Holding ourselves accountable; pushing and challenging ourselves at the right time and in the right way; and being relentlessly honest and realistic with ourselves, will help us grow.
Hating and shaming ourselves will not.
Most people reading this have had enough of hate and shame directed at them to last several lifetimes.
Often we experience hate and shame directed at us so much growing up, that we internalize it.
It feels familiar— and in that way feels “right.”
Sometimes we even paradoxically come to find a sort of safety in hating and shaming ourselves— because it’s what we know.
Self-esteem, believing in ourselves, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt— all of that might sound nice…but it also might make us anxious.
When we’re told we’re capable and worthy, many of us get a little suspicious. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re wondering what the catch is.
It’s heartbreaking that so many people reading this register self-hate and shame as their baseline for how they “should” feel about themselves.
It’s heartbreaking that so many people feel like giving themselves the benefit of the doubt or standing up for themselves is “selfish” or naive’.
It’s heartbreaking that so many people are truly convinced that, even if everybody else has worth and dignity, THEY are the exception…all because of how we were treated, related to, and spoken to at formative times of our life.
Valuing ourselves doesn’t mean we always like ourselves or approve of our behavior. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re also realistic about the fact that we’re not always awesome, and sometimes we need to make amends or try harder.
Guilt is a normal, useful, and healthy thing to feel. It tells us we’ve violated our standards, and we need to come back into alignment with who we are and what we value.
Guilt very often spurs behavior change. We don’t like feeling incongruent with who we are and what we value.
Shame, however, is a different, toxic animal.
Shame isn’t about what we did— it’s about who we are.
Unlike guilt, shame doesn’t point out any discrepancy between who who are and what we did— shame tells us that “bad” thing we did was perfectly consistent with the “bad” person we are…and we should feel bad about it, because we ARE bad.
Unlike normal, proportional guilt, I’ve never seen shame be anything but toxic. I’ve never seen shame incentivize behavior that is anything but self-harmful.
This is important to talk about because the world really likes to tell us that shame changes behavior.
There are LOTS of people who think that shaming other people is the way to get them to change their behavior. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had shame weaponized against you countless times, in countless ways.
The truth is, changing what we do and how we feel begins with a commitment to being kind, fair, and supportive of ourselves.
That doesn’t mean liking or approving of everything we do.
It DOES mean talking to ourselves with respect; giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt; and REFUSING to reinforce the voices and messages from the past that are trying to get us to shame and hate ourselves “for our own good.”
Being kind and fair to ourselves isn’t about making excuses. It’s about being very real and very honest with ourselves.
Recovery will absolutely ask us to make sacrifices, push ourselves, demand and expect more of ourselves, than is sometimes comfortable.
That’s hard enough.
We don’t have to make that task harder by layering self-hate and shame on top of an already exhausting, intimidating task.
Changing our life starts with the commitment to be there for ourselves.
Even when we don’t like ourselves. Even when we don’t approve of ourselves. Even when we don’t like or approve of our behavior.
In fact— especially then.