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
36. “Adults shamed as children are afraid of vulnerability and fear exposure of self.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
37. “Adults shamed as children block their feelings of shame through compulsive behaviors like workaholism, eating disorders, shopping, substance abuse, list-making, or gambling.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
38. “Adults shamed as children fear intimacy and tend to avoid real commitment in relationships. These adults frequently express the feeling that one foot is out of the door, prepared to run.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
39. “Adults shamed as children feel that, “No matter what I do, it won’t make a difference; I am and always will be worthless and unlovable.”” – Jane Middelton-Moz
40. “Adults shamed as children feel they must do things perfectly or not at all. This internalized belief frequently leads to performance anxiety and procrastination.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
41. “Adults shamed as children have little sense of emotional boundaries. They feel constantly violated by others. They frequently build false boundaries through walls, rage, pleasing, or isolation.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
42. “Adults shamed as children may suffer extreme shyness, embarrassment, and feelings of being inferior to others. They don’t believe they make mistakes. Instead, they believe they are mistakes.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
43. “Adults shamed as children may suffer from debilitating guilt. These individuals apologize constantly. They assume responsibility for the behavior of those around them.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
44. “Adults shamed as children often feel angry and judgmental towards the qualities in others that they feel ashamed of in themselves. This can lead to shaming others.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
45. “Adults shamed as children often feel ugly, flawed, and imperfect. These feelings regarding self may lead to focus on clothing and makeup in an attempt to hide flaws in personal appearance and self.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
46. “At its most efficient, a sense of shame can regulate personal behavior and reduce the risk of more extreme types of punishment: conform to the expected behavior or suffer the consequences. The threat of shaming often provokes a fear of feeling shame. ” – Jennifer Jacquet
47. “Debilitating shame is a state of selfhate and self-devaluation that is comparable to little else. It makes us feel that life is happening to us and that we are helpless in the wake of that happening.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
48. “Debilitating shame is an isolating experience that makes us think we are completely alone and unique in our unlovability. It is a feeling that we are intensely and profoundly unlovable.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
49. “Especially today, in our narcissistic age, when so many people feel compelled to come across as social media winners, if you admit to feeling shame, you run the risk of becoming a contemptible loser.” – Joseph Burgo
50. “Exposure is the essence of shaming, and a feeling of exposure is also one of shame’s (the emotion) most distinct ingredients and intimately links shame to reputation.” – Jennifer Jacquet
51. “For our purposes, an audience is a prerequisite for shame, even if that audience is imagined. While there are personal forms of shame that are experienced privately, this book is about not the shame and inner turmoil you would feel if your father brought home an inflatable sofa (trust me), but the shame you would feel if your friend saw it. This book focuses on the shame that is possible because an audience is exposed to a transgression.” – Jennifer Jacquet
52. “Having been shamed does not mean you are corrupted, but that you have been touched by someone who was. You deserve respect because you have dignity. The soul, being, essence, or whatever word you personally use, that lives in your body, is intact and you must start by recognizing and respecting that dignity every day.” – Aleta Edwards
53. “Human beings everywhere, in every culture and on every continent the world over, experience shame in exactly the same way: gaze aversion, brief mental confusion, and a longing to disappear, usually accompanied by blushing of the face, neck, or chest.” – Joseph Burgo
54. “Life has taught many people that they could be shamed or punished at any time for any reason, and a major force in their lives is to avoid this at all costs.” – Aleta Edwards
55. “Many couples keep enough chaos going in the relationship that the possibilities of facing debilitating shame are reduced. It is far safer when a person feels shame about some part of themselves to hook up with an individual who is willing to act out the part of oneself that has been disowned.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
56. “Parents who suffer from debilitating shame frequently create children, such as Perfect, who also suffer from debilitating shame.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
57. “Perfectionism is an exhausting defense against shame. If you are perfect all the time, or convince yourself that you must be, you feel you are not vulnerable to shame. It is not our task in life to be perfect, but to learn and to use our life lessons to become better and wiser. We cannot be perfect. If we were, what point would there be to our lives? It is the shame people fear by not being perfect that is the real issue.” – Aleta Edwards
58. “Shame and perfectionism often go together. Do you feel devastated when you make a mistake? Do you then draw the conclusion that you are in some way completely unworthy or unacceptable? You, like many others, may dread humiliation and yet feel humiliated for common, run-of-the-mill mistakes. The shame you feel can lead you to deny your true feelings to both yourself and others.” – Aleta Edwards
59. “Shame can lead to increased stress and withdrawal from society. Shame can hurt so badly that it is physically hard on the heart.” – Jennifer Jacquet
60. “Shame hurts so much that we find it hard to even think about it, and we then dedicate intense effort to making sure it never happens again. Shame and embarrassing situations provide the basis for a lot of the comedies we watch, and we laugh out of sympathy for the character, feeling glad that the embarrassing event didn’t happen to us.” – Aleta Edwards
61. “Shame is a feeling deep within our being that makes us want to hide, as Perfect did in the tall grasses. We feel suddenly overwhelmed and self-conscious. The feeling of shame is of being exposed, visible and examined by a critical other. It is the sense that the “examination” has found the self to be imperfect and unworthy in every way. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
62. “Shame is a master of disguises.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
63. “Shame is a strange emotion; it thrives on secrecy, but when held up to the light tends to whither and die.” – Aleta Edwards
64. “Shame is also a major issue for those with anxious perfectionism. Some parents humiliate children during toilet training, making them feel shameful and dirty for life. If basic needs are not met, the issue of shame arises for many reasons.” – Aleta Edwards
65. “Shame is our failure to live up to the image significant others have expected of us and, thus, we have expected of ourselves.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
66. “Shame is the experience of the self judging who we are against the image that significant adults in our childhood have given us through their actions, words, and gestures. When we feel shame, we see ourselves having failed to live up to that fantasy image created for us.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
67. “Shame is, in fact, the terrible feeling we experience when our dignity is attacked and we believe it was taken from us.” – Aleta Edwards
68. “Shame was ignored entirely. It makes sense that shame would be ignored in that it is one of the most difficult feelings to communicate. We are ashamed of our shame.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
69. “So very often people who dread disappointment are not dealing just with disappointment, but perfectionism and shame as well. When the shame is taken away and they allow themselves to hope, disappointment becomes just what it is – not a feeling compounded by other, more painful ones – and it is not so bad.” – Aleta Edwards
70. “The impact of growing up in a shaming environment affects an individual’s life. Debilitating shame affects our ability to form loving relationships, honor ourselves adequately, and may impact our future generations. Yet it has only been in the last ten years that the dynamics of shame have received attention in the field of psychology.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
71. “The strong desire for control and predictability also relates to perfectionism and shame. If you feel you need to be perfect and live in dread of shame, you will not welcome situations in which you need to be more spontaneous.” – Aleta Edwards
72. “The way to overcome shame is to face painful memories and keep a strong hold of your own dignity, invisible though it may be to you, but just as strong as anyone’s.” – Aleta Edwards
73. “Think of and write down an example of when you were shamed for something you did or didn’t do as a child. Now imagine the same scene as if you were watching a child who is not you. Feel compassion for the child, perhaps indignation, and give comfort. Now go back to yourself and imagine the scene again and give compassion and comfort to the child you once were. Now focus on how you have internalized the one shaming you and now do it by yourself, and how you want to stop. Give yourself the same compassion you would give to someone else.” – Aleta Edwards
74. “We all have had the experience at one time or another, of not living up to our image of ourselves. We have all, therefore, experienced shame.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
75. “We withdraw from our experience of the present moment. We pull away from the raw feelings of fear and shame by incessantly telling ourselves stories about what is happening in our life.” – Tara Bash
76. “What scientists understand and believe about shame differs broadly from the way a layperson conceives of it. Most people tend to view shame as something big and bad, a toxic emotion we hope never to feel—SHAME written in scary capital letters.” – Joseph Burgo
77. “Whatever has happened to you, you can feel indignant for the small child you once were. You do not have to be perfect to avoid facing the shame that resides in you.” – Aleta Edwards
78. “When a child feels by comparison that his parents are somehow different from other powerful figures in the child’s world outside the home, the child may begin to feel shame regarding the family, and thus shame of self. This feeling of difference sometimes leads to split loyalties in the child between home and the world outside. This causes the child to hide one part of his world, and thus himself, from the other.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
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79. “When a child feels that parents or members of the family are somehow flawed, when compared to other adult figures in his or her world, shame develops in the child.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
80. “When a child grows up with adults who are ashamed and feel powerless in the world, the child also develops a sense of shame. Shame is contagious.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
81. “When a child is wounded and suffers debilitating shame, the only way they can survive is to defend and adapt to the requirements and needs of those they depend upon for survival. Children, therefore, develop defensive patterns that become rigid and inflexible by adulthood.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
82. “When adults ignore or treat indifferently events or gifts that are important to the child, the child feels intense shame.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
83. “When we experience debilitating shame, all reality perspective is lost and we feel that all of our vulnerabilities become exposed and magnified. We believe that others in our world view us with disdain and/or disgust. We think that perhaps we can be accepted if we can only become more lovable or perfect.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
84. “When we feel shame, it is our self that is being judged. The anxiety we experience in shame relates to the fear of potential isolation and abandonment. If we do not meet the expectations of valued others we risk their rejection.” – Jane Middelton-Moz
85. “When you remember things that caused you shame, you should not laugh, and you may in fact cry. Crying is honest, and you can begin to heal by giving yourself the message that you do not think your experience was funny.” – Aleta Edwards
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)
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