Defectiveness & Shame Schema

Defectiveness and Shame Schema is characterised by an intense feeling of being rejected, unlovable, unworthy, flawed, or inferior. For those of us who developed Defectiveness and Shame Schema, we may engage in self-criticism and shame for extended periods of time, after minor embarrassing incidents like tripping while walking. 


Common behaviours associated with Defectiveness and Shame Schema: 

  • Hyper-sensitivity to criticism and rejection 
  • Devaluing ourselves and being mistreated by others
  • Taking blame for problems 
  • Choosing critical and rejecting partners
  • Staying in dysfunctional relationships
  • Frequent self-beating thoughts (e.g. “there is something wrong with me”) 


Reactions from the Defectiveness and Shame Schema:

✽   Surrender

Hanging out often with others who are critical of you 

✽   Avoidance

Hiding your thoughts of feeling inadequate to prevent others from judging them

✽   Overcompensation

Being highly critical of others in attempts to comfort self 


Effects of Defensiveness and Shame Schema:

✽   Relationship problems

    • Inability to form stable intimate connections 
    • Staying in destructive and abusive relationships (fear of not being able to find another partner) 

✽   Insecurities and low self-esteem

    • Feelings of loneliness 
    • Lack of self-confidence
    • Body image problems

✽   Mental Health issues

    • Social anxiety and Depressive symptoms 
    • Addictive behaviours 


Risk factors:

  • Past trauma from abuse, neglect, rejection 
  • Verbal abuse by others
  • Unmet emotional needs during development 
  • Being blamed or guilt-tripped growing up 


Managing Defectiveness and Shame Schema

✽   Schema Therapy

    • Identify and validate your emotional needs
    • Change mindset and behaviours resulting from the schema 

✽   Challenging your schema and maladaptive coping behaviours

    • Sharing your thoughts with your loved ones 
    • Increasing your social circle to find those who create non-judgemental spaces 

✽   Practice being optimistic and adopting a growth mindset

    • E.g. If you feel that you are not performing as well as your peers, remind yourself we are all learning, and take time to improve yourself.

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