. But my confidence was completely trashed after a few weeks.

    I started to get really depressed and realised I had to get out so began applying for other jobs. Unfortunately I then started having diabetic seizures again, and a lot of my free time was taken up with annoying medical stuff. I managed to get an interview, but ended up cancelling as I’d spent the previous night in A&E and was exhausted. My health started getting really bad and I convinced myself things weren’t THAT terrible and I could deal with it. I immediately regretted not going for the job, as lockdown happened soon after that and I stopped hearing back from most places. I started feeling like I was trapped there, which pushed my blood pressure up even more and caused more problems. Plus there were a few not great things going on in my family at the same time. I got stuck in a spiral downwards and ended up in a very dark place.

    The guy eventually had me sacked from my job, which I didn’t bother fighting as I just wanted to get out ASAP. I said thanks and left. A few weeks later I had a really bad seizure and was told my heart had stopped for a while. I was lucky not to have a proper heart attack, but was left with haemorrhaging in my eyes, slight paralysis in some of my limbs and severe vertigo. I also remember hallucinating some very dark things when the seizure was happening, which terrified me and still bothers me now. I assumed I was dying and going to hell. It’s left me really shaken and I have those images stuck in the back of my mind all the time.

    Physically, I have healed a lot, although I look and feel as if I’ve aged a decade in the last few months. I was put in intensive therapy for a while and told I had CPTSD, which was actually useful. I still had a few things from childhood that needed fixing, so that was a tiny silver lining.

    My niece and nephews have kept me going. Waking up and seeing their little faces smiling back makes life worth living when there’s nothing else. I want to stick around to see them grow up. I want to make sure they have a good life and never have to experience any of the things I went through. It sometimes scares me how protective I am over them. If anyone so much as looks at them the wrong way I get really on edge. I know how evil the world can be and I want them to know they have at least one person who will always stand up for them.

    I barely leave the house now. I work online with a team, but rarely communicate with anyone else. I’ve lost all trust in humans and I’m burnt out from being used and thrown away so many times. I can’t help but view other people as dangerous wild animals that could turn around and bite me at any moment. It just isn’t worth the risk to get close to anyone again. There are a few people in my family that I will let in to a certain extent, but even then I am wary of getting hurt. It’s completely changed me as a person. Maybe that’s a good thing.

    I’ve been alone for a long time now, so it doesn’t make much difference in my day-to-day life. I’m sad that the happy, bubbly, open version of ‘me’ is dead. I have a barbed wire fence wrapped around me now and I no longer believe in love, romance or any of that junk. It’s turned me very cold. I’ve always gone out of my way to make everyone else feel good, offer support, cheerlead them, spoil them with gifts, try to make everyone else’s life a bit better. I’m done with that. Other than a handful of relatives, I’m not wasting my time or energy any more. I’ve learned the hard way that when you are nice to people they just see a giant ‘idiot’ sign on your forehead and think they can take advantage of that.

    I don’t have any good advice to offer. In this life it seems like the bad people are the ones that get rewarded. Rapists, gold-diggers, cheats, violent, abusive, morally bankrupt assholes (men and women) get to use people for money/attention/sex/whatever else and just walk away when they are done. The least I can do is to stop making it easier for them.

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