The Many Faces of Shame

By Holly VanScoy, Ph.D

Shame has many faces. Is that one of them in your mirror?

In “Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise,” Jane Middelton-Moz, a Montpelier, Vt.-based trainer, consultant and community interventionist, lists the following as common features of adults who were shamed in childhood:

  • You suffer extreme shyness, embarrassment and feelings of being inferior to others.
  • You don’t believe you make mistakes, you believe you are a mistake.
  • You react to feelings of helplessness or vulnerability by bypassing productive responses and going straight to rage.
  • You feel controlled from the outside and from within. You feel that your normal expression of spontaneous emotion is blocked.
  • You suffer from debilitating guilt; you apologize constantly.
  • You have little sense of emotional boundaries. On the one hand, you feel constantly violated by others; on the other hand, you often build false boundaries.
  • You blame others for your shortcomings and don’t feel accountable for how you feel or what you do.

Marilyn J. Sorenson, Ph.D., author of “Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem” and clinical psychologist in private practice in Portland, Ore., provides several additional profiles of shame:

  • You have extreme anxiety and fear of being in a situation in which you don’t know the rules or expectations.

  • You consistently engage in negative self-talk, including constantly questioning past actions or words, putting yourself down or perceiving that others are reacting negatively to you.
  • You exhibit self-sabotaging behaviors, such as avoidance of new situations (“I won’t be able to handle it”), reluctance to meet people (“I won’t know what to say” or “They won’t like me once they get to know me”) and reluctance to make changes in a bad work situation (“I won’t be able to get another job” or “I don’t know how to do anything else”).
  • You maintain extremely high expectations of yourself and others, including a tendency to be a perfectionist.
  • You’ve become a workaholic or overachiever to prove your adequacy to yourself and others.
  • You’ve become an underachiever because you’re so afraid you’ll fail that you don’t even try.

 

APA Reference
VanScoy, H. (2006). The Many Faces of Shame. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-many-faces-of-shame/000729
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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