On why I love helping people recover from shame and self-sabotage:
The reason I love therapy and being a therapist is because learning to understand ourselves better and why we do what we do is key to more self-love, compassion, and happiness - with ourselves and in our relationships.
Too many people are hiding from shame so old and deep they don't even know it's there. They can see the stress, depression, anxiety, harsh self-judgment, the control issues, the difficulty with relationships - but they don't understand the underlying cause.
But it shows up in so many ways, like the incessant worry about how we look, insecurity about what we've accomplished, to the preoccupation with what other people think about us.
And then there's the way we sabotage our relationships, our work goals, and the pursuit of our dreams.
Yes. You probably have shame to thank for that! (Thanks a lot Shame. You're kind of an a******!)
But shame doesn't have to be a life-long sentence. And I tell you that as a graduate from the School of Shame! (PhD level.)
Thank goodness a good therapist long ago changed the course of my life, by giving me the life-long lesson of understanding the destructive effects of shame so I could release it.
Healing and recovery started with one little act: he called it shame. And he described my early family life as abusive and traumatic. Thereby robbing the shame of the fuel it requires: secrecy and silence. He helped me see that bumping into other people's anger, resistance, minimizing, refusal to see or talk about it - these were all weapons of shame.
I had never been able to use those words. That's part of how shame works (and how it gets passed down through generations): I was raised to keep secrets. And to lie about how I was affected. And to protect others by saying "well, they were really just doing the best that they could."
Or to say, "I wasn't an easy kid."
I'm here to validate the importance of reaching out. Someone wants to know and accept you. Someone is curious about your life. Someone respects the hell out of the way you managed to cope with the pain. Someone thinks you deserve to speak the truth.
You don't have to keep secrets for anyone anymore. You deserve to be free of that now and to live in the sunlight. Commit yourself to a new life where you are happy, loved, and valued.
Stop trying to fix yourself and start trying to love yourself. Harsh self-criticism is a downward spiral.
Today, choose not to criticize yourself. Practice learning to trust that you are doing your best - and that it is SAFE to speak to yourself with kindness and love.
I'm a big fan of kindness. Good, old-fashioned, ordinary kindness.
And I'm curious. Are you kind and patient with yourself?
Because there seems to be a shortage of self-compassion. So many people have a harsh inner critic voice they use on themselves, and it's usually a pretty unforgiving and strict one. People have really strange ideas about what it would mean to be gentle with themselves and sometimes I'm curious to know: "Do you love yourself?"
I've heard answers to that question ranging from a puzzled "Huh??" and "You're kidding," to discomfort, to a disgusted "GOD. NO!" It's kind of heart-breaking really.
It's like ... loving yourself is dangerous.
It's like loving yourself means you'll automatically become lazy, vain, unmotivated, cocky, etc. (We really don't trust ourselves much!) Plus it somehow feels vaguely threatening to others.
Even when people are naturally kind and encouraging to others they care about, like their friends, their children, and even their pets - when it comes to themselves? That's who they save the worst criticism for.
It probably feels weird or wrong, the very idea of doing anything other than beating yourself up for your perceived flaws and failures. But I promise: self-compassion is a faster and healthier way to grow and be happier. (And if you don't believe me, that's fine... but answer me this: how has shit-talking to yourself been working so far?)
I'm not saying it's easy to change a lifetime of mean self-talk.
But I am saying that there's a way to move the process along if you want to change your inner critic into a voice of kindness. And here's the one single most effective shift you can make:
Start hanging out with people who love and believe in you.
Then talk and share yourself. Listen to them, laugh and cry. Mess up. Ask for help. Be supportive. Ask about their successes. Celebrate them. Let them celebrate you.
Go in the direction of those who make you feel good. Trust me. Trust yourself.
There are 7 billion people on the planet, so you’ve got a lot of people to choose from.
I'm writing this post for women because I am one, and I tend to notice the ways women often struggle when it comes to self-care. (Though I see it as a deep challenge for men as well.)
All my life I've watched women have trouble prioritizing the importance of their own self-care. Even for those of us who do a pretty good job of it, it's not unusual to bump up against occasional guilt at putting our own needs first.
The crux of the problem, I think, is related to our cultural tendency towards scarcity thinking (thank you, Brene Brown). How often do you see discussions of self-care viewed through a lens of selfishness versus selflessness? As if there is a finite amount of love, and you either give it away or you use it all up for yourself. And if you take it for yourself, there's less for others! (You selfish thief!)
Kind of odd, if you think about it. But I remember feeling that way in the past: if you're taking what you need, what about me? When you take for you, are you taking something away from me?
It seems funny now, but also not. It's how I was raised. And how our culture still subtly, and not so subtly, operates. Growing up the message was: there are those who take what they want (most often men, but not always), and those who give, give, give (most often women).
Those who take. And those who give. It was a very black and white view.
And of course, life is not black and white.
It can certainly be that stark sometimes (and I think it's fair to present self care as a feminist action in today's current political climate) but it isn't always. And it's important to understand when it isn't.
Over time, as I began to question old beliefs about self-care, I started to notice that the happiest, most generous women I knew were those who were better at freely and unashamedly taking good, healthy care of themselves. I saw that they didn't expect or wait for others to make sure their deepest needs got met. And that they didn't resent seeing others take good care of themselves either - in fact they supported it. They modeled for their daughters and others what it is to prioritize one's own wellbeing.
Self-care is love energy. And love is regenerative: the more you create, the more is available for spreading around your world.
And the world certainly needs love. So take some time for yourself, and let love grow.