Episode 58: The Problem with Guilt and Shame

Episode Summary

Many people come to self-improvement from a place of self-rejection and disgust. We want to change and grow so that we can change and outgrow the person we are. And we set off to improve ourselves or our lives from a place of guilt and shame. And this is a losing proposition.

Before we can close the gap between deciding to change and implementing change, we first need to examine, unravel, and remove guilt and shame, because these emotions are hindering the changes we each want to make.

Not only are guilt and shame completely unnecessary to change, in most cases they are the very things preventing real transformation. In this episode, I’ll show you how to give up guilt and shame so that you can change and become in all the ways you want to.

Episode Tools and Questions

For almost all of us, guilt and shame are keeping us from really being the person we. want to be and this is really ironic because your brain thinks that guilt and shame are necessary in order to become the person you want to be. The thing we think we need in order to change is the very thing keeping us from change.

Why does our brain offer thoughts that cause guilt and shame?

The brain offers guilt and shame because it thinks these negative emotions will cause you to change your behavior and this will keep you alive.

Why doesn’t guilt and shame work?

But the reason that this doesn’t work is because as humans we are conditioned to avoid pain. When guilt and shame are present, most of us try to avoid the entire experience of looking at ourselves and evaluating ourselves so that we can change. We have associated changing ourselves with guilt and shame which only makes us want to avoid change in general.

Guilt and shame keep us from looking at ourselves and evaluating ourselves and noticing where we can do things differently. They just condemn us for what we are doing and they never invite us to look at what else is possible. We just kind of hate ourselves for the way we’re doing it and, ironically, that only keeps us doing it the way we’re doing it.

Here are some tools to drop guilt and shame:

1. Understand that doing things wrong doesn’t make you bad - There aren’t good people and bad people. There are just people that do things, there are just people that act and those actions are a result of what they think and what they feel.

I love the idea that I always have a good reason for acting the way I do. It doesn’t mean I always do the best things and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t always way to improve and grow and do things differently, but this idea helps me to not judge my actions. When I know that I always have a good reason for acting the way I do then I can be curious and more open to exploring those reasons and understanding the thoughts and feelings that produced those actions.

  • Instead of telling yourself you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something, ask yourself, “Why do I do it this way? I have a good reason for doing what I do…what is it?”

2. Love all the parts of you - Loving all of you does not mean you are done. Loving all of you does not mean you don’t have room for improvement. Loving all of you means that love isn’t based on what you do.

If the worst thoughts, feelings and actions that we take don’t make us bad, then could we accept those parts and even love them?

So many times we set up conditions to loving ourselves. In our minds we have a list of things we need to do before we can love ourselves.

If you ask yourself, “What do I need to do and fix and change in order to love myself?” notice how long the list is. And I promise you that even if you could somehow do everything on the list, your brain would just make another list. Loving ourselves has to be independent of the list. It’s just a choice.

So many of us come to self-improvement from a place of self-rejection. We want to change and grow so that we can change and outgrow the person we are. And this just doesn’t work. We’ve got to love us first, as we are.

3. Take personal responsibility for your results - Shame and guilt cause us to hide. The root of the word shame means “to cover” and so one of the best ways to combat it is to shine a light on the things causing us shame and take personal responsibility for what we are creating.

  • Ask yourself, “How exactly did I create these results?” not from a place of guilt and shame, but utter curiosity.

If you find yourself cringing, or wanting to look away, or not wanting to face the answer it just means that shame and guilt are there. You’ve got to set those down before you can answer the question. And when you do it will be life changing.

Notice how if you feel no guilt or shame and you ask the question, “How exactly did I create these results?” you can look with honesty about what you are doing and not doing. You can look at the thoughts you are thinking. You can see the feelings you have that drive everything that you do. It gives you something to work with.

This question shows you the truth for maybe the first time in your life. And then real change is possible. The more truthful we can get with ourselves, the better results we get.

Episode Notes

Mentioned on the podcast:

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My business coach: Samantha Siffring

My life coach: Jody Moore

Paul Hollywood, The Great British Bake Off


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