How to Confront Toxic Shame and Your Inner Critic

Low self-worth and toxic shame are so prevalent in our society that to ignore their existence means settling for a life of suffering. It’s easy to believe that you are the only one who feels this way, but, unfortunately, most people do at some point in their lives.

Toxic shame makes us believe there is something deeply wrong with us. When we’re feeling low about who we are, it is easy to never ask for what we truly want. 

In this blog, we offer guidance on how to feel liberated from the heaviness of toxic shame and unworthiness. 

man feeling shame

Understand Your Inner Critic

Each of us has an inner critic. This is the internalized voice of those who shamed us early in life. This voice is aggressive and heartless, often beating us down by talking to us directly in the following ways: 

  • You’re such a loser!
  • Why did you do that?
  • You never get it right!

When we believe our inner critic, we begin to feel like a loser, not enough, stupid, lesser than, etc. We lose our sense of natural self-worth and dignity and we shrink under the heavy shaming of our inner critic. 

It is completely possible to get to know our inner critic and its messages so well that we no longer believe it, no matter what it says. 

Healthy Shame and Toxic Shame

In healthy shame, we might say, “I really regret yelling at my sister yesterday. I feel sorry about my behaviour. I’m going to call her today and apologize.” On the other hand, when we are in the grip of toxic shame we might say, “What kind of person talks like that to their sister? I’m a terrible person! She will never forgive me.” 

While healthy shame connects us with our innate sense of integrity and conscience, toxic shame connects us with our inner critic’s shame and judgement. 

Toxic shame and guilt make us feel so defeated that we often cannot hear the voice of our healthy shame after having hurt someone, for example. 

Useful Pointers

It will take time and effort to stand up to your inner critic. Shame enjoys the spotlight and can be convincing. Next time you feel bombarded with judgmental messaging from your inner critic, try these steps

  • Differentiate the inner critic’s voice from the voice of your inner wisdom by noticing how aggressive and harsh the inner critic sounds. 
  • See the inner critic in you as a bully whose only mission in life is to keep you ashamed and small. Give this bully a name, a label. When you hear its voice, label the inner critic and come back to your breath. Notice that you have a choice. You don’t have to keep listening to this bully! 
  • Notice that while the inner critic criticizes who you are as a person, the voice of our inner wisdom holds us responsible for our behaviour

You may also find working with a counsellor as a helpful step toward a greater sense of inner peace. Feelings of unworthiness can be deep-rooted and take time to reverse. But with perseverance, determination, and the right set of tools to speak kinder to yourself, you will get there.

man speaking with therapist about shame

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides a nurturing environment where individuals can benefit from various therapies to support their treatment and recovery. If you or someone you know is looking for support with mental health and substance use, visit our website or contact us today.

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