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The Guilt Created by Toxic Shame

The Guilt Created by Toxic Shame

This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Have you heard of toxic shame? If not, it may be the answer to any guilt that you may be feeling. (And no, we’re not talking about guilty pleasures here.)

You see, while guilt is often a feeling that comes from within after we do something that we shouldn’t have done, toxic shame comes from external sources and makes us feel terribly guilty—when we really shouldn’t.

Read on to learn more about how toxic shame creates unnecessary and painful guilt, and how you can work on coping with it.

What’s Toxic Shame?

First off, let’s dive more deeply into toxic shame.

Toxic shame is at play anytime someone feels ashamed of themselves due to poor treatment. This could be bullying or any other form of cruel treatment that makes someone feel a deep sense of shame.

While guilt can occasionally be a positive thing—for example, keeping us from doing things that we shouldn’t—guilt that derives from toxic shame is wholly negative. It’s guilt that we only feel because of the cruel words and/or actions of others. Oftentimes, people are made to feel ashamed for things that aren’t even in their control, which makes the guilt even harder to cope with.

So, let’s consider how you can work on handling the toxic shame you may have in your life.

Coping with Toxic Shame

Left untreated, toxic shame may continue to eat at you until you’re overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and worthlessness. This means it’s essential that you work on combatting toxic shame and get the help that you may need.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of good guidance freely available on the internet nowadays when it comes to handling guilt:

Understand Where the Toxic Shame is Coming From

Toxic shame is often a result of bullying and is very similar to bullying. In both cases, it isn’t about anything that’s wrong with you, but rather the insecurities of the bully. When you come to accept that there’s nothing wrong with you, but it’s rather the bully who has issues, this will help you realize that the toxic shame is something you should resist absorbing.

Build Your Support System

In difficult times, there are few things more helpful than having a trusted friend or family member to fall back to. Simply venting your frustration and discussing your feelings of toxic shame will help you feel better. A good person who supports you will also help you understand that you should not feel ashamed and that you’re worthy of self-love.

Practice Self-care

There are many different ways to practice self-care. The essential thing is that you find what works for you. Anything that helps relax you, distract you, and/or builds your self-esteem is great. This may be listening to music, meditation, yoga, taking a bath, going for a walk, or simply talking with a friend (see above).

Seek Help

If you are having significant trouble coping with toxic shame, you may need to seek external help. While a trusted friend or family member may be enough, you may want to consider the help of a mental health professional. Licensed counselors are specifically trained to help people get through the toughest times in their lives, and this can include facing toxic shame.


In a perfect world, toxic shame—like bullying—wouldn’t exist. Unfortunately, there are cruel people out there who always look to bring down others. No matter the source of your toxic shame, just remember that you deserve self-love and you deserve to be happy. Using the above methods will help you cope with toxic shame until you rid yourself of it entirely.


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