Learning To Cope With Toxic Shame

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated June 29, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Tanya Harell, LPC

Have you been struggling with feelings of worthlessness? You’re not alone since many people are trying to cope with toxic shame. Toxic shame is a term that refers to the shame that people feel due to being treated poorly by others and going through traumatic events. Many people who are coping with toxic shame have been experiencing traumatic events since childhood, but some people develop toxic shame problems later in life and can experience survivor's guilt. When you feel toxic shame, it makes you feel as if you’re worthless, and it’s also characterized by self-loathing.

Strong negative emotions like this can take a toll on anyone. When you’re experiencing toxic shame, it can paralyze you and keep you from achieving life goals. You might feel incapable of moving forward in life due to the toxic shame that you’re feeling. If left unchecked, this toxic shame could cause you to develop worse mental health problems over time. It’s essential to learn how to cope with toxic shame properly so that you can get your life back on track.

The Dangers Of Toxic Shame

Toxic shame is so dangerous because it can create feelings of unworthiness and humiliation. When someone has been put in such a humiliating position by others, it can cause them to lose faith in themselves. They might feel wholly inadequate, and like they can never do anything right. Toxic shame is often something that happens to kids when they’re young. Parents might transfer toxic shame onto their children by communicating with them in negative ways or mistreating them. Sometimes even nonverbal cues can cause children to feel intense toxic shame. These issues can percolate and become more pronounced when these kids grow into adults.

When left untreated, toxic shame has been known to turn into full-blown depression. It has also caused some people to develop eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety problems, and general self-esteem issues. The dangers of toxic shame are apparent, but you want to know how to cope with it. Toxic shame is not unlike other mental illnesses, and it can be treated. There are many common-sense ways that you can cope with toxic shame, and it can also be beneficial to get professional help for your problems.

Realize That Toxic Shame Stems From Other People

When it comes to coping with toxic shame, it’s important to try to realize that your feelings of shame don’t stem from you. These toxic shame feelings actually come from other people. Situations like this occur when others place their own feelings of inadequacy onto other people. They treat others poorly and do things to humiliate them to try to make themselves feel better. Most of the time, those who treat others this way do it in an attempt to make themselves feel powerful or because they’re simply cruel. You didn’t actually do anything wrong, and the toxic shame that you’re experiencing is simply because of what another person did to you.

Once you accept that your feelings aren’t because of anything negative that you did, it’s going to be easier to feel better about things. It can still take time to come to terms with feelings of toxic shame. Regardless, just knowing that you aren’t to blame for what is going on is going to be helpful. You can’t blame yourself for toxic shame and the impact that it has had on your life. It’s going to be possible to take control of toxic shame and release it once you feel strong enough. This isn’t something that you need to do by yourself, and you should look for the support of mental health professionals.

Understand That Reality Is Different From The Toxic Shame That You Feel

Generally, people are going to feel toxic shame-based on some type of traumatic event that they experienced. Someone said mean things to them or did something terrible to them at some point in time. These feelings that you have involve thinking you’re unworthy of love or that you’re a worthless human being. Some people with toxic shame issues even wish they were never born in the first place. This is a horrible way to feel about yourself, and you shouldn’t have to keep feeling this way. It’s going to be important to examine the reality of the situation and compare it to your toxic shame. You’ll find that your toxic shame isn’t based on logic or reality. It’s just a warped perception that you have due to what happened to you in the past.

The fact that your toxic shame doesn’t come from anything that is true about you doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, though. For instance, someone could be told they’re fat growing up even if they aren’t overweight. This can lead to body image issues, and that can eventually develop into a full-blown eating disorder. This is terrible, but it happens to people more often than some realize. You can try to understand that these things people used to insult you aren’t necessarily true, and sometimes this will help you to cope. Learning to let go of toxic shame takes time, and you might need professional assistance to be able to do it correctly.

Turn To Your Support System For Help

It’s also going to be crucial to ensure that you have a good support system in place. You shouldn’t feel like you have to face the world alone when you’re dealing with toxic shame. Sometimes those feelings of shame are going to be very strong, and you will want to reach out for help. Having good friends to turn to that have your best interests in mind will be perfect. They can lift you up when you’re feeling low. You’re going to benefit from having a good support system, and you should try to find people that you can trust if at all possible.

Some people are fortunate enough to have great families that support them during trying times. There are people who suffer from feelings of toxic shame that can’t do this, though. Sometimes a person’s family is the source of their toxic shame issue, and they might not have enough friends either. It’s good to try to find people that care about you and love you in life. Focus on the people that treat you well and want to lift you up. If you do this, then it’ll be easier to overcome toxic shame and become the person that you want to be.

Self-Love And Self-Care Will Be Important

Self-love and self-care will be an essential weapon when you’re trying to battle toxic shame as well. You can use self-care to make yourself feel more confident overall. Treat yourself right and work on making positive life changes. This can push you to be the best version of yourself while helping you to overcome self-esteem issues that stem from the toxic shame. Many people have found solace in physical fitness routines and educating themselves. Doing positive things and being able to feel proud of your accomplishments will make you feel better about the world.

If you can learn to love yourself for who you are and stop the cycle of toxic shame, then you’ll be able to move forward with full confidence. Toxic shame is something that has plagued many people for years, but it doesn’t have to get the best of you. You can learn to recognize your self-worth again, and you can feel happiness. Your feelings of shame can return to normal levels, and you will be able to look in the mirror proudly. You are good enough, and you can get through this tumultuous time in your life. You can learn to experience shame in normal ways again and to not let toxic shame harm your self-image.

Get Help By Seeking Therapy

Getting help by seeking therapy is also going to be extremely helpful when it comes to overcoming toxic shame. Experiencing shame is normal, but toxic shame takes things to a dangerous place. A therapist can help you to differentiate toxic shame from normal feelings of shame. They will work to help you let go of the toxic shame that is holding you back so that you can move on toward more positive things in life once more. Therapists understand toxic shame to a fine degree and have helped many people to cope with their feelings while recognizing their own self-worth.

You’re going to be able to turn to your therapist whenever you’re having a tough time, too. Some days are going to be worse than others when you’re coping with toxic shame. Feelings of shame will come and go, but you might need extra assistance during intensely emotional moments. Having a therapist that you can call to get advice and comfort will make a huge difference. Seeking out a licensed therapist is going to be worthwhile for anyone who is struggling with toxic shame.

Remember that online therapy is a convenient option that is available to you. Some people wind up preferring online therapy due to how easy it is to take advantage of it. Being able to work with a therapist without having to leave the house is great and online therapy is also quite affordable. There are those who respond better to having an in-person therapy session, so just choose whichever option is going to work out best for you. You’ll be able to get help with your toxic shame problem, and everything will feel better as you work with a therapist to resolve your issues.

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