Defectiveness / Shame Schema

Individuals who experience some form of disconnection or rejection may develop one or more of these five schemas: abandonment, mistrust/abuse, emotional deprivation, defectiveness/shame, and social isolation.


We may all sometimes feel that we are not good enough or unworthy. If you are have developed the defectiveness/shame schema, you may have an intense sense of being defective, unwanted, unlovable, inferior, unworthy, flawed or inadequate. This can be linked with a sense of shame. There may be a conscious or subconscious expectation that if people knew the ‘real’ you, they would turn away in disgust.


When activated, understandably this schema may trigger hypersensitivity to any form of criticism or rejection, high levels of insecurity, and either lashing out at those perceived as critics, overcompensating with trying to prove self or acting superior to others, or withdrawing and surrendering to these beliefs of defectiveness. The true need behind this schema is to be accepted and loved for who we are – our strengths and our weaknesses.



Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the emotional deprivation schema resonates with you:

Does criticism evoke intense negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, guilt, shame or disgust?

Are you worried about receiving criticism?

Do you avoid situations in which you may be criticised?

Are there certain things about yourself that you do not share with anyone, even with people close to you?

Do you worry that if a person close to you knew about your flaws, they would see you in a negative light?

Do you sometimes feel like an imposter and people are just waiting to find out?

Do you think of yourself as unlovable or unworthy?


If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the defectiveness/shame schema. If you think the defectiveness/shame schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.

To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2715 4577 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.

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Dr Esslin Terrighena - Psychologist in Hong Kong

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