MGU 201 | Shame Rules


We often take shame for granted, but it is actually one of the most basic, earliest developed emotions that we, humans, have. Nick Jaworksi even goes so far as to treat shame as a structural force that shapes a lot of things we live with in the world. In his podcast, Shame Rules! he explores the different ways in which shame shapes the way we think, speak and act in the world. In this conversation with Whitney Lauritsen and Jason Wrobel, Nick discusses many things that illustrate what he is talking about. Touching on topics as diverse as politics, social media and gender, this discussion will open your eyes to a whole new understanding of the emotion that has had us hiding in corners since we were little kids. Listen in!

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Shame Rules! The Relationship Between Shame & Power With Nick Jaworski

I am looking forward to this episode because we’ve been chatting with our guest, Nick for a bit and it’s already an amazing conversation. The reason that we decided to bring this wonderful man on the show is because we got an email from his podcast booking agent, which is very fancy. We don’t have a podcast booking agent but we love hearing from them. Some of them send us pitches that feel not very specific but this pitch for Nick was incredibly specific and perfect for our show because it was about shame. Shame is a subject matter that we want to dive into as often as possible. This is something I’m personally passionate about because I’ve struggled a lot with shame. Through doing research and reading books by people like Brené Brown, I started to uncover and learn more about this and try to unravel the way that shame has been showing up in my life.

What I love about Nick is he focuses on shame and leadership, which is also something that comes up a lot because we have a lot of entrepreneurs on our show. I imagine we have a good number of entrepreneurs reading. It’s interesting to see how shame plays a role in the work environment but especially for anyone who’s leading. Leadership shows up in so many elements of our life, not just business. It could be our personal lives. If you’re parents, that’s technically a leadership role. If you’re a teacher or in charge of a community of any sorts. In many people’s lives, leadership will show up in one way or another. That’s a great way to dive in. I’m curious, Nick, you have this focus on shame. I want to know what led you to that? What inspired you to speak on that regularly?

MGU 201 | Shame Rules

Shame Rules: Shame is developed relatively early, which is interesting. You start to wonder, is there an evolutionary value to it?


First of all, it’s lovely to be here. I’m excited. I love the chance to chat about the world. I’ve been told this is a conversation. A little backstory, I make podcasts for a living. I have my own podcast other than the one we’re talking about called Where There’s Smoke. The tag is self-development through the lens of current events, pop culture and experience. We take what’s happening in the world and we say, “What lessons can we take from the election?” We do an NPR-style dive into it. Years and years ago, I was doing episode ideation for topics and I wrote down shame. I immediately was like, “Okay, yeah.” I started doing research on that.

Every time I would think about it, I go, “What about this?” It turned out that it was never going to be one episode. Where There’s Smoke is on a hiatus. I write that with a man named Brett. We have a great partnership. I was like, “I want to make my own show.” Shame has been sitting on this whiteboard for a few years. That was the real question is that why is it every time that I come back to the concept of shame, did I feel like there was so much more to it? That became a 2.5 year just like when I had a second, “Read this book, watch this thing and write this journey to produce Shame Rules!,” which is my love letter.

I don’t know if that’s the right word but it is a real critical look I’m trying to explore. You mentioned Brené Brown and I love Brené Brown but sometimes shame gets talked about too small. We think about shame as a self-conscious emotion. It’s a feeling that you have. You feel bad about yourself and you hide in the corner but I wanted to explore shame as a structural force. The thing that we, as a society, how we use shame, how it influences the world and shapes it. I don’t know how short that was but that’s the journey to this point that I’m talking to you.

When you talk about shame as a structural force, Nick, we’ve delved into that a bit in terms of blog posts and some other things that we’ve written on our website, For the reader, if you want to go check that out, we will link to that blog post about shame. When you say about it being a structural force, what comes up for me is looking at it through the lens of say, social media, this cancel culture and mob mentality and a lot of the things that we are witnessing in terms of behavioral patterns. I’m curious when you say a structural force, exactly what do you mean? The sub-question is how do you feel that the arc of social media and the way we use social media is feeding the social acceptability of shaming others.

It's hard to disconnect the idea of power from the idea of shame. Share on X

There are a couple of episodes that are coming up in quarter four of 2020 and into January 2021. It’s all been little nuts. I’ve got a couple of episodes I’ve been sitting on because I know I haven’t quite settled on what I want to say. Social media is interesting. That shame as it relates to how we engage online maybe a little broken. There’s a question as to whether or not shame had value ever as a society. I’m going to argue that it did at least, maybe not on the individual level but on the cultural level. If you’re in a community of people and that community has to be organized around some sense of goals and values.

Shame was a non-criminal justice way, although there’s plenty of shame in the criminal justice system. Shame is a way of exerting or asserting some sort of, “Here’s what’s okay and here’s what’s not.” The thing about that is back then, you were locked wherever you were. You may never travel more than 20 miles outside of where you were born. These are your people. I’m not saying that there was no oppression or no problems. They would never make that claim ever but shame seemed to at least function for the society somewhat effectively, maybe not on the individual level but for the collective.

There’s somebody I interviewed on the episode or one of the future episodes that talk about the distinction between communities of place and communities of interest. Up until radio or air travel, we only had communities of place. It turned into communities of interest. You might go to a convention for real estate agents in Chicago. We share a common interest in real estate but we don’t live near each other. This is crazy. There are phones.

Now with social media, we have a space that is public but it’s also largely dominated by communities of interest. You can live within a community of interest almost your entire day and life. I don’t know how this show shakes out politically but I would argue that when we think about what’s happened since the election of 2020 and a lot of the mistruths and other stuff and people’s lack of ability to think critically or when they get caught being wrong. The reason that they don’t feel shame about it is that the people that they interact with don’t make them. There’s nowhere to go.

Back in the day, if I walked outside my door and said, “The whole world is made of gumdrops,” eventually my neighbors would be like, “Nick, you’re crazy.” I would find no other point of validation in the world. The shame would have at least kept me from going too far. I want to be very clear. I’m not seeking out the oppression of anybody but now the way that it works online and saying that you can live entirely in communities of interest changes what shame can and can’t do. I don’t know if we fully reckoned with it.

MGU 201 | Shame Rules

Shame Rules: Shame can be instructive. You just have to make a distinction between guilt and shame.


What this brings up to me, Nick, which is this overlapping or secondary subject that is also related is what appears to be the malleability of truth. We’ve talked about this. We had a great episode with our colleague and friend, Luke Storey, about the nature of the truth of subjective personal truth versus an objective universal type of truth. When you said the thing about the world being made up of gumdrops, one thing that I’ve been interested in is listening to people like the host of the Conspirituality Podcast and also Alex Ebert, who is probably best known as the lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

He’s been talking a lot about this malleability of truth and people having this tendency to create a siloed sovereign reality, “I create my own reality. This is my truth. The earth is flat. The government is made up of satanic, reptilian, pedophile blood drinkers. This is what’s real. You don’t know what’s real. I know the truth.” What you’re talking about is fascinating because as people are creating these perceptions of a sovereign independent reality where only their subjective truth matters, it seems like there’s a lot of interesting interplay between shame and truth and people telling each other what’s right, what’s wrong. I don’t know that I have a question in this but it seems that social media has engendered this free for all of what the hell is real anymore. If people are canceling each other and shaming each other and there are these siloed independent groups saying, “We have the ultimate truth and you’re wrong,” I feel it’s very difficult to figure out, “What’s real?” I’m wondering how that lands for you and what your perception of that is.

I had so many great thoughts. I’ve forgotten them all and trust me, they were brilliant. I know to cancel culture gets used. The notion of what cancel culture is used sometimes inappropriately. Isn’t it nice that the rich and powerful do have to be held accountable now? I don’t want to throw the baby out of the bathwater. I’m not rich and powerful. I’m fine but I’m not who we’re talking about. There is something about the average person who can find themselves canceled online. Look at Donald Trump. The thing that Donald Trump, who I have a hall of fame about his shame. There’s a whole segment of an episode about whether or not he feels shame and we can talk about that if you want.

The thing about Donald Trump is he realized that there’s no value for him in listening to or accepting blame or feeling the shame of the community or accepting that he was wrong about anything because the emotional pain coming from the other side is strong. That’s left or right or whatever. We’ve found a place where shame is used so much as a weapon from people you don’t know, people who don’t care about you or people who wouldn’t care if you kill yourself. There’s no real benefit to feeling and accepting the shame. The key step here would then be in repairing the relationship and looking closely at the opinion and what you’re trying to do because they’re not giving you any grace.

Part of the reason for that is they don’t know you. You’re not their neighbor. I’m mean neighbor in a very literal, not your brother’s your neighbor and all that stuff. You don’t encounter them in the world. On top of that, I don’t need to. Even if they were my literal neighbor, I may not even know that. There is something about the ways in which the breakdown of shame and the weaponization of it simultaneously has erased the ability for people to benefit from recognizing their errors.

Shame is easily weaponized because it's coded within us. Share on X

You use the word weaponization, which is real. It’s potent. I wonder in terms of a person’s receptivity to shame, you mentioned Donald Trump as an example. We’re not going to necessarily use this episode as a mechanism to bash him although maybe we will. Who knows where it’s going to go? It’s interesting that you posited this stance that you’ve observed, which I agree with that he wouldn’t accept it, internalize it or process it. It’s interesting to me when you see people like him who are in positions of influence, power, wealth and privilege. They’re trying to leverage their worldview in very potent ways to change things or make things happen in the world.

I’m wondering a human being who doesn’t allow themselves to feel shame or doesn’t allow themselves to even receive feedback of, “You might be doing this wrong. This might be doing more harm than good.” What do you think is going on generally speaking in a person’s psychology or personal cosmology that a human being could go, “I’m not even going to listen to another person’s opinion of my behavior because I know I’m right and you’re all fucking wrong?”

That’s hilarious but also true. Maybe the simplest way to answer this would be I talked to Dr. June Tangney, who is the woman who invented the Shame-Proneness Scale. What is your susceptibility to feeling shame? What’s interesting is that we associate people who don’t show a lot of the marks of shame. Shame is a very complicated emotion. It is a relatively early developed emotion, which is interesting. You start to wonder, is there an evolutionary value to that? It’s also usually accompanied by very consistent behaviors. It’s the lowering of eyes and elevation of the heart rate. Kids will curl up into a ball and might hide in a corner. These are real things.

We confuse the idea of, “People don’t do that. This person doesn’t do that a lot. This person doesn’t feel shame.” It is true that some people feel shame a lot and they can feel it a lot. It can be at a very low level. Maybe they’ve gotten used to it like, “I feel shame all the time, so I can manage this.” There are people who necessarily don’t display that a lot. They have a low level of shame-proneness but when they do feel it, it is very high. I would suggest and I hope this connects to what we’re talking about a little bit, is that Donald Trump, people talk about, “He’s shameless,” and I think that is clearly not true. The problem has been that Donald Trump feels shame acutely.

He’s a narcissist. I don’t think there’s any question about that. Things like going way back a few years ago, it’s the day after the inauguration. His inaugural size can’t be smaller than Barack Obama’s. That claim is only made if somebody feels shame about their comparison to this other person. You can see how twisted up it can become when shame is so powerful and how destructive it can be to everybody else around you. I don’t know if that got where it needed to go but that’s what I thought of.

It’s such an important thing to discuss this. It’s especially fascinating when we’re talking about someone like Donald Trump. It was interesting because it felt like from the people that I know which I’m in this liberal bubble of people. I’m not connected to that many Republicans to be fully transparent. I don’t know if it was a conscious effort of mine or the fact that I was raised by liberal parents and liberal areas that I’ve lived in and gone to school. I’ve perhaps unconsciously been in these worlds of like-minded people in a lot of ways. I’m very fascinated by people that think differently than me. On inauguration day, it felt like everyone I knew was commenting or showing sighs of relief.

It’s like, “Great. Donald Trump is gone.” I’m curious to see if Republicans were feeling that way too because we can’t assume that every Republican supported Donald Trump. I wonder if part of that sigh of relief is not necessarily about the shift in our politics but about the shift in the energy behind this individual. I also wonder about the people that were supportive of him. When we saw what happened on January 6th, 2021 at the Capitol, that behavior, is that directly related to Donald Trump or is Donald Trump triggering those reactions within people that are like-minded to him?

MGU 201 | Shame Rules

Shame Rules: Nothing is inherent about the things that we feel shame about.


All these judgments that we can put on those people that participated in that rioting behavior and stepping back and being like, “What’s going on with them? Why did they make those decisions to behave that way?” That question of like, “Do they have no shame?” It takes a certain person that’s willing to go to break into the Capitol Building and steal things and then maybe sell them on eBay. All these like things were happening on that day, which someone could easily react to as, “They must not have any shame.”

This is a work in progress. The relief that we feel around the inauguration, I know some people who don’t feel that relief, but a lot of people do. That’s one of the reasons Joe Biden got the nomination. It’s reported that George W. Bush yesterday told James Clyburn that he was the hero of this whole story because he famously endorsed Joe Biden in South Carolina and that propelled him to the nomination. It’s George W. Bush’s idea and not alone that Joe Biden specifically could have beaten Donald Trump. There’s a lot of reasons for that. I said it as a joke. I was watching yet another clip of Joe Biden quoting an Irish poet. I thought, “I wish I could feel as deeply as Joe Biden does. I wish I could feel gratitude as deeply as Joe Biden does.” I think that communicates. I have his theory about Trump and the Trump followers. I know there are people who vote Republican historically. They’re fiscally conservative. They’re Reagan Republicans and all these things but there is a brand of person who is a Trump loyalist to the end, the ride or die.

I’m going to say that the trajectory from the start of the Donald Trump story to an attempted insurrection in the Capitol is a bad trajectory. I feel like I can safely live in that world. My theory is that it started immediately upon Trump taking the White House. If you recall, it was 3, 4 days after the inauguration that he instituted a Muslim ban. The problem was that it was not only racist and unnecessary but it was also so poorly executed and conceived.

Here’s why that’s important. We all have to feel like we understand our world. That’s the only way we can function is we go, “I know what’s happening around me. I get this.” I’m not on social media very often but that election apparently on Facebook was a total nightmare, 2016. Thank God I missed it. People were like, “Donald Trump would be a bad president.” What happened was he was so immediately not up to the task. He was immediately not up to the job. I can’t speak to anyone’s heart, mind and soul specifically but my theory is that a lot of people went, “A lot of my friends told me that this was bad news and I voted for Trump anyway. Now, within a few days, they might be right.”

Guilt is pro-social. Share on X

The cognitive dissonance of how could I have been so duped or how could I be wrong about this, is hard to swallow. To avoid having to come to grips with that and the shame of being so wrong and fooled led a lot of people to say, “No, this is what I wanted.” There’s no question that even if you agree with the notion of what a Muslim ban is, there’s no question that the way it was done was completely an absolute shit show. That’s my theory. Little by little, it’s that old adage of boiling the frog. Although it’s not true but the story goes that you put a frog in water and you start to boil the water slowly. It doesn’t recognize that the temperature’s getting hotter and hotter. It won’t jump out. It’ll boil to death. There is a real explanation of what we’ve seen that fits into this theory I’ve had for a couple of years about the Muslim ban.

On the point of you bringing up, which is super fascinating with people who voted for Trump and then having this reaction of like, “What have I done? This isn’t what I expected.” Clinging to their choice of like, “No, this is okay. This is what I wanted.” Convincing themselves that everything was okay. The viewpoint that I had, which might be something that has been parroted a lot over the last few years is in some ways he was a lens or a magnifying glass to things that a lot of us were compartmentalizing or acting like weren’t there.

We bring up systemic racism as one of many examples we could bring up of like, “We’ve done so much progress here.” Black and brown people have all these rights now and look at all we’ve done. The last few years were like, “We haven’t necessarily done that much because look at the magnifying glass that’s being put on this.” Whereas some people have said, “Police brutality, murderers and citizens having their rights taken away.” All these things have been happening ad infinitum for decades but now we’re getting a much more acute lens and a higher frequency of it.

With Trump, the thing that I think about is in some ways he brought up these pus-filled aching open wounds that were there that people were like, “No, that’s not an open wound. We put Band-Aids on that years ago.” In some ways, I feel like he metaphorically ripped off a lot of Band-Aids. In some ways, I think there was some benefit to it of, “There are some deep aching, old wounds that we have to address.” Some people can turn away from it. A lot of people turned away from it but for me, my interpretation was like, “I want to take a better look in my life at how I might be contributing to these things.” In some ways, how I’ve been living against the siloed reality of these things not existing.

MGU 201 | Shame Rules

Shame Rules: Guilt is something that you can make amends for.


What’s a little frustrating about Trump is that he does not seem to be compelled by any ideology. I do believe that Trump behaves as a white supremacist but I don’t think he cares enough. It’s just whatever is going to work for him. It sounds like we’re all liberal folks. I hope other people are reading too but the liberals don’t feel comfortable in this situation. You, Jason, pointed to I know it’s like a meme at this point but racism’s over. We elected a black president. My favorite, The Onion in 2008 had a joke where they said that George W. Bush should be praised as a civil rights leader for making the country hate him so much that we would elect a black president. I always like that take.

I was walking around. I am very pro-Coronavirus vaccine person. I will stop this interview if somebody came with the vaccine in a needle. I was talking to a friend, also liberal, also doing fine in the world, educated. I was saying, “If somebody stopped me on the street and gave me a vaccine, I am not a first responder. I am not old. I don’t have any health conditions that would be affected by this and I would still take that shot now so fast.” I was trying to make sense of, “Shouldn’t I call myself on my own bullshit about this?”

There are many groups of people who don’t have the access and the opportunities that I do who need the shots more but you better believe I’m on every possible list trying to get a shot for me and my family. I was trying to make sense of that. If I believed some of the stuff that I felt and espoused, it seems like that I would be doing the work on behalf of other people but I’m not. When I was trying to have this conversation with my best friend, she was like, “I don’t know what else you’re supposed to do.” I don’t know-how related to this is, I’m trying to call it liberals. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

I don’t know if I fully felt the shame of that realization about myself yet that I’m like, “Go away.” I do think that there is some reckoning around our complicitness leading up to Trump. Nobody wants to admit that they’re wrong. Nobody wants to admit that they’re selfish. Nobody wants to feel the shame that we are going to feel. I’m not a believer in the idea that we should never feel shame. That doesn’t seem to make any sense to me. Shame can be instructive. People make this distinction between guilt and shame. We can talk about that. As an example, I would say that conversation and these like feelings I know that I’m putting off. If I’m good, I’ll use that to do something better than I have been doing. There’s a shame language right there. Whitney, I’m like, “All I want to hear about is the shame you talked about at the start of the show.” I don’t know if this resonates with you at all.

It does. I don’t feel uncomfortable talking about shame. I read a book once by this woman named Christine Caine, who said that shame loses its power when it’s expressed. I’m like, “I better express it as often as I possibly can so it doesn’t have as much power over me.” I will say before I get into that, it’s interesting how listening to you talk about like the collective shame that we might feel as a country. I certainly experienced that from time to time wondering like, “Do other people in other countries think that we as Americans are awful because we had Trump as a president?”

This is coming from my perspective. I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to take sides. I don’t want to make Republicans feel unworthy, unwanted or bad people because I don’t believe that. I don’t think that anybody should be judged based on labels. We can judge people on their choices and their behaviors but to collectively say, “Anyone who voted for Trump is bad.” Especially based on what you said, Nick because I know someone personally who voted for Trump and regretted it.

Once you bring out the shame hammer, everything looks like a shame nail. Share on X

Like you were bringing up earlier this idea of, “What have I done,” mentality. We do have a democracy. Clearly enough people voted for him that they made him president and we had to deal with it for four years. I didn’t agree with that. It’s not who I voted for but we’re all in this together. That’s part of how we work as a country. I’m a big believer in unity. Sometimes things don’t go our way even when we try hard for them to go our way. I often wonder like, “Should I feel embarrassed as a US citizen?”

Similar emotions came up for me or I at least heard them a lot from other people during Black Lives Matter in summer 2020. People were often sharing like, “I’m embarrassed to be white. I’m ashamed to be white.” I thought that’s interesting. I didn’t think that was coming up for me but it raised my awareness around what it means to be white in this country. My sensitivity around it got heightened. Sometimes I have those moments and I’m like, “Is somebody judging me because I’m white?” That’s a good thing to experience because clearly people of different skin colors have been judged for their entire lives and I’ve had the privilege of not being judged.

All of those things are interesting to reflect upon. My aim is to make people feel more included. In fact, when you’re bringing up the Muslim side of things, that’s something that I’ve been digging into a lot more. I’ve talked about on some episodes how I started making some videos on TikTok about non-alcoholic drinks and all of these Muslim people started pouring into my account. I don’t know many Muslims. It was interesting to learn about their culture. I feel so ignorant about it. That ignorance excites me because I want to make them feel included. Everybody, I make I’m like, “Is this making people feel included? Am I accidentally making people feel excluded?” That’s an interesting thing as a content creator.

I understand you’re making a point about being white. I’m a mixed person. I present as very white. Over the summer, people might think I’m from the Middle East or Italian or I become more olive skin then that’s okay for some people. I live may be perhaps the most privileged of existences where it’s like, “I’m a man. I’m educated.” I was raised by a single black woman. I have access to that community in a way that is overwhelming. I can tell you stories about how that works out. I feel fortunate but it also feels unearned culturally.

Whitney, as a woman in this world, you think about the role of shame as it’s applied to women. I didn’t realize that 2 of the first 3 episodes of Shame Rules! are about how shame is applied to women. I did not go in with that idea but it’s so clear. You look at the Bible. One of the very first stories in the Bible is about how shame was invented because Eve fucked everything up. Eve becomes the Patient Zero of this feeling that is unpleasant for us and this feeling and shame is an act that we have used for thousands of years particularly against women. I’m curious about your thoughts on a side that I feel. I can’t speak for your personal experience but men do not bear the brunt of that in the same way.

Especially on the body image side of things, which is something I struggled with a lot over my life. That’s what revealed the shame for me because I had to look at like, “Why do I feel so unhappy with my body? Why have I spent much of my life being unhappy with my body?” I’ve been digging into that for many years. Trying to understand it better because I don’t like not loving my body. I want to embrace it, love it and feel comfortable in it. That’s a huge issue culturally for women and men. It’s certainly not something exclusive to gender. It’s something that many people struggle with. We feel very confused about things like sexuality and going back to the Bible. You can look at that too.

It’s like every decision we make feels like it has a ripple effect. Are we being judged? Are we sinning? All of those things can bring up different emotions. A lot of my experience with shame has been centered around my body. As a woman, that can feel challenging because we can feel shame for being a certain weight. We can feel shamed for being of different ages. We can be shamed for what we’re wearing. We can be shamed for our perceived sexuality or lack of it. There’s so much shame around almost every single element. I try to get a grasp on it. It’s incredibly challenging as a content creator. I manage it a lot mentally because I’m used to it. I’ve been doing video content for over several years.

It’s like I’m going to hunker down and do this even when I don’t feel as confident. It’s still is there pretty much every time I turn on the camera or look in the mirror, I’m thinking about this and wondering, “Will I be perceived in one way or another? Will somebody come up and shame me as they often have on YouTube, for example?” I feel like I got shamed out of my experience on YouTube because in the comment section, somebody has an opinion on everything that you do and everything you say and the way that you look. For me, I internalize that as shame. I internalize that as there’s something wrong with me that I need to change and I’m never going to be good enough.

It’s sad. The second episode of Shame Rules! is about purity culture. Is that anything that resonates with you?

I haven’t examined that and my knee-jerk reaction is I don’t believe that was part of my upbringing but it might’ve been in a subtle way.

The first episodes about the Patient Zero of AIDS, which is so-called Patient Zero. It’s the 80s, all kinds of comments on what it means to be a gay man and sexuality. The second episode is about purity. I had a friend who was like, “I’ll listen to it because Nick made it.” Four minutes in, I get a text and he goes, “This was my entire childhood.” That’s come across several times. It’s like shame and it does not necessarily be purity but it does have this like an invisible hand. Nothing is inherent about the things that we feel shame about.

That’s what’s so weird about it. We take it as like a natural law but it is not true. I’m a cis-straight man. Stories of people who come out either as gay or trans, I am struck by the amount of bravery that it takes because it flies so far in the face of what we’re all told to be and do. I question if I would have what it would take to do that. Whenever people get mad at them, I go, “Don’t you see how hard this is? Who would ever choose this for themselves ever?”

I want to jump into a little bit of the components of shame. In terms of what people perceive as the benefit of receiving and processing shame, when you brought purity, is it that I will be more favored in the eyes of God? I will be what I perceived as a more righteous person. Is there some people-pleasing involved psychologically where if I internalize the shame that I’m receiving from my partner, my family society or religion, then somehow, I won’t be cast out proverbially speaking by the tribe? Maybe it’s some primal reactivity of wanting to be accepted and loved. I’m curious about the layers of psychological ramifications that are underneath shame, the OS of shame, of why people might go after it or this idea of repenting for one’s sins? I know that might be a little bit of a tangent but it’s a curious thing to me of why people think shame might win God’s favor, keep them immune from being cast up by the tribe. Any thoughts on that? What’s the deeper underlying pinning psychologically for people around shame?

MGU 201 | Shame Rules

Shame Rules: Shame thrives in silence.


Jason, you basically asked and answered all of that so well. Most of what you said and then followed up with is true. You look at the development of shame. There are other emotions that we feel not necessarily that come later or they’re more nuanced but shame for being self-conscious, you have to know what a self is. You have to then imagine. Shame is the way that we interpret how we are seen by others. It’s a complex idea that we developed fairly early, which is interesting. I would assume that it does connect to this idea of my survival depends on my place within this group of people, which you can see the value in that.

Not in our world, but you can see it right there. You go, “I need to be safe. I can’t take care of myself. I need whatever. These are my people. I’m going to stay where I need to be in order for this to happen.” I want to clarify, there’s all kinds of great things we’ve managed to do over thousands of years of human thought and philosophy. It does seem like that their early days of it and how shame was used had some value. Having said that, going back to the church, repentance and other stuff, it’s hard to disconnect the idea of power with the idea of shame. Who has to repent? It’s the people who are less powerful. They’re the ones who have to repent.

The third episode talks about the role of church and the intersection of religion, purity and the state. The church and the state for so long were largely the same. You think about people being put in the stocks. We talked about a woman being hung for having a baby and not being married. You sit there and you go, “She’s being hung because she sinned against God and that’s bad.” You do a little more research and you find out, “The reason that this happens at all is because the state couldn’t afford all these babies.” They had to find a way to make this a mortal sin to discourage women from doing it.

People will be having sex back then. We’ve tried this so many times and it’s only the women who are left with the consequences of it. They’re the ones who bear the brunt of it and the brunt of that shame. That’s like a lot of steps around there. It is easily weaponized because it is coded within us. I was raised Catholic. My true story is my mother was a nun and my father was a priest. It is a real thing. They were not a shame-filled family necessarily. I know my Catholic stuff. There are all kinds of things that get left out of the Bible. Shame is not one of them. That’s not an accident, is what I’m trying to say.

In some ways, shame can be a societal control mechanism. You use that brilliant example of a woman being hung to discourage on a societal level a population control method. The thing that is interesting psychologically is that when we have people in positions of power, be they priests, venture capitalists, celebrities, etc. They have a particular moral or ethical position that they posit into the world. We find out in their personal life. They’re doing the exact same thing they told us we ought not do. It becomes this broken framework psychologically of we deify certain people, religious figures, business leaders, celebrities, etc.

We make them almost godlike in certain ways with the way we treat them and view them in society but then we get these stories that come about, “They molested this person or they raped this person or money laundering,” or whatever it is. There are a million examples. It’s interesting because it leads into a question of the dynamics of hierarchy whether or not societal hierarchies in the way that we have maintained them and continue to support them work for us. We go back to this purity culture of holding people in these positions to this lofty standard where they’re espousing a certain philosophy. We find out they’re not even in alignment with their own philosophy and then it becomes this question of like, “Who do we follow? Who do we trust?” Psychologically, that must be tough for people but it’s this fine line. I know I’m getting a little tangential here but we deify these types of people.

We hold them to this insanely high standard. They have these insanely high standards but then when we find out they’ve molested someone, raped someone or done something outside of their own framework of ethics they’ve talked about then we want to burn them at the stake. It’s almost like we’re so disappointed in them because they fucked up and they lied to us or they were in congruent with their own morals or ethical viewpoints that were like, “Yeah, burn them.” It’s such a fascinating interplay. It’s almost like, “Do we put too much faith in our leaders? Do we put too much faith in these people that we deify like this?” It’s like, “They’re human and they’re fallible too.”

It's only when someone says something that's close to our insecurity that the shame comes in. Share on X

Most of the time these people asked for it. I was having a conversation and people were like, “You can’t say anything anymore, you can’t make this joke or you can’t do this. Everyone’s coming for you.” I was saying like, “I want people to go look at my social media over the last several years.” I went to the University of Illinois. We were in the second wave of schools. Even though I don’t like Facebook, one of my humble brags is like, “I have one of the earliest members on stage you’re going to see on Facebook. Take that.” I looked at and I go, “Go look at my stuff. It hasn’t been this hard not to be the worst.” This isn’t a new idea. It’s frustrating that if someone elects to be, “I’m a leader, I’m a spiritual leader, I’m whatever,” and fall short of that, that same compassion, they never apply to other people, it seems like. To me, that’s not related to shame. I wish that they would feel shame. I’m sure they do but it doesn’t stop them from doing it. That’s tangential. It’s more a point. I just wanted to brag about my Facebook membership.

Is this since ‘04 or ‘05?

I don’t remember it. I want to say it’s ‘05.

It’s back when Myspace was still relevant. I remember when it was like, “We’re on Myspace and this is a total tangent.” It was like, “What’s this Facebook thing?”

First of all, I never had Myspace. I was like, “What is this?” I was in college. I joined June of 2004 on Facebook. I remember when the newsfeed was invented, back then you would be online. This is how I still use Facebook. Here’s my rule. When I go to Facebook, I open up to my other podcast page, Where There’s Smoke. I don’t go to I am allowed to look up anybody I think of. I could go, “What’s my friend Lucas doing? What about that girl went to high school with?” I can look him up, which is how Facebook started and see what’s up and whatever. I’m not allowed to go to the newsfeed to do the algorithm work. That’s been very helpful. Having said that, Twitter and me have a complicated relationship before people get excited. That’s off topic but through Facebook.

It’s interesting to talk about Facebook in that way because Jason and I have been using Clubhouse and it feels like the early days of Facebook when everyone’s figuring it out and like, “Is this going to become the next big thing or not?” That early stage experience of being on a newer social media platform is fascinating to me. It’s disarming because the longer a platform exists, people start to feel very confident in these rules and best practices develop and it suddenly boxing you. In some ways, whereas Clubhouse now is fun. Not because it’s audio, which all three of us thrive with audio-based content but it’s that Wild West feeling of I can explore. I feel like I don’t have to do things the right or the wrong way.

First of all, I’ve never heard of Clubhouse. I want to check that out. Talking about social media, Facebook and newsfeed, it does to bring this back to shame a little bit. It used to be that I could espouse an idea. Let’s use, “The world is made of gumdrops or the world is gumdrops or whatever from before.” I could espouse an idea and then over time, I could quietly change that idea or maybe not even over time. One night I go, “I can’t believe I said that.” It was fine. Nobody would remember or if they did, they knew you. They were like, “Nick’s a good guy or whatever,” but there is the permanence of social media and digital publishing in general. It does also create a little bit of a problem because now I don’t have the space to evolve or to change.

If I do, I’m going to get destroyed no matter what because there’s not any value. I’ve been thinking about this so much. There’s not any value in changing my mind anymore. The people who I used to agree with are going to be mad at me and they’re going to go, “I can’t believe you betrayed us.” The people that I am now agreeing with my new opinion are going to tell me, “I couldn’t believe it took you long. What’s wrong with you. You’re a monster. You’re complicit.” There is something about the permanence of social media. I know the algorithms are the real problem but I would also suggest that it is a huge part of why social media seems to be disruptive.

We see this in so many permutations with a lot of the communities I suppose we dabble in of people deciding to eat differently or choose a different lifestyle or vote for someone different or have a different spiritual belief. They’re vilified by the old community and then they’re embraced by the new one. It is such a fascinating thing to observe anthropologically. I want to go back to something we talked about a while back, Nick. I want to make a distinction because I’m curious Whitney and Nick have your viewpoints on this but the difference between guilt and shame without maybe necessarily opening up a Webster’s dictionary? Do I even have a physical fricking dictionary here at the house? I have one, which I don’t want to let it go because the idea of having a physical dictionary is very quaint to me but I’m curious the difference between guilt and shame.

Whitney, do you want to tackle this?

It’s such a distinction. One of the ways that I’ve heard it best explained is that it’s the difference between like “You’ve done something bad. You’ve made a bad choice” versus “You are bad” or “You made a mistake” versus “You are the mistake.” If something is misinterpreted or told to us in a certain way, it can feel like that choice or whatever you did is more about you at the core than some behavior that you exhibited. That is something I have to remind myself of over and over again. I’m in the mental habit of thinking every time somebody comes to me and says that they think I did something bad, did something wrong or made a mistake or whatever it is, that’s where my shame flares up. I have this little evil person sitting on my shoulder saying like, “Did you hear that? You’re an awful person.”

That’s the same definition I would have given. People also add to the idea of guilt. That guilt is something that you can make amends for. You do something wrong. You break the teapot. There is an element of a teapot in my mind shattered, so it doesn’t work but let’s say it’s broken to pieces. You can apologize for it. You can take ownership of it because you did the thing. You can glue it back together or you can buy a new one. You restore your relationship with that person. People often refer to guilt. I say people it’s researchers, it’s other people. I’m not saying that I necessarily subscribed to these. I’m much less interested in the questions and I’m never certain of any answers but people refer to guilt as being pro-social because it asks you to engage in repairing those relationships in that way. Shame is the thing that keeps you from going out on Friday night because you’re too embarrassed and embarrassed being on the very far end of the shame spectrum. Jason, does that align with where you were?

It was more curious to hear your personal definitions of it. It seems almost that in our language and the way that we contextually use these phrases that there’s a much more punitive aspect to guilt in some cases. If we think about our criminal justice system, a person is either innocent or guilty. They’re innocent until proven guilty. We don’t say they’re innocent until proven shameful. There’s retribution involved with guilt as opposed to shame being maybe more of an internal thing that we have to process on an emotional and a level of psyche.

Guilt and shame could be compatible in certain ways. If someone does something against the law and they’re found guilty, they might feel shame for murdering someone or they may not but I don’t know, guilt to me comes up. I’m trying to process it in real time. As an example and this is so interesting. The thing that I feel shameful for sometimes is not because someone has called me out on this per se but you mentioned, Nick having all these advantages. I’m also a mixed-race person. I am a white appearing cis-gendered man who has a Puerto Rican Spanish, Latino father and a white mother.

I feel in some ways when I engage with people of different ethnicities with a Latin X umbrella, it’s like, “You’re Puerto Rican. You’re Spanish. I would have never known.” To your point, I don’t feel like I’ve earned that cultural alignment in some ways. The point being, I grew up with all these advantages. I went to a Montessori school. I had a loving mother, a white appearing male, went to Columbia, had a great education, all these things. Sometimes I feel like you’re fucking up in life, dude. You’re not successful enough. You’re not doing enough. You had all these advantages. Look at your education, look at how people perceive you.

It’s almost the internal sense of shame I feel is I’m not doing enough to help the world or do good in the world given all the advantages and privilege that I have. That’s not something anyone’s ever told me of like, “You ought to do better, Jason. Look at your privilege and look at the advantages.” It’s more like something that sprouts for me internally. I’ve never talked about this. It’s coming up real time that you sparked, Nick. Whereas guilt would be like, “God, I don’t know.” My neighbors pissed me off and I thought about keying their car.

I was like, “Fuck you. I’m going to key your car. I hate you.” I have an issue with my neighbors next door. It’s a challenge for me to have compassion for them. I thought about it. I was very close and I’m like, “I’m going to slash their tires and key their car.” I sat with it. I went like, “You are going to feel guilty and bad about yourself.” Whether or not you get caught, you’re going to feel bad about yourself if you do that. I don’t know what the point of all this was. I was verbal vomiting. I don’t know who I’m handing it off to now.

First of all, that was a legit emotion with you and Jason. I’m fascinated by that. Without judgment, I’m like, “Wow.” I don’t know when the last time I’ve been pushed to that place. I’m curious if you would talk about that a little bit more because I find it fascinating. You were on the verge of going to do that. It wasn’t a passing thought for you.

I was like stewing with it. Bluntly and I feel very nervous and uncomfortable to share this. I don’t necessarily perceive myself as a violent or a person who seeks retribution but I’ve had this issue with the neighbors at my house where I’ve been living for a few years. They are extremely disrespectful to the point like they have these parties where they bring in speakers and they bring in porta-potties. In the middle of COVID, they had 40 people over their house. I said to whoever the patriarch of the family is, I said, “I see you guys are bringing in porta-potties and a whole PA system. If you guys could wrap around midnight?” I go to bed then and my bedroom is right next to their backyard.

They didn’t wrap it at midnight. They had the speaker and PA system going until 3:00 in the morning, maybe even 3:30. They had 40 people in the backyard. That’s a whole another thing around COVID. I’m like, “When you motherfuckers drop dead, don’t be crying about it.” I started to get this rage of like, “I do have some vodka. I could throw a Molotov cocktail in their backyard that would break a party quickly. Do I have a boat horn? I could get all of my dog’s shit out of the backyard and light the shit on fire. No, that’d be too obvious because they’d come over and probably beat my ass and break my windows but I could slash their tires and key their car when they go to bed at 4:00 AM. That’s what I’m going to do.”

I was so angry, Whitney. I was full of rage because this shit’s been going on for a few years and I’ve asked them repeatedly. There’s zero respect for any consideration for me or the other neighbors for that matter. I was filled with this rage and feeling of retribution. As I talked myself through the situation, first of all, that’s going to solve nothing. You’re going to feel better for 30 minutes and then you’re going to feel awful about yourself for doing that.

This is an important thing to bring to the conversation. Thank you for having the bravery to do so, Jason. I imagine a lot of people have thoughts like that but would never speak them because of guilt or shame and this topic of rage. Also, what comes up for me as you’re sharing this is like you’re trying to control the situation because maybe you feel out of control. Your brain is trying to figure out how do I fix this? I’m glad that you brought this up. I’m curious about Nick’s thoughts on this.

That’s accurate, Whitney. I’m not there. There’s the feeling of powerlessness. You did the steps and you did the things you were supposed to do with your neighbor and they didn’t do it. You go, “What on earth am I supposed to do?” I make this joke when I started this shame project. I started talking about shame all the time. Once you bring out the shame hammer, everything looks like a shame nail. I don’t want to apply that to this unnecessarily but I might say based on, I’m not in your body and in your thoughts and in your being but I might go, “One explanation for that, the level of rage, which is connected to shame.” Rage is this volatile reaction.

You see it a lot in abusive relationships. Rage is connected to shame. In this case, you might say, “Why am I so powerless?” That is, “I am very angry about that and I will destroy the thing that makes me feel powerless.” I’m glad you didn’t do any of that. That wouldn’t be helpful but it is interesting. It’s shameful to have those feelings were taught, which is natural. Everybody gets angry. Everybody has like, “I’m going to break shit. I’m going to burn down the thing.” When you’re telling that story, I was like, “Way to go.” Don’t do it but feel it and process it.

I appreciate you being open to me sharing this. You’re right on about it. Every time I see them loading in for these huge parties, it’s the same conversation, “Could you please be respectful? I go to sleep at midnight. My bedroom is right next door from your fence. My bedroom is 5 feet from the fence right next to your backyard.” I’ve even called the cops. I called the cops multiple times and they’re like, “We’re going to send out a squad car. It’s COVID. They’re having a party with 40 people.” The LAPD is notorious. Unless you’re like, “Someone’s in my house with a gun and a machete,” they’re likely not going to send someone. All due respect to the LAPD but also not all due respect. It was the fact too that I called the police. They said, “We’re going to send someone and they didn’t.” This feeling of powerlessness was going through all the steps as a respectful person of like, “I’ll talk to you in person. You didn’t quiet down. I call the cops.” The cops said, “They’d send someone.” I feel like I have zero options other than violence. I’m glad I didn’t but it was going through my mind in a multitude of ways.

It also comes back around to part of the discussion we had earlier of people exhibiting behavior that you relate to and how we might think things like, “Have you no shame?” It’s interesting because it’s more of a respect thing from my opinion. It’s like, “These people are so disrespectful because you have shared with them your needs and they’re going beyond them. They don’t care enough about you to respect your sleep.” We think about places that have rules about quiet hours but even people will break those rules. It is an interesting element of the shame conversation and guilt as well. When people do things that they know are bothering someone else, do they experience that shame and guilt or do they see things completely differently? That’s why they don’t feel shame and guilt because maybe they don’t perceive it as being disrespectful. Maybe they perceive you as being too controlling or something. That’s what’s fascinating to me about human behavior is it’s all a matter of perspective.

I’m thinking critically about all of the ways in which what is it that they think? How could you and the other neighbors must feel this? I am thinking a little bit about at the dawn of small communities and of people and the role of shame in that, this would never happen. The community is too interwoven. On top of that, you couldn’t find 40 other people from outside the community to come over. This is another shame hammer example. I’m sitting here going, “This is interesting” and whatever. There’s a visual anti-element where I go like, “Yeah, you should slash the tires.” That’s the wrong idea. Please don’t clip that out of this podcast and blast me on social media but it is interesting. It’s natural for the reaction to be that because you don’t have to act on all of your thoughts. They are being rude repeatedly. I don’t have any solutions for you. That’s not what this is about but it’s nice to hear that somebody had a human reaction to a difficult situation because that’s not the thing that you experienced or see online.

It also brings up the idea of wanting to punish someone. This idea of this person needs to be punished because they’ve “done something wrong” or they’ve gone against my wishes or they’ve disrespected me. In Los Angeles here, one of the things that we’re most potentially notorious for is incidents that are involved with road rage, someone cut someone off, someone break checks someone, someone flipped someone off and then people get out of their car and come to blows. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, people were getting shot on the freeways of Los Angeles from flipping someone off. It’s this of disrespect and punishment being interwoven where my thing was, I don’t go to the nuclear option right away with people.

I’m going to communicate civilly. I’m going to communicate my boundaries. I’m going to communicate my desires and why this is bothering me? Could you please amend or change your behavior? After a certain number of things, I find myself shifting into this punitive mode of like, “They need to be punished.” To both of your points and perspective, they probably don’t feel that they have done anything wrong. In my mind, I’m like, “No, I’ve done all of the civil, respectful, communicative channels that I can exhaust here.” Those aren’t working. If this person isn’t going to amend their behavior then I’m going to have to punish you for not being respectful and not listening to me.

With this example, I want to put it to rest but at the end of the night at 4:00 AM, I remember sitting there and going, “It’s not my job to punish them. It’s not my job to throw a Molotov cocktail into the yard. It’s not my job to throw my dog shit on their porch. It’s not my job to keep their car slash their tire, scream at them.” The reality is and if you call it karma or not, I believe in reciprocity. I believe that the energy you put out in the universe does come back in some other forms. For me, it’s like, “It’s not my job to punish them. I’m not the arbiter of karma in the universe. That’s not my role.” I put it to rest.

Mentioning the road rage, I don’t remember who I was reading. It may have been James Gilligan. He wrote a book called Violence in the ‘90s, which is fascinating. He talks about this idea that there’s nothing more shameful than realizing how tiny the trigger was for you to feel shame in the first place. You see it maybe in the road rage example. It’s like someone cut me off. There might be at some point in that process where it ends in violence, where someone realizes it’s not that big of a deal but there is the shame of, I have to follow through on this because I can’t be wrong, which does connect a little bit to the Trump stuff. It’s the same people with the same mechanism at play of shame isn’t an experience necessarily that has to play out the same every way.

Shame is a trigger that can go in a variety of directions but the self-awareness of the smallness of it. Thankfully, I do not have a ton of examples of this in my personal life but I have talked to other people. I recognized that this person yelled and hit me. This person was cruel to me and it was over this small thing. It’s hard to separate a little bit of the smallest of it. It’s like, “This other person knows this is not a big deal. I’m now this mad. I have to stop this.” For some people, it’s a lot easier to go to violence than it would be to own my own trigger in the first place.

It goes back to maybe what comes up for me as cliché is this adage is, the straw that breaks the camel’s back is that shame trigger or that thing that incites violence in a road rage incident because that’s the example we’re using. It’s certainly not an isolated thing. It’s almost this person potentially has a series of experiences where they’re rendered powerless over and over again or perhaps, they don’t have access or the channels to perhaps emotionally process those feelings or work on their past trauma. That it almost seems to me like this stuff builds up and then that one seemingly minute incident is it breaks everything open.

It’s not necessarily about that isolated situation but yet the compounding effect of all of this frustration, powerlessness and trauma that isn’t being dealt with and processed. I could be wrong on that but it seems to me that when I have acute reactions to seemingly minimal situations, it’s because, “I’m not dealing with my shit. I’m not allowing myself to be dealing with my frustration, my trauma, my anger, whatever it is.” This one minute thing it’s like the domino that pushes all the other dominoes down.

The interesting thing about the James Gilligan point and I don’t know if it’s true but is about the moment when you recognize that the initial shame trigger was stupid. You’re confronted with a heightened emotional decision. Anything that happens doesn’t play out instantly. It’s a series of decisions where you have to then confront, “It is more shameful that I got upset about this than the actual shame I felt the first time.” It is something that perhaps if I would encourage readers to enter the world into. For example, I had an eleven-year-old son. He got mad at some kid at school a couple of years ago because the kid called him a name or whatever.

If I were to say to you, Jason or Whitney, if I were to say like, “You’re a water kettle,” and you’d go, “There’s no shame triggered there because it’s so far outside of the thing that secretly are worried about in terms of how our self-image is projected and how we think other people view us.” It’s only when somebody says something that is close to our own insecurity, do we feel shame and that’s when the anger comes in. It’s through this interesting mechanism of anger as a response to shame is something that I don’t think we talk about enough and also connecting it back to the Trumpians stuff, bravado, gaslighting and lies. There’s no other reason for those things to exist other than we are deflecting from the shame event. It doesn’t make any other sense otherwise.

Our processing the feelings of shame, one thing is this tendency to have shame become a lingering part of our self-identification. You talked about the history of social media and people going back 10, 15 years and being like, “You said this on Facebook in 2006.” It’s this idea of things that we’ve done being part of our identity. I was having a conversation with a friend of being perceived as a cheater. You may have cheated once in your life in a romantic context and people are like, “I wouldn’t date him because he’s a cheater.”

The benefit of shame and emotionally processing a situation and taking ownership for our contribution of something versus letting it linger in our psyche to the point where it becomes part of our self-identification. In some ways, I’m acknowledging and recognizing certain situations in my life where I’ve held onto it so long that it became part of my self-perception. Not like let me learn from the situation, take ownership or make amends for something. Let it go and process it versus I’m going to embed it in part of like who I feel I am now.

The thing that comes to mind in that case and this is my experience. I didn’t even notice it was happening but I struggled later in high school because of a lot of anxiety. I’m a bright kid but I couldn’t get it together. I went to college and it took forever to get my stuff together. I’d been hiding it from my mom like, “I’m really struggling here.” I finally like told her on the phone, like, “I don’t know if I’m going to pass this semester. I don’t even know.” All my teachers were so supportive of me and I was like, “I couldn’t do it.” There is all that shame you’re going, “How am I messing this up poorly? I’m supposed to be good at this. Everyone’s being nice to me.”

There’s this idea of, “It doesn’t matter. It’s too late already.” I was telling this to my mom. I was like, “It’s too late.” She was like, “Too late for what?” I said, “I feel like I’ve lost path.” This is four words for anybody who might need it. She goes, “There is no path.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” This is the things I was going to do. I was going to do this and I was too late. I messed it up. She’s like, “That’s not real. That’s a story you’ve told yourself.”

The ability to take one step back or have someone else, to your point, Whitney, I got this from Brené Brown, “Shame thrives in silence.” There’s something that is disinfected by light. You’re able to give voice to it and say it out loud, even to yourself. You go, “Is that true?” We talk about limiting beliefs and all this other stuff. There is something about being able to recognize that it’s at no point too late to make a different choice has been for me. Part of the joy of making not so much shame rules, although I hope people listen to it. I’m very proud of it but Where There’s Smoke specifically, I did an episode on truth and lies and particularly the reasons that we tell the truth to ourselves and the reasons that we lie to ourselves and lie to others.

This woman I talked to, Dr. Cortney Warren said the same thing. She goes, “It’s never too late to make a different choice.” There are limits to that. If your parent is dead and you had a bad relationship with them or whatever but that’s the good news of the feeling of shame. I’m not an expert in that specifically. People enter into shame conversations in that space but I would hope that as people leave this conversation or leave the world, take that shame hammer with you and go, “Why is this happening? Why is our president saying that? Why can’t she wear those clothes? Why can’t he love that person?” There are all these things and you sit there and you go, “What did shame have to do with this?” It’s not the whole story but what is shame as a structural element? What is shame as a personal element of the people in charge and the people being subjugated? A lot of advice for a person who hates giving advice but hopefully it’s helpful.

It’s very helpful. That’s such a wonderful note to end on here. We need to hear those things since shame can bring up so many intense emotions. It’s scary. We want to run away from it. It feels too much. We don’t know what to do with it. Having some simple perspective, knowing that it’s never too late to make a different choice is incredibly powerful. I hear this all the time on social media, which is one of my big passions and one of the most common obstacles for people with social media like TikTok for example is, am I too old? Is it too late? People say this about podcasts and about YouTube. It’s this concern that the thing that I want to do is not accessible to me because it’s too late to do it.

People of all different ages can give this perspective. It’s never too late. You also asking those questions about why Nick are amazing for someone like me. There’s this wonderful personality test that you can take called The Four Tendencies. My result is the questioner. I love the question why. I ask why about everything and that helps me with things like shame. You’re reminding me to not ask why of other people but to ask why of myself when I’m feeling those things. It does help when I have that awareness.

Thank you for exploring shame from all of these different angles. I certainly can’t wait to listen to your shows. I love both of them. I was commenting that the titles are brilliant. You have a phenomenal voice and so much to share and I love your approach. It lines up with us. I feel very honored to have you on the show and to explore it. What’s cool about you, Nick is you do it in depth but simultaneously like casual, fun, conversational way, which makes you the perfect guest for this show.

Thank you. I want to say for people who’ve stuck with us, the thing about Shame Rules! itself and to your point, Whitney, was that when I pitched it to somebody, I was like, “I’m making this show about shame. I don’t have a title yet, whatever.” They were like, “Why?” They were mad at me. That reaction guided the whole thing and the whole conversation. We don’t even want to talk about shame because the feeling of shame is so painful. The show and hopefully our conversations and things around it are trying to take interesting stories and interesting people so we can get as close to it as possible. I watched BoJack Horseman. I don’t know if everyone watches that show but sometimes with BoJack, I didn’t want to start an episode because it was going to be too hard. The hope here is that in these conversations, we’re able to not judge ourselves and learn from other people’s experiences and hopefully grow from that. Thank you for having me. This is the best. We do this every day.

Yes, count us in. It’s funny that you brought up BoJack because I’ve watched that show. I’ve only maybe made it through one season. It’s lovely and addresses some life challenges. I love it when animation can do that. I also wanted to comment that your voice reminds me a bit of another animated series called Big Mouth. You sound a bit like Nick Kroll to me. Do people ever say that to you?

I have gotten that I look like Nick Kroll, which I don’t know how I feel about that. No offense.

That’s not what came to mind. I think it’s your voice. It might be John Mulaney because they’re both on the show and maybe I’m mixing up their voices in my head but regardless.

We all talk about this. Are you a Kroll or a Mulaney? I’m a Kroll. I used to listen to Nick Kroll back on Comedy Bang Bang in 2011 or whatever. I’ll take it. He also dated Amy Poehler. I’ll take that any day of the week.

The more you talk to, it’s like you’ve got a little bit of the Jason Mantzoukas way about you. You’re the entire Big Mouth cast combined and that’s a big compliment because that’s one of my favorite animated shows.

This is my favorite thing that’s ever happened, being told the people I sound like. If you’re spending this much time with Big Mouth and BoJack, especially Seasons 2 and 3, I would highly recommend going back to. I love television that I’m going to say you’re the worst for the other one. BoJack is devastating and beautiful at the same time. It is worth if you’ve pandemic out. It talks a lot about shame too on BoJack. It would be worth spending time.

I love Aaron Paul. That was the reason I started watching it in the first place. That’s good homework. I’m waiting for Jason to start watching Soul, which I don’t think you’ve done yet. Did you see that Nick on Disney?

Yeah, it’s great.

We can’t spoil anything about the movie. He doesn’t know much about it aside from that there’s a jazz musician involved but Jason, I assume you still haven’t watched Soul yet because you haven’t brought it up?

No. I know you’ve heard this 50 times, the plan is to finally do it later because my girlfriend Laura is not going to watch it without me. I’m like, “We need to make time to watch it.” Now is the plan. We’re going to have a little food, move and then we can talk about it openly. This is the time for Soul. I hope it is.

The former music teacher in me. It’s my background. I have Master’s is in Music Education and also, as a creative person, I’m a sucker for movies that tell very small truths and take the time to do it. You could say anything in the world and you said, “This is like a thing I think about all the time.” For that reason, I think it’s a beautiful movie. I’m so excited for you to watch it.

For the readers too, all of these shows and movies are worth watching. Big Mouth is more of a guilty pleasure. It’s a show that is vulgar and extreme at times. It gives me a good laugh, which is good for the soul and pun intended because Soul is truly lives up to its name. I want to see it again. It made me cry. I could cry thinking about some of the parts of the movie. Jason, you’re probably going to sob. That’s my prediction but I don’t want to build it up anymore.

Being the sensitive Cancerian that I am, it doesn’t take much for me to sob.

Be prepared for a good cry when you watch that movie. Nick, truly thank you for bringing your fantastic voice and your wisdom, your perspectives and all of the fun that we had here. This is amazing.

Thank you so much. We’ll do it again someday!


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About Nick Jaworski

MGU 201 | Shame RulesNick Jaworski is a digital audio producer, podcast host, and founder of Podcast Monster, a digital audio production company.
Over the past six years, Nick has been producing and editing podcasts with New York Times Best-Selling authors, thought leaders, Silicon Valley tech companies, and other entrepreneurs. His company, Podcast Monster, has produced episodes that have been downloaded over 20 million times and one of his own podcasts, Where There’s Smoke, has been recognized by publications like the A.V. Club’s Podmass.
Currently, Nick is passionate about his new show, Shame Rules!, which explores the hidden ways that shame shapes our world. Each episode explores the way that shame has helped determine the outcome of so many stories. Nick has spent 15 months carefully crafting all six episodes of Shame Rules! in the hopes that by understanding how shame shapes our lives, it will help us to navigate the future in a better, more healthy way.
For more information about Shame Rules!, visit
For more information about Nick and Podcast Monster, visit


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