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  • Sarah Rossmiller LPC

Overcoming the Defectiveness/Shame Schema

In the complex landscape of human emotions and psychological states, one of the most challenging battles many of us face is the persistent feeling of inadequacy, unlovability, or unworthiness. Within the framework of Schema Therapy, this deeply ingrained and enduring experience is termed the "Defectiveness/Shame Schema." Today we will delve into this specific schema and explore concrete strategies to foster personal growth for those grappling with it. It's worth noting that Schema Therapy outlines a total of 18 schemas, so stay tuned for future posts delving into related themes.

The Defectiveness/Shame Schema is a deeply ingrained belief that we're fundamentally flawed and unlovable. It affects how we perceive ourselves, others, and our place in the world. But understanding and addressing the Defectiveness/Shame Schema can lead to personal growth and happiness.


The Defectiveness/Shame Schema often stems from childhood experiences marked by criticism, rejection, or abuse. Critical parents, demeaning figures, or unpredictable environments can nurture feelings of defectiveness from a young age. Repeated criticism, feelings of disappointment, and perceived rejection from significant figures all contribute to the development of this schema.


Signs of the Defectiveness/Shame Schema include chronic shame, self-blame, jealousy, and hypersensitivity to criticism and rejection. In dating, it can lead to unhealthy relationships or avoiding dating altogether. To cope, one may surrender to criticism, avoiding vulnerability and relationships, or overcompensate with criticism for others or trying to appear perfect.


Explore Childhood Feelings

Recognize Coping Behaviors

Monitor Triggers

Analyze Your Choice of Partners

Evaluate Your Flaws Objectively and Practice Self-Affirmation

Write a Letter

Create a Schema Flashcard

Embrace Vulnerability

Accept Love

Set Boundaries

End Critical Behavior


Overcoming the Defectiveness/Shame Schema is a process that takes time and effort. It's essential to be patient with yourself and seek professional help if needed. With dedication and the right support, it's possible to reduce the impact of this schema and embrace a positive self-image.

References: Young, J., Klosko, J., & Weishaar, M. (2003). Schema Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide. NY: Guilford and Young, J. & Klosko, J. (1993). Reinventing Your Life: How to Break Free From Negative Life Patterns. NY: Penguin Group


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