5 signs you may have Toxic Shame

I’ve recently watched Brene’ Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability and shame. This list is what I have taken away from her presentations and from my own experience.


5 Signs you may have Toxic Shame

5. You don’t take risks.  Everything you do is methodical and planned. Every outcome is predictable and you don’t leave room for uncertainty. This leads to being a control monster, “control freak” simply doesn’t cut it for the description. You micromanage everything and if there’s any uncertainty to an outcome, you simply don’t engage.

4. You don’t want to be seen.  You’re terrified of people seeing the real person underneath. You hide behind a fake smile and pretend everything is okay, even if it is obvious you are falling apart inside. You may even have difficulty accepting praise or recognition. I’ve had this website for four months and I can’t bring myself to share it with my family and friends because of this fear.

3. Your relationships are superficial.  Have you ever looked at your friends lists and wondered why you have so many friends but never hang out with them? You come up with reasons why you’re lonely, most of those reasons are deep in a lack of self worth. I call it “living at arm’s length”. It’s easy to keep yourself safe when you don’t share yourself wholeheartedly.

2. You don’t express yourself, at all.  If you need help, you don’t reach out. If you need a shoulder to cry on, you opt to cry alone. If you have something to say, you keep your mouth shut.   

1.  You’re numb. This is the most debilitating symptom of toxic shame. It robs you of what makes you human – your ability to feel emotion. It’s paralyzing, to feel nothing at all. The problem is it’s impossible to suppress your emotions 100% of the time. Unfortunately the emotions you’re least likely to control are anger and sadness. They end up the only emotions you’re able to feel. Happiness, joy, and excitement are foreign to you. No matter how hard I tried, I never was truly excited to be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. I tried to act excited but I was mostly indifferent. Part of me feels robbed that I haven’t been able to enjoy this little success.

I know these feelings and behaviors all to well because I exhibit them on a regular basis. I have a therapist I see regularly and I attend Celebrate Recovery. It has helped me immensely but I still have a ways to go. I’ve overcome some destructive coping mechanisms and have been able to share my story with a few safe people.

If you’re finding yourself identifying with any of these symptoms, in any capacity, please know that you are not alone! I’m proof you’re not alone. I’ve been there and some days I am still there. Reach out and you may be surprised how much people really do care.

Most importantly, seek God through prayer and the Bible. Ask around about churches in your area. It may take some work to find a Biblical church, but you’ll know when you’ve found a place to land. Remember, a church is more a hospital for sinners than it is a sanctuary of saints. I don’t recommend any church that operates like a sanctuary of saints. I also encourage you to join Celebrate Recovery.



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