This post contains some of the best shame quotes.
Schemas are powerful, often unconscious core beliefs and feelings that we live by.
The term “schemas” was developed by the psychologist Jeffrey Young (Young et al., 2003), who noted that they develop when a person is exposed to significant events.
From an early age, we start developing a belief system about ourselves and the world based on the relationships and experiences we have.
Positive experiences often result in developing beliefs of trust, safety, and self-confidence, negative or traumatic events often result in developing beliefs of unsafety and defectiveness.
Whether positive or negative, our core beliefs become the database for our self-perception, behaviors, attachments, and relationships.
Shame schema is a core belief that you are flawed in some critical way.
This belief causes you to feel that if people get too close and see your significant defects, they will reject you.
Shame prevents you from forming fulfilling relationships and living authentically.
Symptoms of Shame
Do you relate to any of the following?
- You often struggle with feelings of defectiveness and thoughts that you’re flawed somehow.
- You feel unworthy of other people’s respect.
- You strongly believe no one could ever care about you or truly love you.
- You feel disconnected and far removed from the experiences of love and connection that others who live a “normal” life seem to experience naturally.
- You strongly believe that if people get too close and see your significant defects, they will reject you or withdraw from you.
- You are often hypersensitive to any form of criticism, blame, comparison, or rejection from people around you.
If this sounds like you, you may struggle with feelings of shame.
Related: Toxic Shame Quiz
1. “As I look back on what I’ve learned about shame, gender, and worthiness, the greatest lesson is this: If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.” ― Brené Brown
2. “As toxic shame, it is an excruciatingly internal experience of unexpected exposure. It is a deep cut felt primarily from the inside. It divides us from ourselves and from others. In toxic shame, we disown ourselves. And this disowning demands a cover-up. Toxic shame parades in many garbs and get-ups. It loves darkness and secretiveness. It is the dark secret aspect of shame which has evaded our study.” ―John Bradshaw
3. “Feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety are inseparable from their underlying feelings of subjective helplessness. Sometimes, the connection is obvious when we use our negative legacy emotions to justify or explain our inaction and helplessness. We say, “I’d feel too guilty to do that,” “I’d end up embarrassed if I tried that,” or “I’m too anxious to do anything like that.” Making us feel helpless fits with these emotions’ biological evolutionary function of inhibiting us so that we do not act willfully or aggressively.” ―Peter R. Breggin
4. “If guilt, shame, and anxiety serve any useful purpose, it is to help control willfulness and aggression in small children. But the child will not have the understanding or wisdom to draw thoughtful conclusions such as, “Life goes better for everyone in the family, including me, when I control my impulses and play with more restraint.” If the child is able to formulate any explanation, it will not be consistent with mature adult ethics. Often, the experience will become embedded in the youngster’s unconscious mind, perhaps building an association between “having fun” and “getting hurt” or “getting punished” or “making Mommy mad at me” or 5. “Daddy making a scary, angry face at me.” ―Peter R. Breggin
6. “If we are going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of *what we’re supposed to be* is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.” ― Brené Brown
7. “If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when it is spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story.” ― Brené Brown
8. “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ― Brené Brown
9. “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.” ― Brene Brown
10. “In trying to escape shame and defectiveness, your life has lost its purpose. So many of the things you care about and value have been diminished. This is how we get depressed.” ― Matthew McKay
Body Shame Worksheets
11. “It’s always helpful to remember that when perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun.” ― Brené Brown
12. “Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky.” ― Brené Brown
13. “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” ― Brené Brown
14. “Shame can make us feel small, powerless, and meaningless in relationship to other people, and it can lead to dreary speculation about our place in the universe rather than an enthusiastic engagement with life.” ―Peter R. Breggin
15. “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” ― Brené Brown
16. “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” ― Brené Brown
17. “Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” ― Brené Brown
18. “Shame resilience is the ability to say, “This hurts. This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not the values that drive me. My value is courage and I was just courageous. You can move on, shame.” ― Brené Brown
19. “Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.” ― Brene Brown
20. “Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” ― Brené Brown
21. “The biggest potential for helping us overcome shame is this: We are “those people.” The truth is…we are the others. Most of us are one paycheck, one divorce, one drug-addicted kid, one mental health illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being “those people”–the ones we don’t trust, the ones we pity, the ones we don’t let our kids play with, the ones bad things happen to, the ones we don’t want living next door.” ― Brené Brown
22. “The shame, the sense of wrongness, and the sad, negative feelings about yourself are just one triggering event away. Not only is the pain still there, but so is the schema—worse if anything, because you’ve collected so many negative memories in your basket.” ― Matthew McKay
23. “There is shame about shame. People will readily admit guilt, hurt or fear before they will admit shame. Toxic shame is the feeling of being isolated and alone in a complete sense. A shame-based person is haunted by a sense of absence and emptiness.” ―John Bradshaw
24. “Toxic shame is so excruciating because it is the painful exposure of the believed failure of self to the self. In toxic shame the self becomes an object of its own contempt, an object that can’t be trusted. As an object that can’t be trusted, one experiences oneself as untrustworthy. Toxic shame is experi-enced as an inner torment, a sickness of the soul. If I’m an object that can’t be trusted, then I’m not in me. Toxic shame is paradoxical and self-generating. » ―John Bradshaw
25. “Toxic shame is the greatest form of learned domestic violence there is. It destroys human life.” ―John Bradshaw
26. “Toxic shame so destroys the function of our authentic self that clear syndromes of shame develop out of the false self cover-ups. Each syndrome has its own characteristic pattern. Toxic shame becomes the core of neurosis, character disorders, political violence, wars and criminality. It comes the closest to defining human bondage of all the things I know.” ―John Bradshaw
27. “Toxic shame, the shame that binds you, is experienced as the all-pervasive sense that I am flawed and defective as a human being. Toxic shame is no longer an emotion that signals our limits, it is a state of being, a core identity. Toxic shame gives you a sense of worthlessness, a sense of failing and falling short as a human being. Toxic shame is a rupture of the self with the self.” ―John Bradshaw
28. “We cannot grow when we are in shame, and we can’t use shame to change ourselves or others.” ― Brené Brown
“We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.” ― Brené Brown
29. “What I discovered was that shame as a healthy human emotion can be transformed into shame as a state of being. As a state of being shame takes over one’s whole identity. To have shame as an identity is to believe that one’s being is flawed, that one is defective as a human being. Once shame is transformed into an identity, it becomes toxic and dehumanizing.”―John Bradshaw
30. “When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.” ― Brené Brown
31. “You became depressed because your life evolved into being about avoiding shame and defectiveness feelings. You became less and less the person you wanted to be as you engaged in more avoidance” ― Matthew McKay
32. “You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.” ― Brené Brown
33. “Shame is internalized when one is abandoned. Abandonment is the precise term to describe how one loses one’s authentic self and ceases to exist psychologically. Children cannot know who they are without reflective mirrors. Mirroring is done by one’s primary caretakers and is crucial in the first years of life. Abandonment includes the loss of mirroring. Parents who are shut down emotionally (all shame-based parents) cannot mirror and affirm their children’s emotions.” ―John Bradshaw
34. “The shame binding of feelings, needs and natural instinctual drives, is a key factor in changing healthy shame into toxic shame. To be shame-bound means that whenever you feel any feeling any need or any drive, you immediately feel ashamed. The dynamic core of your human life is grounded in your feelings, your needs and your drives. When these are bound by shame, you are shamed to the core.” ―John Bradshaw
35. “Finally, when shame has been completely internalized, nothing about you is okay. You feel flawed and inferior; you have the sense of being a failure. There is no way you can share your inner self because you are an object of contempt to yourself.” ―John Bradshaw
The concept of creative hopelessness comes out of acceptance and commitment therapy.
Creative hopelessness is about letting go of all of your efforts to escape painful emotions, particularly shame and instead accepting these emotions and allowing yourself to feel them.
This might be counterintuitive, but emotions aren’t there to make your life difficult. They serve a purpose.
In the same way physical pain alerts you that your body needs attention, emotional pain is telling you something is not working and needs to be changed.
Healthy shame alerts us when we violate social norms. It helps us fit in with the group by abiding to the rules.
When shame becomes toxic, we’re not doing something wrong, but we believe we are wrong.
You can still use this feedback to pay attention to negative core beliefs from childhood that trigger your shame and reframe them.
Negative Core Beliefs List
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book The ACT Workbook for Depression and Shame, © 2020 by Matthew McKay, Michael Jason Greenberg, and Patrick Fanning. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety, © 2014 by Peter R. Breggin. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Healing The Shame That Binds You, © 1988 by John Bradshaw. All rights reserved.
- Toxic Shame: Causes, Symptoms, and More (webmd.com)
- Toxic Shame: What It Is and How to Cope (healthline.com)
- Overcoming the Paralysis of Toxic Shame | Psychology Today
- (PDF) Childhood, toxic shame, toxic guilt and self-compassion (researchgate.net)