I Cut Myself: The Shame and Secrecy of Self-Harm
Self-harm is, by its very nature, isolating, so it's very hard for someone to admit, "I cut myself." Most often people work very hard to hide that they cut themselves and keep their self-harm secret. People tend to cover up self-harm scars and marks and lie about any signs or symptoms of self injury that people may spot, or evidence someone else may find. Part of the reason for this is shame about self-harm. Clinically, it has also been found that those with greater shame are more likely to self-harm.1
I Cut Myself – Shame About the Reasons for Self-Harm
Often times, one of the self-harm secrets is why the person is cutting his or herself to begin with. Often times, the self-harm secret has to do with a severe trauma. People don't want to say, "I cut myself," as that may lead to people finding out about this hidden trauma.
For example, people who have suffered sexual abuse are more likely to self-harm than those who haven't. Many people who have lived through sexual abuse keep it secret and feel great shame around it having happened. They may even think that they are to blame for the abuse and need to be punished. This shame, then, gets translated into self-harm where the shame is felt even more strongly.
I Cut Myself – Shame About Self-Harm
Many people feel shame about the self-harm acts themselves. People feel "stupid" or "weak" because they cut themselves. They feel the need to keep their self-harm secret because of this shame. People who self-injure also worry that:2
- Others will judge them for their self-harm behaviors
- People will look down on them
- People will be shocked and disgusted at what they've done
These worries breed further shame and forces the person who self-harms into an isolated position where they must hide the self-harm and the evidence of the behavior too. Scars and other evidence of self-harm carry the same shame, as they are reminders of the shameful acts that created them. You can gain more insight on this by reading self-injury stories and cutting stories by real people.
I Cut Myself – There is Nothing to Feel Shameful About
But the truth is, admitting that, "I cut myself," is nothing to feel ashamed about. Cutting and other ways of self-harm are common and are behaviors that are used to deal with stress. While cutting and self-injury are negative actions, they are likely the best the person can do at the time and there is no shame in that.
By not keeping the self-harm a secret, by opening up and talking to others, better ways of dealing with the problems of life can be learned and the self-harming can stop. Moreover, this openness and self-injury help can take away the shame that has plagued the person who self-harmed.
Last Updated: 26 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD