Overcoming Internalized Shame: Embracing Self-Worth as an LGBTQ Person

For many LGBTQ individuals, internalized shame is a familiar struggle. Stemming from negative societal attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender identity, internalized shame can manifest as a range of challenges. In this post, we’ll explore the impact of internalized shame on relationships and life choices and discuss strategies to develop self-worth to mitigate internalized shame.

The Impact of Low Self-Worth on LGBTQ People

Life Choices

Low self-worth can significantly impact an individual’s life choices, often leading to decisions that do not align with their true desires or values.When someone feels unsure about their skills or value, they might accept opportunities or achievements that are below their potential or don’t meet their needs. This can happen in different areas of life, like work or creative aspirations.

For LGBTQ individuals, this issue is often worsened by prejudice and unfair systems that affect many aspects of life. Consequently, low self-worth may hinder personal growth, limit career opportunities, and prevent individuals from realizing their full potential, ultimately affecting their overall well-being and happiness.


Low self-worth, fueled by internalized shame, can lead individuals to seek validation from others, often resulting in unhealthy relationship dynamics. This cycle can perpetuate negative patterns and attract unwanted experiences, ultimately affecting the quality of personal and romantic relationships. Individuals who have low self-worth might end up in codependent relationships or face difficulty in setting healthy boundaries with others.

LGBTQ people in particular may believe that “this is the best I can get” or “everyone in our community has suffered trauma, so I have to tolerate someone’s bad behavior because of their painful past.”

Here are some ways to develop self-worth:

Healing Old Wounds:

Seek therapy, mental health focused groups, or engage in other healing practices to help process and heal emotional pain. It may be that old wounds are keeping you stuck in negative cycles or unhealthy ways of coping.

Practicing Self-Compassion:

Cultivate a sense of understanding and empathy for yourself, recognizing that everyone has imperfections and struggles. When you struggle, don’t add to your suffering by attacking yourself for having a problem or not getting it “right.”

Making Value-Aligned Choices:

Make decisions based on your authentic desires and values, rather than seeking external validation or playing it safe. When you make decisions that don’t align with your values, you add to feelings of shame.

Actionable Steps for Overcoming Internalized Shame by Developing Self Worth

While understanding the broader concepts and strategies for developing self-worth is essential, it’s equally important to put these ideas into practice through concrete action. Taking small, consistent steps can lead to meaningful progress over time.

Here are some tangible actions not only help lessen the impact of shame, but also create a foundation empowering you to navigate life’s challenges with increased confidence.

1. Identify and Challenge Negative Beliefs: Write down any negative thoughts or feelings you have about yourself and challenge them with compassionate self-talk. Use an attitude of patience and understanding. Avoid trying to talk yourself out of how you feel or cheer yourself up.

For example:

Negative Thought: There’s something really wrong with me…I’ll never be able to overcome it.

Compassionate Self-Talk: I don’t have to feel or be perfect to be good enough. What I’m experiencing doesn’t define my entire being, even though it is painful and deserving of my attention. 

Write down a sentence or two of your challenge to negative self talk and put it in a place you will see it frequently.

2. Build a Supportive Network: Write down a list of various health or wellness communities that you might be interested in participating in. Explore mental health and wellness-based groups like peer support groups, 12-step groups, meditation classes, or community centers, which often provide free or affordable opportunities to connect with others on a similar journey. Let curiosity guide you—not over analysis or doubt. Commit to investigating three groups on your list over the next three months. Should a group prove not quite right, redirect your energy to the next idea on your list.

3. Focus on Your Values: Spend some quiet time with a notebook reflecting on your personal values and how they relate to your daily decisions. Write down instances when you’ve strayed from your values and explore the emotions associated with those experiences. What do these feelings have to tell you? By consistently engaging in this reflection, you’ll become more aware of the connection between your values and self-worth, empowering you to make value-aligned choices that foster self respect and reduce feelings of shame.

Embrace the Time it Takes to Find Your Authentic Self

As you work towards overcoming internalized shame and embracing self-worth, remember that accepting yourself and your authentic identity is a process that takes time. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.

Hello, I’m Miriam. I’m a psychotherapist with an online practice in California and Illinois.

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.