Defectiveness and Shame Schema

Do you feel intense negative emotions (eg. anxiety, anger, guilt, or shame) when you receive any form of criticism? Are you worried that people close to you would see you in a negative light if they found out about your flaws? Do you notice thoughts like “I am worthless” or “ there is something really wrong with me”? If you answer yes to these questions, the effectiveness and shame schema may resonate with you. 


The defectiveness and shame schema is quite common. It is characterised by an intense sense of being unwanted, unlovable, unworthy, flawed, or inferior. There is also a conscious or subconscious expectation that people who know or interact with you would reject or withdraw from you. Most individuals with this schema have a punitive inner critic which responds to minor embarrassing incidents or mistakes with disproportionate levels of shame and self-criticism. Imagine that you accidentally tripped while going up the stairs. You may be slightly embarrassed but this feeling goes away after a while. For those with the defectiveness and shame schema, they may feel an intense shame and beat themselves up over this minor mistake for days. 


Behaviours that are typical of this schema are:

  • Hyper-sensitivity to criticism and rejection 
  • Devaluing ourselves and letting others mistreat us
  • Taking blame for problems that are not our fault 
  • Choosing critical and rejecting partners
  • Staying in dysfunctional relationships


People with this schema tend to use one of three coping modes:

  • Surround themselves with other critical people who confirms their self deprecating beliefs 
  • Avoid showing others their thoughts and feelings to prevent others from judging them
  • Overcompensate by being highly critical of others to make themselves feel better


This schema negatively affects on many aspects of life:

  • Relationship problems
    • Inability to form stable intimate connections 
    • End up in destructive and abusive relationships
  • Insecurities
    • Feelings of loneliness and low self-confidence
    • Likely to have body image problems
  • Mental Health issues
    • Social anxiety and depressive symptoms 
    • Perpetuate addictive behaviours 


How does this schema develop?

  • Children who have been abused, neglected, ignored, or rejected
  • Children who were negatively labeled by people around them 
  • Children with unmet emotional needs
  • These situations teach children that they are fault, or that there is something wrong with them 
  • This is especially impactful on children as they lack the cognitive ability to realise that the adults in their lives are wrong; abusive or neglectful treatment is internalised


With schema therapy, the defectiveness and shame schema can be healed.  

  • Validate your emotional needs 
  • Challenge your inner critic 
  • Unlearn negative coping behaviours 
  • Empower you and gain confidence in yourself

We are here for you

No matter the situation you're in, we are here to help you get through the difficult times. Schedule an appointment with us here.

Reach out to us at:

+65 8800 0554

308 Tanglin Road #02-15
Phoenix Park, Singapore 247974