9 Warning Signs that Toxic Shame Is Preventing a Life of Freedom

I found myself telling others almost immediately after meeting them that I had been married three times. I figured they were going to reject me anyways, so why not just get that out of the way.Anonymous Contributor

Do you ever feel like this? That people will reject you if they know the real you, so why not tell them how bad you are right up front? Just beat them to the punch and get it out of the way.

Shame will do that to a person.

Granted shame can be a good thing when we can separate the shame of an inappropriate action—either committed, seen, or perpetrated against us—from our identity. The difference being I feel shame versus I am shameful.

Toxic shame distorts the truth about our identity. Who we see ourselves to be becomes intertwined with the behavior until we live a life void of freedom no longer able to know who we really are.

Sometimes the first step to dealing with toxic shame is recognizing the symptoms or warning signs. Read through these 9 Warning Signs to see if shame may be preventing you from living a life of freedom:

  1. Hiding— The original reaction to shame. Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden of Eden. Do you keep your actions or what someone has done to you hidden from those will help you?
  2. Fear— Fear in itself is a powerful emotion. It causes us to either flee , fight or freeze. Fear associated with shame tends to result in fleeing.
  3. Deception—Do you lie about what you think, what you have done or want to do? Shame causes us to believe the lie that if anyone knew who we really are, no one would like us. In fact, we would disgust them.
  4. Avoidance— Shame avoids intimacy. Shame avoids being known. For example, do you avoid close relationships because of shame of where or how you live? Or maybe because you are ashamed of their families dysfunction? Avoidance takes on many different forms.
  5. Isolation— Closely associated with Avoidance is Isolation. Do feelings of unworthiness cause you to withdraw from relationships? At least what we called relationships. Since we hide our true identity, people don’t know us anyway. When a relationship becomes too difficult or intimate, we pull away. Sometimes we isolate temporarily. Sometimes we bail completely.
  6. Loneliness— Do you experience chronic loneliness? When no one knows our real self, when we isolate, loneliness creeps in. We were created to connect intimately with others. Shame pushes us in the opposite direction. If we weren’t made for intimacy, we would do just fine all alone, thank you very much. But that is not the case. We need other people. Shame feeds loneliness. Loneliness feeds shame. A shameful person wonders why anyone would want to be their friend or even acquaintance. If they really knew who I am or what I have done, they would want nothing to do with me.
  7. Lack of Self-Esteem— Shame and self-esteem or self-worth don’t exist in the same universe. Shame effects the way we view ourselves. Do you feel you are unworthy, even worthless? Toxic shame tells us we are not good enough. No one likes us. We are inferior to everyone else. Shame continually compares our worst with another’s best to the point that even our best is worse than someone else’s worse.
  8. Negative Self Talk— Maybe you replay statements that others said about you. We believe the lie that others have said about us, and we condemn ourselves. We no longer need another person to tell us how bad we are. We know it of ourselves.All it takes is one thing to “go wrong” for a downward spiral to begin. The negative tapes reinforce what we believe about ourselves.
  9. Destructive Behavior— The more we believe that we are bad or shameful to our core, we give up hope that we can ever be anything different. Do you participate in behavior that only reinforces the shameful persona? When this happens, we lay on additional defense mechanisms serving a purpose of protecting our own sanity. We develop an ability to disassociate from our destructive behavior.


See yourself in any, many or all of these? First of all, please know you are not alone. You are not some kind of accident. The enemy’s goal is to keep you in bondage by lying to you about your real identity.

Moving beyond the prison toxic shame has you in is the objective of the book I am currently working on.

I would be honored if you came along for the process of writing the book! I will send you completed rough drafts of each chapter as I finish them. If you choose, you can send me edits, stories, or suggestions at any time. Many have already made valuable contributions!

Note: I put this project on the back burner for the past several months, but I am now working on it again (summer 2016)

If you want the updates, sample chapters, and an opportunity to interact with me about this book, please fill out the form below.

Want Updates On My Upcoming Book About Shame?

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “9 Warning Signs that Toxic Shame Is Preventing a Life of Freedom

  1. Hi there-

    Are you still working on your book or is it published? I loved what you wrote. Unfortunately, i have all 9 symptoms. I didn’t know what it was called until I found your site. Please let me know if you have published the book. I’d love to buy it.


    • Hi Lisa. Thank you for reaching out to me. I am still working on my book. I decided to finish a couple of projects first. This has allowed me to research more and let the subject marinate. My original manuscript was general in respect to audience. I have decided to narrow it to reach out to men specifically. You probably didn’t want to hear that :). I am working on a January 2018 launch date, so it’s still in progress.
      If you aren’t familiar with Brene Brown, I highly recommend checking out her content. Also, another recent book might interest you—Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny by Christine Caine.

      If you want to stay in touch and keep up with my book and related content, please fill out the form that asks if you want updates about the book on shame. Or you can let me know and I will add you to that list.

      Again, thank you for giving me a shout!

  2. Excellent Article Kenneth! A powerful topic – we are looking at starting a Anxiety/Shame Support group in Minneapolis and already have several dozen interested. Your manuscript will be an encouragement for the journey.