While one has inherent worth, it doesn’t mean that they’re able to realise this. And when this is the case, it is likely to be due to the toxic shame that they’re carrying within them. As all the time one is carrying this within them, it is going to make it more or less impossible for them to realise their value.
This can cause one to feel as though they’re deeply flawed and it then doesn’t matter what they do or what they achieve, as nothing will change. One can then feel less than human and as though they are completely worthless.
One could then come to the conclusion that shame is therefore bad and that it has no purpose other than to destroy ones sense of self. However, there are two types of shame and while toxic shame is destructive, if one had no shame whatsoever, it would be equally destructive.
If one has a conscience, they’re going to feel shame form time to time and while this will cause them to feel bad from time to time, it won’t become a way of life. Through feeling bad, it will allow them to become aware of what they have done wrong and to take the steps to put it right or not to do the same thing again.
The Absence Of Shame
So healthy shame allows one to be aware of how their actions are affecting others and how their own life is being affected. If this shame didn’t appear during these moments, one is going to come across as lacking empathy and as having no concern for other people.
In the absence of shame, one is likely to end up behaving in ways that are inappropriate and offensive. They are then going to come across as lacking humanity and therefore, they’re going to end up alienating themselves from others.
But healthy shame is there for a certain time and then it will soon subside. This means that one doesn’t feel as though there is something inherently wrong with them and neither do they develop a shamed-based identity.
When this happens, one is stuck in shame. The shame that one felt in relation to a certain situation has then stayed around and has become who they are. And when one feels this way, there are a number of things that can take place.
If one was to accept their shame, they’re going to feel worthless and because of this, it is not going to take much effort for other people to notice how they feel. This could be seen through how another person presents themselves and the kind of behaviour they put up with.
Ones intention is then not to be seen by others or to be in the spotlight, it is going to be to hide from others and to avoid attention. Their tolerance for being treated badly or even abused by others is then a reflection of how worthless they feel.
Another approach that one can take is to repress their toxic shame and to become disconnected from it. Here one doesn’t come across as worthless or less than others, they can come across as being larger than life and act as if other people are inferior.
The shame that they have disconnected from ends up being projected onto other people. But as they are out of touch with their own inner world, they’re unlikely to realise what is taking place.
And while people in the first example are unlikely to do anything to improve their image or to develop themselves, the people in this example can end up being obsessed with their image and have a strong need to develop themselves. This can keep their toxic shame at bay but what it won’t do is remove it; which is why it has developed into an obsession.
Perhaps this is why the cosmetic and self development industry has become so big in recent years. The need to be perfect is another consequence of feeling flawed within.
And if one carries shame on the inside, there is a strong chance that not only will they shame others, but that other people will also shame them. One can shame others without being consciously aware of what they are doing. Through shaming others, it will allow one to elevate themselves for a short while and to regulate how they feel.
If one is shamed by another, they might not even notice what is taking place and this is because it reflects how they feel on the inside. So until one feels different, they’re going to allow other people to shame them and they are more likely to shame others.
So when one experiences toxic shame, it is like wearing glasses that are dirty and then cleaning external objects as a way to improve one’s vision. No matter what one cleans, the glasses are still going to be dirty.
Just as no matter what one achieves or how they look, it won’t change how they feel at a deeper level. What is taking place within them doesn’t belong there and needs to be released.
A Deeper Look
As one feels ashamed of who they are, they might be able to locate moments in their adult life where they felt ashamed, but this is unlikely to be where it all began. This is likely to be something that started during their childhood years and relate to how their caregiver/s treated them.
Here, one may have been physically, verbally and/or sexually abused. Neglect can also lead to the same outcome and cause one to feel worthless. This shame would then have stayed trapped in one’s body.
So in order to move beyond feeling flawed, one will need to release the shame that has remained within them. And not only will one be facing shame, they are also likely to come across grief, abandonment, rejection and even death.
To release these trapped emotions, one might need the assistance or a therapist or a healer. They will be able to hold the space and to give one the support they need to go to the depths of their being.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.