Life Coaching Tip: Despite popular opinion, shame is not an effective motivator. Yet, many of us have spent a lifetime trying to shame ourselves into submission with our goals. If this is you, please know that this is not your fault. You were likely taught to shame yourself for your imperfections. But if you’re ready to turn things around and stop playing the “Shame Game,” this post will teach you how to do just that . . . .
Welp, I did it.
I finally stepped onto the scale on January 1, as I promised myself I would do. And I must admit, the number was substantially higher than I had anticipated. I knew I had gained some weight because my pants were getting so tight that they were uncomfortable to fasten—but once I saw my current weight, I was quite impressed that I could fasten them at all!
Interestingly, I also felt a sense of relief as I finally knew what I was dealing with and could put a plan in place to reverse the trajectory I had been on for the past 6 months.
But what I didn’t feel was shame.
It did not even occur to me to feel shame. And sister, this is such a remarkable sign of growth for me that I am still smiling about it today!
Like many women, I was taught to use shame as a motivator. And hustling for worthiness from a place of “not good enough” was the driving force behind most of my accomplishments.
As a child, I was shamed for everything—not eating my vegetables, hitting the wrong piano key, making a mistake in gymnastics class—everything!
I was really shamed for any type of imperfection at all—from my appearance to my manners to my grades. There was no room for error.
I can still hear my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Trainor’s rhyme that she recited to the students in our class whenever we made even the smallest of mistakes:
Shame, shame, double shame. Everybody knows your name.
Although Trainor’s name was great for that of a teacher, her methods were not! But I’m sure she thought she was doing the right thing. It was the way most adults taught children in those days—and it was relentless.
So, if you can relate, I’m not surprised. This is something that generally comes up for my clients at some point, and it’s important to address—because despite popular opinion, shame is not an effective motivator!
The primary reason for this is obvious. It is an impossible goal to be perfect (sorry, sister, this includes you)—and so if that’s what you’re striving for, you will be in the exhausting “not good enough” cycle of hustling for worthiness that I mentioned earlier.
Even when you reach your goals, you won’t feel good about it because you’ll tell yourself that you shouldn’t have gotten yourself there in the first place.
*I shouldn’t have gained so much weight.
*I shouldn’t have let my house get this disorganized.
*I shouldn’t have racked up so much debt.
*I shouldn’t have stayed so long in this job that I hate.
*I shouldn’t have sat on that business idea for so long.
Blah, blah, blah! Your wins won’t feel much like wins at all.
Intolerance of your own imperfections will inevitably lead to feelings of disappointment and defeat—and an overwhelming sense of “why bother?”
If this is you, here are some things that have helped me feel less guilty and more empowered:
1. Skip self-judgment and go to a place of curiosity. When I noticed that I was gaining weight, I became inquisitive about my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I wondered: Why the change? What was I telling myself? What was I feeling?
After losing 34 pounds in 2019, I had been very successful at maintaining my new weight until about 6 months ago. Hmmm? With further exploration, I realized that I had developed an illogical story that was not serving me well after breaking my elbow last May due to a fall. During the rehab process, I was diagnosed with Osteopenia (a decrease in bone mineral density) and was told this is more common in petite women who’ve lost weight. This scenario allowed my subconscious mind to concoct the story that if I want to be strong, then I can’t be slim. (So, bring on the bread, wine, and cheese, please!)
I now call BS on that disempowering story because I know that it’s my thoughts that create my results. The preferred story that I am now embracing is that I most certainly can be both a healthy weight AND strong—and I am determined to make it happen!
I have rejoined WW and extended my daily walks. I’ve also committed to a dry January, and I am crushing my strength exercises. No more BS. Look out world! This strong, healthy, hot mama is on her way back!
2. Remind yourself that nothing has gone tragically wrong. Mistakes, mishaps, and unintentional habit U-turns are just a natural part of being human. If you’re human (which you are), you are not (and are never going to be) perfect—so fuhgeddaboudit!
3. Think of failing or backsliding as opportunities to learn and grow. And they sure will be once you approach them from a place of curiosity!
4. Create affirmations for yourself that embrace the values of tenacity and resiliency—and allow yourself to feel proud for demonstrating these attributes. For instance: Tenacity and resiliency are my superpowers. I am unstoppable!
Success isn’t about never falling off the horse. It’s about getting back on—again, and again, and again. No matter how many times you fall off. THIS is the #1 attribute of successful people.
5. Celebrate your wins! All of them, no matter how small. When you disregard your wins or consider them a fluke, you cannot generate lasting momentum towards your goals—and soon you’re back to feeling defeated, hopeless, and ashamed. But when you celebrate your successes, inspiration and momentum grows. You feel energized and excited to keep going—and before you know it, there are even bigger reasons to celebrate!
If you’ve been playing the “Shame Game,” I hope you’ll do what I’ve done and start looking at your self-sabotaging patterns differently. Step into your power, and FINALLY do something about the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that have been getting in your way.
Sister! You have only one life, so don’t let another day go by feeling trapped and helpless. You deserve to fully embrace your gifts and talents. You are meant to SHINE!
And if you need help uncovering what’s been keeping you feeling stuck and ashamed, I’ve got you! I can help you move forward. Simply schedule a complimentary consultation and let’s talk about it.