Success, Failure, And Toxic Shame



The “I’m Not Good Enough” Program





The vast majority of people have internalized unconscious toxic shame. One aspect of it to avoid facing/feeling the pain within is creating a false personality, an “idealized self” in which one shows oneself to the world. It’s inauthentic and a lie to the Self [and others], but it is unconscious. Hence most people are not aware of it.


Most conventional self-help industry techniques showing you how to become rich, successful, attractive, etc., target this insecure false personality [trying to make it more perfect] that has been created based on internalized toxic shame.


Underlying this false self is an unconscious program running of “I’m not good enough” and tries to complete itself via external means, but it’s a bottomless hole.


A lot of highly successful people and entrepreneurs are driven by this internalized toxic shame to become “super-achievers” and workaholics [which is often praised as a “good virtue” in our society where pathologies have become normalized]


Many famous entrepreneurs, influencers, and celebrities, who people look up to as role models, are, in fact, deeply wounded individuals that use their work, achievements, and success to cover up deep-rooted insecurities based on toxic shame.


It is a trauma response. They need to identify with external success and the image they have built around it and do more and more in order to avoid feeling the pain of shame. Narcissism is also a trauma response based on the unconscious “I’m not good enough program,” needing validation from the outside.


But internalized toxic shame can also show itself in the “under-achiever”, the “loser” and addict in the alley, the person wallowing in misery, and victim/blame, projecting their suppressed shadow on anyone who is successful or wealthy, showing society the middle finger.


Super-achievers and under-achievers are two sides of the same “internalized shame” coin. They define each other and project on each other. Both are driven by the false personality.


As John Bradshaw wrote in “Healing the Shame That Binds You”:


“Toxic shame is unbearable and always necessitates a cover-up, a false self. Since one feels his true self is defective and flawed, one needs a false self that is not defective and flawed.



It is crucial to see that the false self may be as polar opposite as a superachieving perfectionist or an addict in an alley. Both are driven to cover up their deep sense of self-rupture, the hole in their soul.



They may cover up in ways that look polar opposite, but each is still driven by neurotic shame. In fact, the most paradoxical aspect of neurotic shame is that it is the core motivator of the superachieved and the underachieved, the star and the scapegoat, the righteous and the wretched, the powerful and the pathetic.



Alice Miller, in her powerful book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, has described the paradoxical fact that many highly gifted, superachieving, and successful people are driven by a deep-seated chronic depression, resulting from their true and authentic selves being shamed through abandonment in childhood.



More often than not, these narcissistically deprived [narcissistically wounded due to childhood wounding, absent parents or when shame-based parents where not able to meet the needs of their kids but tried to get their needs met through them] are talented, gifted, highly successful superachievers who have been praised and admired for their talents and achievements.



Anyone looking at them on the outside would believe these people have it made. They appear strong and stable and full of self-assurance. This is not the case. Narcissistically deprived people do well in every undertaking and are admired for their gifts and talents, but they have a deep sense of emptiness and aloneness.



The demand for a false self to cover and hide the authentic self necessitates a life dominated by doing and achievement. Everything depends on performance and achievement rather than on being. Being requires no measurement; it is its own justification. Being is grounded in an inner life that grows in richness. “The kingdom of heaven is within,” says the Scripture.



Toxic shame looks to the outside for happiness and validation, since the inside is flawed and defective. Toxic shame is spiritual bankruptcy.” [end quote]



Many of us also have internalized toxic shame. I would go even so far as to say that everyone has it to varying degrees, just like everyone is wounded/traumatized to varying degrees. In most people, it is unconscious.


They are not aware of it whatsoever and mistake the false self (trauma response) for the true Self and stuff any pain and shame deep into the unconscious while crafting a false personality mask for the outside world.


Social media is full of these artificial false personalities presenting a fake public image.


We also live in a world where pathology has become normalized. We worship, respect, and adore people who are “successful,” mostly in terms of money, power, and popularity/fame, engaging in positive shadow projections. We worship the false personality at the cost of Essence. Most people are more impressed by appearance than substance.


On the other side of the coin, many people also envy and are jealous of other people’s success, but they don’t want to admit that to themselves either because it would bring up their now suppressed shame and unconscious “self-hatred”.


Instead, they tend to gossip and talk s*it about successful people, engaging in negative shadow projections, which creates relief, a dopamine hit, and helps them to avoid facing the pain within. Usually, they are stuck in victim mentally, believe the world owes them, and blame others for their misery.


It’s the never-ending shadow dance until we take back our projections, face ourselves, and the shame buried deep under the false personality.


There’s nothing wrong with success in the martial world, obviously, and I encourage everyone to create abundance, get out of the matrix poverty program [corrupted spiritual/religious teachings have contributed to the scarcity program over thousands of years], be creative, use your will and talents, and embrace entrepreneurship, take risks, self-actualize, and live an abundant and prosperous life. More power to you!


The question is only, where is the drive coming from, and how attached are you to it and identified with it?


People always say, just follow your “dream” and manifest your desires, goals, and aims. But rarely do people ask where their desires, aims, and goals come from to begin with.


Most of them are programmed/conditioned by upbringing, unconscious reactions to the internal parental image [Mommy/Daddy wound], social/cultural programming, media, what society tells you success is all about, and what you “need” or “be” to be “happy.”


In short, most of what people think they want are not their desires at all. And most often, it is a trauma response to cover up a hole within via external striving for “success.”


It’s like trying to fill a bottomless hole and a vicious cycle. A lot of [unnecessary] suffering is based on it, and it’s an epidemic – the dark side of the “self-help motivational entrepreneur” space that strengthens the false personality to be “successful” at the cost of the real “I”.


So the question is, who are “you” really? And what “I” wants this or that? Again, nothing wrong with desires, dreams, and goals, but where are they coming from? As long as they are based on the false personality, social programming, or as a trauma response, you will never ever find true happiness, fulfillment, or love.


As Bradshaw said, “Toxic shame looks to the outside for happiness and validation.”


As long as you look you externally for your happiness, fulfillment, and joy, you are acting from unconscious shame, disconnected from essence. There is nothing to be ashamed of it [no pun intended]. Facing it and owning it is the way the through.


I’m not taking myself out of the equation. I can see in my life how some things I did were driven by the internalized toxic shame I wasn’t aware of – a trauma response due to childhood wounding. I’ve seen myself fall into both roles at times: the underachiever and the overachiever. The only way out is to feel that shame and transmute the false personality in order to connect to the real “I”, which is the Divine/Kingdome within.


This process is not comfortable at all. It requires courage, vulnerability, and humility. It doesn’t happen overnight or over a few weeks or months, either. It’s a process, most often going over lifetimes, and it is part of the awakening and individuation process – an important step that cannot be skipped.


It is a descent into darkness and uncovers many suppressed emotions going back to childhood and even lifetimes.


But the only way out is in and through, according to the Law of Ascent and Descent.


“You must be willing to come out of hiding and embrace your toxic shame. If you refuse to admit your powerlessness and the unmanageability of your life you cannot find the inner strength you’ve been covering up because you feel flawed and defective.



Hell, in my opinion, is never finding your true self and never living your own life or knowing who you are. This is the fate that lies at the end of the journey of ever-deepening toxic shame.”


– John Bradshaw



On the other side of the coin, being “shameless” is also rooted in unconscious toxic shame, ironically. It is very important to note that there is such thing as healthy shame and even healthy guilt as an aspect of conscience stemming from the real “I.”


For more on this topic, listen to our podcast episode “How To Heal Toxic Shame And Not Feeling “Good Enough”


Godspeed.  Bernhard Guenther


How To Heal Toxic Shame And Not Feeling “Good Enough” | TCM #84 (Part 1)





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