Despite all the news about cyber-bullying, shaming is not solely a social media phenomenon. I can trace it back to my childhood (way, way before the internet), when my kindergarten teacher, “Miss Brooks,” shamed me in front of the whole class. I innocently told her that I’d stepped on a worm on my way to school, and she called me a killer in front of the whole class. I felt humiliated but at the same time, I can honestly say I’ve never murdered another defenseless worm.

When Miss Brooks told me that killing the worm was wrong, she was both criticizing me and teaching me. When she outed me to my fellow kindergartners, she was shaming me. My point here is that not all criticism is shaming. Criticism, when done sensitively, can and should be constructive. Shaming, on the other hand, is a humiliating and sometimes public embarrassment.

Most often, people shame others about their faces, their bodies, or their reputations. It’s obvious that when we’ve been shamed, we feel terrible. But if you think it just happens to kids (i.e., cyber-bullying), think again.  I don’t think it’s still a thing, but I used to watch “Fashion Police” after an awards show.  I remember how Joan Rivers (may she rest in peace) shamed anyone who was especially well-endowed, or flat-chested, or wore a badly tailored gown.

If you find yourself in an ill-fitting gown on the red carpet, or in any other situation where you’ve been shamed, here are a few ideas about how to respond.

Escape. Get yourself out of the situation immediately, by slamming your laptop closed, or directly tell the person who’s doing the shaming that you need some time to consider the comments.

Think. Once you’ve gotten some distance, try to understand the intent of the other person. Most likely your “shamer” has a bunch of other stuff going on, not the least of which is her own self-esteem issues. Although you’re hurt and angry, try to sandwich in a little compassion at the same time.

Retaliate. Now don’t get excited here. What I mean is, vent your anger in an email (make sure you address it to your mom or your sister, and not to the person you really want to throttle). Get hostile, be profane, and let it all out. Then, SAVE IT IN DRAFTS. (That’s why I suggest addressing it to somebody who already has your back, just in case you hit “send” by accident.) Reread it in an hour or two, or in a day or two, and then delete it.

Empathize. Remember you’re not alone. We all have our own Miss Brooks or Joan Rivers to handle. Sometimes, the best way to get past a shaming experience is to recognize that you were a victim to someone else’s pettiness. It’s obviously her problem, and not yours.

Choosing not to let that person continue to humiliate you is your best form of revenge. And while you’re at it, treat yourself gently.