- See the needs, objectives and challenges of others
- Adjust efforts to be more helpful to others
- Measure and hold themselves accountable for their impact
A few days ago, I made a mistake–that in retrospect wasn’t that big a deal–but boy, did I punish myself for it. It happened at the start of my work day and I obsessed about it all morning and into the afternoon. I couldn’t believe how careless I had been. I know better.
The point is that I went around and around in my head. This happens a lot.
I’m sick and tired of it.
Stressed Out and Shamed
We all make mistakes. The key is how we handle it. Your signoff of “Shamed” offers valuable insight.
Just last week, I had a client who shared that she had done something she was sorry about. She too felt badly, obsessed over it, and . . . the feeling lingered. She noticed she was saying to herself, “How could you be so stupid!” and “What a loser. You keep doing the same dumb things.”
Then, she thought: “Now wait a minute. It’s not that big a deal. A year from now, I won’t even remember this. A month from now? Likely not. A week? I bet I won’t give it a second thought.”
So, her next thought was: “This is upsetting but not important in a lasting way. What can I do to let go of this faster and stop the feeling lousy about it sooner?”
Her awareness was a critical first step. It gave her some objectivity and she was able to step back and see the situation in a slightly detached way.
Spend a few minutes with one or both of those videos.
If you find them interesting, you might want to pick up one of her books. You could start with Daring Greatly published last year.
In the meantime, here are some top-line learnings.
Shame is more powerful than guilt. Guilt says I made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake. And, further, be sure to hide this awful fact so the flawed person I really am isn’t exposed.
Brown offers some tools to combat shame.
- Start with awareness and see if there is a pattern to the triggers that generate shame. Without awareness, shame is driving the bus and we don’t even know it.
- Objectively look at the messages you tell yourself. Ask whether the behavior or goals you set for yourself are realistic or even desirable. Are you expecting yourself to be a superstar in all circumstances? Whose voice it that is so demanding?
- Practice self-compassion. Would you talk to anyone else the way you talk to yourself?
- Reach out to someone you trust and share what is going on. Shame is like a vampire – they both suck the life out of us and neither wants to be exposed to the light.
- Own the story. Don’t resist but instead surrender to the fact that shame is part of the human experience. With that ownership, take control so you can write the ending of your own personal script.
It is important to be aware of our Inner Critic, or Gremlin, and what it is saying.
These steps can help develop shame resilience, which is the ability to objectively look at the situation honestly, acknowledge a mistake and any hurt or disappointment. And, at the same time, really hear an internal message that I am not the mistake I just made.
The way in is a willingness to be vulnerable and, just when we least feel like it. We need to courageously shine a light on the toxicity so shame’s power will fade.
While many shy away from just the thought of vulnerability, there’s great hope in noting that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, love and connection in all its forms.
Thanks for writing.
Come here for your success
|I have an ongoing fascination with resilience. I see it as a core competency for thriving in today’s world.
It means being open to new ideas, being flexible and adaptable. It also means being self aware, having a strong sense of self and a purpose.
My mother died on September 2 and was a great example of resilience – she overcame adversity with determination, grace, acceptance.
I am including below an edited version of the eulogy I delivered at her memorial service.
Betty Vilas Hedblom
Eulogy – September 2015
Our mother was resilient.
She didn’t just make it to 97, she was in remarkable shape and mentally with it right up to the end. She was high-fiving her great grandchild Crawford from her hospital bed – while in hospice care, at home – only a week before she left us.
Thirty years ago she said she wanted to grow old gracefully and it’s fair to say she accomplished that.
She survived and even thrived in the face of a long life – full of both joy and significant adversities.
She had strength, determination, plus a quiet and unwavering sense of purpose. She was nourished by her relationships and deeply rooted in her spirituality.
She was born in January 1918. WWI still had 10 months to go. Like many of her generation, the impact of the Great Depression lasted her whole life.
She remembered the stock market crash and she often recalled how challenging those years were. She told us how her dog’s water bowl froze overnight in her bedroom. That people were willing to do anything – anything at all – to earn a buck.
It was around this time that she first showed her strong sense of caring for people in need. During those Depression years she befriended some people on the street (something she continued to do for decades).
She was secretly bringing them food from home. This went undetected until she gave away several of her father’s shirts and he noticed his closet was getting thin.
She was frugal her whole life and lived by the motto: Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do. After she was married, a friend joked, referencing my father, “Betty’s loosening up. She’s letting Carl take the toll road.”
Her early years weren’t all innocence. She proudly told me that she smoked cigarettes, and gambled away her allowance to her older cousins. But ultimately, she found redemption – when she was 11!
Growing up, she had a strained relationship with her mother. Taking a resilient tact, she found a substitute and formed a very close relationship with an aunt.
She adored her father, who she thought would have preferred a son. Being adaptable, she was something of a tomboy and learned to shoot a gun and drive a car by the time she was 12.
Later, as a college student, when her mother wanted her to have a coming out party, she was a rebel, sticking with what she believed in and chose a path of service and social work over being a deb and dilettante.
As the mother of three, she could set her own limits. Before I was born, my father said if I was a boy, he liked the name Mark. He also was interested in getting a German Shepard. So, my mother’s response was to get a Black Labrador and name the dog Mark.
Years later, on our drives to Michigan, she insisted that there be no talking – not a word – for the first hour. And a minute later, sibling fights would start.
When she was on a search committee for a rector and there was a short list of three – two married with children and one never married – she said the best choice would be someone who had been traumatized by teenagers.
After my father died, she had to find a new purpose. This was not retiring, meek widow.
She had a quiet discipline and created good habits. That included quiet time in the morning and daily afternoon walks – no matter even if it was windy, wet and frigid!
One of the great lessons my mother taught me was that life is essentially about our relationships. Not material belongings, status or ego.
Instead, she emphasized the comfort and joy of connecting. She loved to have friends who you can pick up where you left off. And, she had many friendships that lasted decades.
She proved to be resilient in the wake of the untimely deaths of her father, mother and her daughter (and my sister).
I believe it was her strong spiritual connection that helped carry her through. She struggled for years with the enervating effects of illness. The remarkable thing is that she ultimately emerged stronger, healthier and lighter – and this was when she was in her 70s.
She found writing to be a challenge. Even so, she started writing poetry as a coping mechanism. The writing was cathartic and she discovered her inner poet.
She continued to write and it served as a way for her to communicate and connect with so many people.
She was a rebel and spiritually a radical, too. She believed it’s all about energy, and Godde was in everybody and every thing.
It wasn’t all earnest. My wife remembers a hair-raising golf cart ride down our driveway. My mother made the sharp turn at the bottom never once so much as even tapping the brakes. She liked to go fast – pure joy!
She was ahead of her time in many ways. I was a teenager in the 70s and when feminists came on the scene, I remember thinking, “What’s the fuss about?” I thought equality was the way the world already was and should be with my mother as a role model. She was also naturally inclusive of the LGBT community decades ago.
My mother was a big fan of St Francis and, without overstating it, I think she evolved to become an embodiment of his well known prayer – seeking to understand than to be understood, emphasizing giving over receiving.
She had a calm presence, was open to new ideas, and had a positive attitude. She connected with warmth and affection. I think she sometimes brought out the best in us.
We are a little better for having spent time with her.
Recent blog posts.
Success is yours today
Sandy was walking down the hall to the office of his boss Jim. He was ready to present his big idea. It could make a significant difference to the company and be a game changer to his career. He had worked late nights and weekends to polish it.
As he got closer, he thought: Jim might think my idea is off base…maybe way off base. No way would the company take a chance like that. Who am I to be upsetting the way we do things? Jim isn’t going to be comfortable with the risk and will get mad — at me. This could be bad for my career, even my job. This is a mistake.
So . . .
Sandy stopped in his tracks and went back to his desk. He put the carefully prepared document in a file and closed the drawer. He never proposed the idea that might have catapulted the company over the competition and launched him to a new level of responsibility.
What happened in that hallway?
An internal voice, we call a saboteur, inner critic, gremlin or The Committee, whispered in Sandy’s ear and planted a big dose of doubt.
So, as Sandy made up a negative story that his next move was going to be dangerous, maybe even a career-killer, his dream crumpled. Worst of all, his saboteur convinced him to do nothing, to not even try.
Who or what was that saboteur and where did it come from?
The saboteur is that inner voice that serves as an internal warning system to avoid danger. It means well in trying to keep us safe but is woefully out of date and actually can do serious harm.
Some believe the source of this voice goes way back to when we were prehistoric hunters. That rustle of leaves might have a large and dangerous animal behind it; an internal voice said don’t go investigate and so live another day.
Others believe we devise coping strategies when we are very young children and then continue to use them despite being adults in radically changed circumstances.
While not the first to expose the pernicious saboteur, Shirzad Chamine has written a very accessible book, Positive Intelligence, and offers a free assessment as well.
Noting that our mind can be our friend or our enemy, Chamine’s assessment determines one’s Positive Intelligence Quotient, a score represented as a percentage of how much of the time your mind is your friend or your enemy.
His research has determined that a score of 75 is a tipping point. It means that your mind is serving you about 75% of the time and sabotaging you 25% of the time. Above 75, we are uplifted by the internal self talk and below that, we are being dragged down. He says that a dramatic 80% of individuals and teams score below this critical tipping point.
What are some strategies to deal with this saboteur? Start with awareness. When we notice an internal message holding us back, we have a choice to override it. Without the awareness, the saboteur is driving the bus and making decisions for us.
Consider the difference between: “I think I’m going to make a mess of this.” and “My lying saboteur thinks I’m going to make a mess of this.”
The challenge and the opportunity? Take the wheel from your inner critic.
Chamine offers his assessment for free at PositiveIntelligence.com. The feedback is nuanced and worthwhile. Your results are immediately available and will be followed up with a series of unobtrusive emails offering messages and brief exercises to reinforce the awareness and learning.
As we increase our awareness of that inner voice, we give ourselves a chance to restore choice.
Full disclosure: I let my own saboteur be loud and bossy while writing this, causing the post to be delayed.
Recent blog posts.
- Your Path to Greater Fulfillment
- Promise of Possibilities
- Death By Meeting, Nevermore!
- How to Sharpen Your Saw — No Ohms Required
From the Water Cooler . . .
Self pity: Resentment (resistance) about what is
Compassion: Acceptance of what is
Success for you