Awareness of the tiniest destructive message is huge in healing shame

Deconstructing Shame

Below is a list of shame-inducing messages. Maybe you heard these as a kid. Or from a boss. Or a relative, partner or friend.

Some from the list are blatantly, obviously shame-inducing, but other are far less so—until you look more closely. All the messages are aimed at eliciting a particular behavior from the recipient, though not for the recipient’s benefit. Some sound like a joke or a slip. Others imply favoritism or are the epitome or scapegoating. Sometimes shame-inflicting messages are couched in flowery language. Those are the tricky ones to spot because they are not obvious.

All are trying to pass shame from the deliverer to the recipient.

Be aware when you hear these phrases and the feelings they invoke in you. If you find yourself saying these things aloud to someone or silently, to yourself, step back and assess what triggered you. Write down your findings. Practice being compassionate with yourself one day at a time.

Shame-inducing phrases:

  • No one loves me (you better).
  • I’ll always be alone.
  • You constantly disappoint me.
  • You never disappoint me. You’re the only one who doesn’t. [<–what a bind!]
  • No one appreciates me.
  • You don’t appreciate me.
  • At least you appreciate me.
  • You’re so greedy. You take everything for you.
  • No one [ever] cares about me.
  • I’m very disappointed in you. [<–hallmark of shame-inducers]
  • Grow up (read: and pay attention to me).
  • All the hard work is mine.
  • We’ll always have each other (read: what I really mean is…you better not leave me).

Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash

About the author 

Meredith Resnick

A licensed clinical social worker, Meredith is a member of the International Association for Journal Writing, the C.J. Jung Club of Orange County, California, and an associate member of the Trauma Research Foundation. She has a special interest in healing through the expressive arts.

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