By Alexa Bailey, MSW, LMSW

Have you have been thrown some serious shade and felt totally blindsided with what to do? We live in a world where people throw shade like its confetti, and it gets old real quick. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, throwing shade is the “subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone”. It happens in person, it happens in groups, but it almost always happens through technology, be that texting, DMing, or even in posts. Shade can get a little messy because it’s not always in the actual words being said, but how those words are spoken. Yes, it’s trash talking, but sometimes it’s really subtle and that can make it even more hurtful. And while we can’t stop someone from being mean, we can control how we choose to respond and address the situation, and how we recover from this experience.

At any given moment, we have to evaluate what level of control we have over a situation. When you are a teenager, it can feel like there’s not a lot within you control, and that is frustrating. However, you might have more power than you think. When someone starts throwing shade, and is making you feel small, or bad, or anything negative, sometimes that makes us angry, or upset, or want to hide away. It’s embarrassing and it feels horrible. But we have to ask ourselves, what do I have power over in this situation? Most often, the answer is that our power lies in our ability to respond. The first step is to acknowledge the feelings being experienced. Identify what you’re feeling, where it’s coming from, and how you are feeling that emotion. When we can name it, we can do something with it. And from here, we need to give ourselves a moment to feel the feeling and then come back to the present.

Each person has a circle of control, a circle of influence, and things that are outside of our control. When we attempt to control the things outside our control, we become frustrated and upset, because nothing changes. So, we have to dial back and understand what we actually have control over. Confronting someone throwing shade, whether it’s at you or someone else, can mean getting assertive, and voicing your thoughts, and recognizing, “hey, this isn’t okay” and expressing your feelings. Not every situation is safe enough to do this, so an important step can be first voicing your experience to a trusted person who can help validate your experience and offer support. This provides the chance to expand your perspective and recognize that someone who throws shade is often reflecting their own insecurities by trash talking someone else.

Responding to shade in a helpful and productive way is different than clapping back. If you feel yourself being fueled by anger or revenge, then you might not be responding…you might just be reacting. In almost every situation, taking time to step away from a conversation, not responding to a text or snapchat, or leaving someone on read can give you the space and time to get clarity on how you want to respond. It’s important to remember that your worth is not measured by what someone says about you.


Alexa Bailey is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW), who works in private practice providing therapeutic services at Evolve Counseling. She has experience treating several different populations and areas, including trauma, anxiety, depression, relational challenges, and life transitions with both young adults/adolescents and adults. Alexa is a big advocate of self-care and creating whole personal wellness through positive change and healthy habits.