Toxic Shame: How To Heal This Unhealthy Cycle
Have you ever wondered why you go through the cycle of toxic shame over and over again? Not feeling proud of who you are, afraid to take up space, or tend to apologize for everything, to an extent of your own existence?
Shame is that toxic inner feeling that who you are, as a person, is not good enough. You often feel inferior, that your needs and preferences are not as important as others, and that it is YOUR responsibility to make sure others are happy.
In order to understand the unhealthy cycle of shame, let’s examine it through a case study.
Little Timmy’s Story of Toxic Shame
Let’s take Timmy, for example. Timmy grew up in a house of an alcoholic father, who physically and emotionally hurt him, and a codependent neglecting mother, who was barely there to meet Timmy’s needs.
She was constantly fearing the frightening side effects of not standing by her husband’s “side.”
Even though that they showed to the outer world they were a ‘normal’, functioning, family, anyone who was observant enough could detect that this family was not healthy, or even abusive for Timmy.
But Timmy, as a little child could not see it or understand it. His brain wasn’t developed enough, at a young age, to associate his parents’ harmful behaviors toward him as their own.
Instead, his brain perceived it as – “It is my fault that my dad calls me names and insults me. I must be bad. There must be something wrong with me”.
This is the way toxic shame forms. We falsely internalized others’ destructive behavior as our responsibility. Therefore, it is our job to fix them. It is our job to make them happen. We feel ashamed about who we are because we caused this treatment in the first place and now it’s on us to change their behavior.
And we continue to experience unfortunate, painful events from our caretakers, that limiting belief intensifies – “I should be ashamed of myself because I am no good. Otherwise, my mom would pay attention to me, and my father would smile at me”. This way, toxic shame sustains itself as one of the dominant programmings, if we’re survivors of childhood trauma.
When children get mixed messages or when they don’t get the love, security, stability, support, and care they need, they often conclude that they are the ones to blame. They learn to internalize that they are meaningless, flawed, stupid, and bad.
Walking around with these horrible beliefs about yourself – how could you possibly experience peace? Groundedness? Fulfillment? Wholeness?
When this is your point of attraction, it’s also very probable that you attract toxic people that won’t add any value, to say the least, which will strengthen the toxic shame paradigm.
The Need to Change Yourself to Be Liked By Others
If we go back to our case study, Timmy saw that his parents didn’t react well to his REAL self, so as an unconscious survival mechanism, he CHANGED himself so he can “fix” his parents’ problems (or reactions to him).
His brain internalized the events as – “Who I am right now is no good. I must change who I am, so they will treat me differently and provide me with safety, love, warmth, and affection”.
But that automated strategy proved itself to be unsuccessful, obviously. The adults in our lives had their own trauma that they never overcome. So the shame and guilt that Timmy experienced have grown stronger – “Nothing is good about me. I can’t do anything right. I’m useless”.
In essence, abusing parents brainwash with a one-two-three-four shame punch:
1. Creating an environment hostile to growth.
2. In some cases, blaming their children for creating this environment.
3. Criticizing their children when the children suffer the consequences of the environment the parents created.
4. Denying doing any of this.
We Carry This Cycle Of Shame Into Adulthood
As kids, we don’t just stop feeling shame as we leave the house and living life as adults.
Oh no, we’re dragging unhealthy shame into adulthood, and it affects any single area of our lives:
The signs of toxic shame are always there: When we date people, in friendships, at work spheres.
Even experiences that seem trivial like being at the grocery store “oh, I’m so sorry for slightly bumping into you” (the unconscious thought: please don’t be mad at me. Please don’t think negatively about me, because I cannot bear your dissatisfaction with me).
We become automatic apologizers and people-pleasers without ever challenging it or being aware of these shame cycles.
As a grown-up, Timmy might develop codependent tendencies and beliefs such as “I’m not worthy of love. Or ” I don’t matter.”
In addition, he might also develop unconscious protective mechanisms to meet his needs to belong and to be accepted. But it comes at the cost of his authenticity.
For example, he changes himself to fit in. He shrinks down parts of himself to be under the radar because he can’t handle people’s anger. Or he avoids voicing his opinion so even his closest friends don’t really know him.
So, he ends up hiding his true self. The result – he’s feeling frustrated about it, without ever knowing why he’s depressed, resentful, feeling lost in life, anxious, and unhappy.
A Path To End Toxic Shame
You’ve had it. You went through so much suffering and you’ve been missing out on life for quite a while now. You’re tired of living your life being afraid to be seen and not feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Before you even begin to move past this painful cycle, the first step would be to become aware of your toxic shame.
Notice the times when you dim your light just to get approval or the times when you’re afraid to stand up for yourself. In addition, get in touch with your body and see where in your body the toxic shame has built up.
Usually, when we’re triggered, we also feel those emotions in specific locations in our bodies.
Getting to know ourselves at a deeper level is the key to overcoming any toxic pattern, whether it’s shame, guilt, and fear.
I invite you to take that step toward a deep journey into your soul, so you can start cleansing your brain of destructive blockages that rob you of the peace you deserve.
Also, check out the my mind tool program that is specially designed to help you heal from shame.
Are you ready to take responsibility for your well-being? Remove internalized toxic shame and overcome feelings of unworthiness, and finally experience joy, ease & abundance? Are you ready to untie the chains of shame?
Then remember this – it’s just your destructive conditioning, it’s not you.
You are deserving and worthy of love. As an extension of the divine, you are good enough just as you are.
You were not born into this world to feel bad about yourself or look down on yourself. It’s your natural born right to feel good about who you are and be proud of yourself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of yourself. You deserve it.
Even if you are dealing with toxic shame now, know that it is possible to rewire your brain at any time. No matter how far you think you are from your ideal life.