Social stigma

Internal social stigma is linked to social exclusion and suicides


About internal social stigma

Internal social stigma is the effect of social stigma directed towards people in a social group based on one of the following six categories.


The stigma may be coming from one of the following groups or more than one group but it results in the same social outcomes - shunning, avoidance, passive hostility, indifference, trolling, bullying, verbal attacks and even physical attacks. It can also result in exclusion.

Recognizing social stigma

Recognizing social stigma is generally fairly straightforward because it influences similar social responses from different, unconnected people, can often be perceived at the start of the social encounter - facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and has previously been experienced or that you have some idea of the stigma.

Social stigma always makes for an unpleasant and stressful social experience. It's not desirable social experience which should always be pleasant, positive and reaffirming nor is it unpleasant or stressful because of personal choices or behaviour but is always based on things related to identity which cannot be changed.

These social experiences are usually internalized (as we internalize all social experiences as part of a cycle) and this can create a new social process which is internal and based on the stigma with similar outcomes - avoidance, shunning, resentment, shame, not to mention the fear and stress, self-blame and loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Dealing with social stigma

Understanding the mechanism behind social stigma.

If you're affected by social stigma from others then it's important to understand the mechanism which caused the unpleasant, stressful social experience. Social stigma is based on a belief attachment and this has affected the way that person thinks and relates to other people. Often they have abdicated personal responsibility for their own choices and actions on the basis of some perceived authority. This has got nothing to do with you personally.

Not everybody who is affected by social stigma from others is able to deal with it effectively or indeed cope with it. Some strategies might work for you, they might not, as generally how effectively you deal with issues relating to social stigma depends on your life experience, upbringing and what social skills you have developed in life.

Qultura offers the following advice

Develop a sustainable social support network

While it may be tempting to isolate yourself and cut yourself off from others, Qultura doesn't advocate isolating yourself or excluding yourself from life or a community and cutting off contact with people. Unless you have undergone training or preparation for isolation social interaction is a necessary part of being human.

Create comfort zones and safe spaces

Being stigmatized for whatever reason can often be a traumatic, stressful experience. It can often ruin an event, an outing, a social encounter and you need a safe space or comfort zone where you can recover.

Report all instances of stigma

Being stigmatized for whatever reason is unacceptable. Whether it takes place in a face to face encounter, over the phone or online make a note of the source, get a name, record the number and report the incident.

Pick your battles

Responding to every instance of stigma can be stressful, draining and unpleasant. It can also be counterproductive and exacerbate the internalization process. Please bear in mind that the basis of the stigma is a belief attachment so this is a situation which is going on in someone's mind, it doesn't relate to you personally, you just appear to meet the criteria and you're faced with having to deal with the effect. Trying to explain tends not to work because you are up against a personal belief and aren't in that position of acceptable authority (which is why reporting is more effective). Avoid escalating any situation into a conflict unless you feel comfortable in dealing with the conflict. Generally minimal engagement and confrontation works best - you aren't responsible for someone else's personal beliefs.

If this is happening online make a note of the source, whether it be an email address or username, and feel free to use block and delete.

Develop a recovery strategy

If you are being stigmatized then you have to put yourself first and minimize the internalization of the experience with a recovery strategy. Go out and meet people, develop a creative activity or some other activity which can provide you with some degree of self-validation. Be kind to yourself.

Don't take it personally or accept responsibility.

Part of the problem is that we are all socially conditioned to acquire beliefs and traits from other people through modelling but social stigma is an unpleasant social experience based on someone else's belief attachments. Usually this belief is a matter of identity based on something which is part of who you are and which you cannot change such as skin colour, sexual orientation, age, body size or shape, social status or a disability.