Toxic shame is living with feelings of being unworthy. It is a form of self-loathing that keeps you from beingconfident in yourself. Toxic shame is usually a result of how others have treated you and you now believe this about yourself.

When a person struggles with toxic shame, they find it hard to differentiate between who they are as a true person and the self they are to survive. Some call these the real self and the ideal self. Suffering from toxic shame will cause the ideal self to overshadow the real self and make you believe that you are unworthy.

Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood.Isaiah 54:4, NASB

What causes toxic shame?

The most common causes of toxic shame stem from childhood. It is a result of unstable living and neglect. Most of them are related to the lack of consistent and positive parental guidance.

Some stem from being bullied or rejected by peers. When a caregiver or parent is emotionally unstable or has mental health issues it can also be a source of toxic shame. Other causes of toxic shame can be:

  • Emotional abuse.
  • An environment of domestic abuse.
  • Traumatic experience.
  • Discipline that is always changing.
  • Gaslighting or narcissistic abuse.

When a child is raised with irritation, indifference, and inadequacy, it can lead to feeling like they are unworthy of anything good. They are never taught that there are good things even in the middle of a bad situation. When parents are indifferent to how their child sees themself, they will not teach the child how to overcome the shame that becomes toxic to their minds and life.

Toxic shame attributes

Toxic shame is not the same as feeling guilty. Guilt is something that will lead you to change your behavior or attitude. Toxic shame is the perception that your behavior is shameful and unworthy. Attributes common in a person suffering from toxic shame are not always visible.

Feelings of being worthless

These feelings are often the most noticeable attribute that someone will exhibit when they suffer from toxic shame.

Overly concerned with the perception that others have about you

You tend to be worried about whether you will be laughed at or that you will look stupid. You find that you always think people are thinking bad things about you.

Striving for perfection to overcome feelings of failure

Because you don’t want to fail, you tend to pressure yourself to be perfect in everything that you do.

Negative self-esteem

When you look at any aspect of your life you cannot find the positive. You are at odds with anything about you. The way you see yourself and your life is seen through the mindset of not being worthy.

The triggers cause anger

As you are faced with a trigger you find yourself becoming angry. Whether or not the people around have done anything to make you feel inadequate, you are angry at them and lash out.

Depression and anxiety affect your lifestyle

Because of the intense negative feelings, you may become depressed as you think about yourself and your worthiness. On the other end of the spectrum, you could be striving so hard for perfection that you cause yourself to experience anxiety.

An inner conversation that is nothing but degrading

Talking to yourself in a mean and negative way causes you to further shame yourself.

Overcoming toxic shame

The good news is that you don’t have to live a life filled with toxic shame. With the help of a Christian counselor and God’s Word, you can overcome feelings of unworthiness. Overcoming toxic shame takes time and dedication to recognize and understand what your triggers are. By using the following strategies, you can begin to heal from toxic shame. This will lead to a lifestyle that becomes more authentic to who you are.

Acknowledging your shame and overcoming denial

Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.Romans 8:1, NASB

The first and probably the most important aspect of overcoming toxic shame is to acknowledge your feelings of shame and the cause. Then you will be able to move beyond denial to find healing.

Consider the way you communicate with yourself

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.Proverbs 16: 24, NASB

When it comes to toxic shame talking to yourself is one area that you can stop the thought processes. When you notice that you are feeding yourself negative thoughts and phrases you can acknowledge them and change the negative to positive.

Show yourself some grace and know it’s okay to not be perfect

Don’t be so hard on yourself when you make a mistake. No one in the world is perfect so there is no need to stress about having everything just right. Knowing that it’s okay to mess up can alleviate anxiety.

Catch your thoughts and reframe them from negative to positive

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2, NASB

When you find yourself beginning to think negatively, refocus that thought on the positive aspect of the situation. Know that there are tough times but there are also good times that follow. The only way things get worse is by not taking action to change them. Changing your thoughts to positive will give you a way to see the good things that are around you.

Recognize when you are feeling shame

Be aware of when you are feeling like you are just not good enough. When you are feeling this shame talk to a trustworthy friend. This will keep the shame from keeping you isolated.

Create Supportive relationships and find belonging

This strategy is to help you create an outlet and boost your feelings of positivity. This will also help you with your sense of belonging and a positive mindset. Supportive relationships are a great strategy to keep you from becoming isolated due to shame.

Remove the concern of being too much trouble

Sometimes when you feel shame you may also feel that you are causing problems for others. Feeling like you are too much trouble for others can lead you to have a fear of people leaving the relationship. This also can cause you to suppress the feelings and leave you caught in a life of isolation.

Your vulnerability was not the cause of the abuse

When it comes to toxic shame most people who suffer from this tend to keep themselves at a distance. It is important to know that you weren’t the reason your vulnerability was abused as a child. Keeping a safe distance is a normal instinct but it will keep you from experiencing the intimacy that we were designed to have.

Learn forgiveness

…and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their wrongdoings which they have committed against You, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, so that they will have compassion on them.1 Kings 8:50, NASB

Sometimes the hardest thing you need to do is forgive those who caused you so much pain. When your life has been affected by the actions of others it becomes hard to forgive. But God doesn’t want you to live in that place of bitterness. When you are consumed with bitterness you will be unable to experience the true freedom of letting go of shame.

Understanding what being authentic means

Being authentic doesn’t mean you give everyone you meet access to your hurts and healing. It means that you are okay with being who you are. This goes with vulnerability. You need to have the courage to be who you are, mistakes and all. You can begin to believe differently when you experience life as yourself.

Love yourself because God does

For You created my innermost parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.Psalm 139:13-14, NASB

Learning to love yourself stems from learning to love God. When you have a relationship with God that allows you to understand the depths of His love you will begin to love yourself. Self-care also includes knowing how to give yourself attention and care.

Enjoy creative activities

One way to learn how to change negative thinking into positive ones is to learn to enjoy creative activities. Journaling is a great tool to get your thoughts out of your head and where you can see them. Another way to express positivity is to paint or draw. Learning to express your emotions through art can create a sense of self-value.

Seeking professional help

There may be times that you feel you just cannot effectively use these strategies to overcome toxic shame. If that is the case, then seek a Christian counselor in your area. The counselor can help you create faith-based strategies to help you overcome toxic shame.

“Shame”, Courtesy of @felipepelaquim,, CC0 License; “Volcano”, Courtesy of Mitsuo Komoriya,, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Fuu J,, CC0 License; “Crocheted Heart”, Courtesy of Ante Gudelj,, CC0 License