High-shame and self-criticism are very detrimental to our overall well-being. Those who feel shame and self-criticism also tend to find the idea of self-warmth and self-acceptance not only difficult, but quite terrifying.
We tend to shape our views about ourselves through our perception of how others view us during childhood and adolescence. If our belief is that an important person to us saw us negatively, then we are likely to view ourselves through a similar lens.
Early caregivers have a lot of power in the way we view ourselves, and whether or not we become self-criticizing, shameful, or self-appreciative and respectful of ourselves. In an unhealthy caregiver relationship, this harm and poor self-perception then turns into deep beliefs of self-criticism, self-blame, self-shame, inferiority, submissiveness, and sometimes self-hatred. Other traits of high-shame beliefs can lead to envy, internalized or externalized blame, anger, defensiveness, resentfulness, self-torment and distanced (Zaslav, 1998).
“Guilt and shame generally coexist...It is shame-related states that uniquely involve negative or degraded holistic self-conceptualizations that lead to problems in functioning” (Zaslav).
We often internalize these views which can develop into unhealthy core beliefs or harmful schemas about ourselves. Some very harmful schemas that are common with high shame and self-critical people, might include:
“I’m not worthy of love,”
“I’m not desirable,” or
“I don’t deserve to live.”
Unhealthy schemas typically lead to emotional suffering from low self-esteem or insecurity, self-critical style, self-anger and contempt, lack of confidence and trust in self or others, loss of energy, depression, relationship difficulty, and more (Gilbert & Procter, 2006).
Shame can feel crippling and contagious (Brown, 2020). “We all have shame, and no one likes to talk about it…shame hates being spoken”. Shame’s power is destruction. “We are hard-wired for connection, love and belonging, and it’s why we are here and it’s what gives purpose to our lives...shame is the belief we have not done enough...shame is real pain."
Being shamed is very traumatic. But shame can heal with love and compassion. I beg the question, why does it have to be there in the first place?
If we work together with love and compassion, shaming others and the pain that ensues from that harmful behavior, can end.
Brown, B. (July 1, 2020). Unlocking us. Brene on Shame and Accountability.
Gilbert, P., and Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and
self-criticism: Overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology
and Psychotherapy. 13, 353-379. Doi:10.1002/cpp.507.
Zaslav, M. R. (1998). Shame-related states of mind in psychotherapy. J Psychother Pract Res.