Toxic shame is an erroneous, corrosive, self-fulfilling belief about what you ARE. A chronic, core identity sickness that gathers data to justify its own ravaging, downstream effects on your life.
Shame is most often the reason people tolerate terrible behavior, boundaries, jobs, partners – terrible everything. Because shame is proof-positive that you either don’t deserve better or aren’t capable of it.
Toxic shame fuels compulsive behavior, drives limiting beliefs, and rolls around in isolation like a pig in shit. And it doesn’t just go away on its own — you gotta root it out and exterminate it.
If you were abandoned, abused, neglected, or chronically mistreated as a child, there is a 100% chance that you carried toxic shame into adulthood.
And while you may have transformed it into overachievement, grandiosity, dissociation, anxiety, depression, or something else… when you peel that thing back, you will inevitably discover the repulsive evidence of childhood suffering turned inward.
In order to heal, you gotta:
- Identify your shame.
- Discover where it came from.
- Share it with another human being.
- Discredit and rewrite the shame story.
- Replace any elements of your life that trigger and exacerbate shame through trauma healing, boundary work, radical self-acceptance, self-compassion, self-care, or whatever else you need based on your specific circumstances.
The Silver Bullet Solution
Time does not heal all wounds.
Love does not heal all wounds.
There is no one thing that heals everything. If there was, I’d be rippin that shit out of a bong as we speak. But it doesn’t exist.
Get curious about your childhood. Get curious about toxic shame.
Do you feel stuck, trapped, or unable to grow?
Would you be appalled if someone told you some of the negative shit you tell yourself?
Are you “Your own worst enemy?” (a profoundly tragic thing if you actually believe it.)
Please know that shame is a universal human experience. There is nothing inherently wrong with it.
So What’s The Problem?
In the endless litany of shame-based dysfunction… from perfectionism to addiction and all manner of pathological stuff in between… not a single one of those is the result of feeling shame; in reality, they are all ways in which we try to avoid feeling shame.
That’s right. Shame in and of itself is not the problem. Fear of shame, avoiding shame, being ashamed of shame — anger, comparison, judgment, blame, self-loathing, resentment — all these emotional comorbidities and supplementary coping mechanisms comprise a negative feedback loop I often describe as a “shit spiral.”
It’s a remarkable phenomenon.
But I want you to know that, despite what toxic shame may whisper gingerly into your ear every morning, you are not terminally unique. The very idea that no one feels like you or could possibly understand your problem is, ironically enough, exactly what all sufferers of toxic shame have in common. Kind of funny when you think about it.
Let’s call toxic shame’s bluff and drag it out into the light where everyone can see just how silly it is. It’s essentially a core belief that being human is not ok — that we should somehow be better (whatever that means) or impervious to the inherent foibles of the human condition. What a load of crap, am I right?
It’s been said that shame is the distance between who I am and who I wanna be. However, if my goal is to be this flawlessly successful and unrelentingly lovable paragon of strength, wisdom, and achievement, I can be sure that toxic shame will be my constant companion until I breathe my last still-not-fucking-good-enough breath.
And that doesn’t sound appealing to me at all.
If you’re not into it either, let today be the day you stop allowing shame to control your life. Heal. Transform that shame into vulnerability, strength, courage, and authenticity — some of the greatest assets you will ever possess in this life.
Taking Off The Armor
Once again, I must reiterate that shame thrives in isolation, so you can’t do this healing work all by yourself. Please find a coach, therapist, mentor, guide, support group, etc. so you’ll feel safe enough to strip off that armor you’ve been wearing all these years. What you’ll discover is that the armor allegedly protecting you from shame has been keeping you in survival mode and “protecting you” from being human, connecting with others, and actually living.
Authentic human connection is a biological imperative, and shame can be the greatest hindrance to satisfying that need. Perhaps this is why Carl Jung called shame “a soul-eating emotion.” It’s the worst.
If you’re not yet ready or able to serve toxic shame an eviction notice, at the very least, take a good look at how it’s sabotaging your life and everything in it. That’s a great first step. It may give you just enough humility and willingness to finally get some help.
And if you’re too ashamed to ask for help, there’s nothing I can say to make my point any clearer than you just did.