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Toxic Shame

A feeling of worthlessness that can be caused by poor treatment from others. It's more intense and prolonged than regular shame. 


Shame is an unpleasant, painful emotion to experience. Shame can be felt emotionally and physically. Some describe shame as feeling “small”, “inferior”, “exposed”. Physically, some people may freeze or blank out. Shame responses include wanting to hide or disappear, give in or people-please or fight back.


There are two types of shame: normal and toxic. We feel normal shame when we unintentionally hurt someone or do something wrong. Normal shame keeps us from doing something that would get us rejected. It can also alert us when something does not align with our beliefs and values.


Toxic shame is the feeling or experience of believing you are unworthy or flawed. People with toxic shame berate themselves for any wrongdoing. They have unrealistic expectations of self which leads disappointment and more shame.


Causes of toxic shame:


  • Being raised by parents who used shame as punishment

  • Being rejected by others – being excluded, broken up with

  • Certain religious teachings regarding sin and sex

  • Sexual, physical, emotional abuse

  • Constant comparison of self to others


According to Brené Brown, a researcher who specializes in shame and vulnerability, there are three things that causes shame to grow: secrecy, silence and judgment. Are you ashamed to talk about what happened to you? Do you blame yourself for what happened? Our shame-informed therapists will work with you to process the shame so that you can overcome it.

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