This is a topic that's been on the forefront of my mind for a while now. It's something I struggled with for years and continue to see come up periodically both in my life and in my friend's lives too.
Being too hard on yourself can show up in many ways. Of course there's the obvious: anger and resentment towards oneself upon failure, overworking, and resenting yourself after having hurt someone you love or let someone down. To the more subtle aspects of the problem where we experience these feelings for things like missing a day at the gym or drinking too much wine with friends.
From a cognitive perspective, guilt and shame are emotions that people experience when they believe they've caused harm. This harm can relate to other people as well as to yourself. While these words are often used interchangeably, it's important to know that guilt is associated with having harmed others and shame is associated with having done harm to yourself. So the questions you need to ask yourself are:
Why the harm? Why the guilt or shame?
Both boil down to the same thing: self love. Most problems in life stem from a lack of self love because self love is at the root of everything. It's the one thing we really need to be happy and without it, we seek to fill this void through means of addictions, material things, and external validation. When we act out or cause people or ourselves harm, it's an act of desperation to fill that void through external validation. I know, it sounds crazy. Why would we harm other people or ourselves to love ourselves more? How would that benefit us? Well of course it doesn't benefit us in the long run, but bringing people down gives those who are suffering immediate gratification, often followed by guilt. Know that when you or others are guilty of this, it's an act of unhappiness and desperation. And when you get to that point where you're harming others to feel better about yourself, you've been hurt for a while and are seeking anything to feel better about yourself. Okay, so I hope that better clarifies guilt around having caused harm to others.
It is easy to see the correlation when it comes to guilt after having done something bad, but what about the shame we experience when we simply want to take a day off? Or something as innocuous as having a glass of wine with friends? While this may appear to be different, I'm not so sure it is. It is different in the sense that's it's more applaudable and can act as a positive motivator fuelling you to be a better version of yourself. But it's tricky to know where to draw the line. Holding yourself at that high of expectations (even if they're seemingly well intended) can cause stress that may detriment your health.
The biggest difference between these perpetuators is that guilt is seeking external approval from others while shame is seeking internal approval from yourself. So the real question is, why don't we approve of ourselves? It essentially comes down to not feeling like enough as you are. Much like a conditional form of self love. An unwillingness to accept that you're perfect even with your flaws and messiness. Feeling like you need to work hard every day, not being able to enjoy a day off, not being able to enjoy a night of debauchery, and depriving yourself of pleasures is a form of self neglect where we harm ourselves and not others.
Now that we're crystal clear about the WHY, let's discuss some methods on HOW to overcome this self sabotage:
1) Positive affirmations. These can be written in your journal or meditated upon such as:
- I deserve to have fun and let loose
- I am worthy of taking a break
- I love myself exactly as I am
2) Don't be so hard on yourself. Easier said than done, I know. I am so guilty of this too. Think of it this way, if you're not going to care about it in 5 years, don't sweat it. Yes, that includes that third glass of wine and the fact that you missed the gym THREE DAYS IN A ROW NOW. You gotta cut yourself some slack. If you 'can't sit still,' know that sitting still is actually the antidote to your problem. Rest is good. Productivity is good. Movement is good. Balance is better.
3) Meditate on self love. Click here to explore some of mine.
4) Self care. Address your needs. All we really need is: food, water, movement, connection, LOVE. When you're craving ice cream, odds are you didn't get enough good fats today. Same goes for emotions. If you're plotting to sabotage someone else's success it's because you haven't felt successful in a while. So rather than hurting someone else and still being in the same shitty spot you're in, use that energy for the better and do something you'll feel good about. Feed your needs.
5) Make yourself a priority. Schedule in time for yourself to move everyday, but don't get mad if things don't go as planned. This is life. The stress you feel over not having gone to the gym is far worse for your health than having missed a day at the gym. This I know to be true. So easy come, easy go.
I hope this helps you to better understand yourself and where these feelings come from. You know where to go from here. Trust that.
I love you,