LOAnnie, still around thank you for contributing some of your story. Still around, your story of your mother's rejection of you is so heartbreaking. I hope you know that you are deserving of love, intimacy, and comfort.
Methinkso, one wonderful thing is that we can actually stop the pattern of shame carried across generations.
Underneath "I can sacrifice myself" (my needs, my time, my comfort, my interests, my growth, my money, my support, my life) is "I don't matter, I am worthless." That's toxic shame.
Undoing this shame has been the most profound personal project of my life.
Hi, B&W - would you be willing to share some of the things you've done to work on this issue? What's been successful for you?
Oceanheart, I absolutely will. We probably have more to discuss about the basics of toxic shame, but one method I used that also helps us identify it in our lives was a simple checklist to see what manifestations of it I could see in my life. I did this with my therapist as well in my reading. Surviving a Borderline Parent
has a section called "Confronting Vestiges of the Past" that includes a list of "by-products" (what we tend to call fleas/ my-issuesaround here) of having been raised by a parent with BPD or similar emotional and cognitive patterns. The fleas are:
- difficulty trusting yourself and others
- feeling shame*
- feeling guilt
- possessing a negative self-concept, including self-definition, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-expression*
- difficulty setting appropriate boundaries
- being quick to judge; judging yourself and others harshly*
- black-and-white thinking
- feeling out of sync with others*
- difficulty regulating emotions
- engaging in self-harming or self-defeating behaviors*
The authors provide an exercise to help you determine which of these areas are of most concern to you (some won't apply and you may have areas of concern that range from mild to extreme). I've asterisked some sections that apply very closely to toxic shame--
, for obvious reasons.
*Possessing a negative self-concept
because these core beliefs about ourselves flow out of shame and reinforce it.
because it represents "shamelessness," in Bradshaw's terms--perfectionism or an impossible standard that when (inevitably) not met, causes a flush of shame about oneself or rejection of others.
*Feeling out of sync
is probably the biggest stretch, but I link it to shame as well. There is a sense many of us develop that we don't belong
or we're not like others
. That sense of difference can be deeply shameful. We can even feel we are not quite human like others, not deserving of kindness, respect, age- or situation-appropriate care, or love.
*Engaging in self-harm
because these are some of the compulsive behaviors that distract us from shame.
The self-test exercise for those sections is here:Stop and Think: Where Are You
For each of the following statements within each area, rate how closely you identify--1 indicating that you don't identify at all; 10 indicating that you identify very strongly.Feeling Shame
hit If I make even a silly mistake, I feel ashamed.
hit I feel undeserving of people's kindness, love, affection
hit Sometimes I feel like I don't have the right to just "be."
hit I can't seem to do anything right.Possessing a Negative Self-Concept
hit Deep down, I wonder who I am.
hit It's a challenge for me to identify how I really feel about an issue or event. Sometimes I just feel numb, or the feelings can be so overwhelming, it's hard to separate them.
hit I often repress or deny my feelings and say things like, "Oh, it wasn't that bad."
hit If I don't have the same beliefs and feelings as others, I worry that they won't accept me.
hit I'm uncomfortable telling others, directly, how I feel and addressing issues with them.
hit I prefer to stay in the background; I feel uncomfortable when I'm the center of attention.
hit I feel unlovable.Judging Yourself and Others Harshly
hit Doing things exactly right is important to me.
hit People will think less of me if I make a mistake.
hit I've been told I'm a perfectionist, and that may be true.
hit I find that I'm quick to judge others (in positive or negative ways).
hit I tend to focus on people's flaws rather than their good points.
hit I tend to focus on my flaws rather than my good points.
hit It's generally hard for me to accept someone just as they are. I find that I wish they could be different.
hit It's hard for me to accept myself. I often wish I were different.
hit If I'm with someone and they do something wrong, it reflects on me.Feeling Out of Sync with Others
hit I was a late-bloomer in some ways; there are things I realize I need ot learn now that others learned when they were kids.
hit I sometimes feel many years older than my contemporaries.
hit People have told me that I seem wise beyond my years.
hit No one really understands me or what I've been through.
hit I'm different than other people.
hit I feel like I'm playing catch-up all the time.
hit I can become highly anxious in new social situations.Engaging in Self-Harming or Self-Defeating Behaviors
hit There have been periods in my life where I've been quite promiscuous.
hit I show my feelings for people I'm interested in romantically through physical intimacy.
hit When someone suggests I not do something, I take it as a challenge and do it anyway.
hit I beleive in throwing caution to the wind. You only live once, right?
hit I use things like alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex, gambling, or shopping to make myself feel better.
hit I've had a problem in the past with addiction.
Areas of high scores indicate places to focus your recovery work.