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  1. #11
    Senior Member TenebrousReflection's Avatar
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    Something I've been struggling with lately (maybe grappling is a better word) is the proper amount of effort needed to nurture and support a self-improvement initiative. When the motivation to improve one's self becomes so strong, it can turn into shame, thinking that there's something wrong with one's current state of being. The shame only adds layers of problems, especially when it starts to spiral as the person starts to feel ashamed about being ashamed. The net effect is the creation of an internal environment where self-help becomes even more difficult because your mind is occupied with shame, and because you feel worse (ashamed, uncomfortable, worried, and self-conscious) than when you embarked on the journey. It's these qualities, I believe, that are the cause of discomfort in the first place.

    Is there a balance between accepting one's self as you already are but still setting a course to change who you are? Are these two aims contradictory or reconcilable? What practical techniques could a person employ to strike this balance?
    I'm probably not the best person to answer this, but since I can relate to it, maybe my thoughts will make some sense.

    It may be minor, but I draw a distinction between self help and self improvement. To me, self improvement is when I try to find ways I could be a better person by either improving what I already see as good things, or by trying to do things that will bring me closer to being who/what I think I want to be. Self help on the other hand I see as an attempt to fix things that I've recognized as problems or undesirable aspects of myself that I have accepted as things that are not part of who/what I want to be.

    To me, the important part is to know why I want to make the change and envision how it will either improve me or help fix whats broken. Once I can do that, it becomes a lot easier to focus on doing things to achieve those goals.

    As for shame and guilt, this may or may not be more type specific, but I find talking about it to be the best (and sometimes only) way to resolve those feelings when I have them. If I don't feel comfortable talking about something with anyone, then another alternative I sometimes use is to write a personal journal that does not go anywhere (just a text file on my pc).

  2. #12
    Mamma said knock you out Mempy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    How are we defining "shame" again?

    I think too much focus on "feeling good about oneself" can lead to narcissistic behavior -- the goal always becomes about keeping one's feelings positive and with simplistic people even results in denial of wrongdoing or flaws.

    However, too much "shame" is destructive. Often I have seen the word "shame" used to be something bad because it criticizes the very nature of the person.. it is attached to one's identity, not to one's actions. The word "guilt' is typically used to weigh the ethical content of one's actions. I think people can and do need to use "guilt" (i.e., listen to their conscience) in order to grow and change and become better people... but "shame" (which condemns the person's very essence, they are embarrassed over being who they are) is a very negative thing.

    bbl.
    Agreed.

    I think shame comes from trying to form a particular identity for yourself. As Jen said, if your very worth as a human being comes into question, you're going the wrong way ("shame"). Self-esteem boosting can lead to narcissism, but I think what really leads to narcissism is feeling like you have to be a certain way, that having a certain identity is imperative. Identity boxes us in and draws boundaries where there truly are and should be none.

    If the goal is not simply to feel good about oneself, but to eliminate boundaries for the self, I think one has come across self-acceptance and can then, realistically and self-compassionately, improve, but the improvement comes from a desire to enjoy life more, not from a desire to further form one's identity. If you can say, "Whatever I am or will be, I will accept," you are on the right path.

    I think that what causes shame is setting your worth on meeting certain standards and not crossing certain "identity" boundaries. "I shouldn't do that, because that's not who I want to be." Shame can come from not getting enough encouragement and approbation for who you are, but the most important source of shame comes from rejecting certain parts of yourself that don't fit in with the "identity" you want to have. Again, identity closes doors. True identity is boundless, undefinable, and unsolvable. There is no beginning, middle or end to it. It has no outline, no shape, no size. Most importantly, it goes on forever, in every direction.
    They're running just like you
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  3. #13
    Luctor et emergo Ezra's Avatar
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    The only way to rid oneself of shame is by getting on with achieving what one wishes to achieve. If one has a goal in mind but does not act towards that goal, one is bound to feel ashamed about underachieving, or not achieving at all. So, if you feel your aim in life is to achieve something, achieve it. Pressure yourself by all means, but don't make the mistake of pursuing unrealistic goals. They'll come by themselves, if you're skillful enough. Only aim for not just that which is what you believe is in your capacity to achieve, but that which is actually in your capacity to achieve.

  4. #14
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ezra View Post
    The only way to rid oneself of shame is by getting on with achieving what one wishes to achieve. If one has a goal in mind but does not act towards that goal, one is bound to feel ashamed about underachieving, or not achieving at all. ....
    So are you suggesting that shame is purely "achievement-based" and involves a feeling of adequacy/inadequacy in terms of accomplishment?
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  5. #15
    Luctor et emergo Ezra's Avatar
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    Personally, I don't think shame is always linked to self-improvement, but I'm looking at it from Edahn's view of self-improvement and shame, and how the two are inextricably linked.

  6. #16
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ezra View Post
    Personally, I don't think shame is always linked to self-improvement, but I'm looking at it from Edahn's view of self-improvement and shame, and how the two are inextricably linked.
    Well, my question was because I do not think achievement and self-improvement are really linked per se... at least not with a broad definition of achievement. Or maybe you are equating self-improvement to external achievements and personal skill-building?

    (Where I am looking at it more in terms of identity and personal internal strengths.)
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  7. #17
    Senior Member INTJMom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    ...
    the proper amount of effort needed to nurture and support a self-improvement initiative.
    ...
    What practical techniques could a person employ to strike this balance?
    After reading all the responses so far, which are excellent, I feel like it would be easier to address this issue if the specific self-improvement "problem" was known because while there are general principles that apply, I think there are probably also specific principles that apply and would be helpful to you.

    I used to live daily with shame. It was my constant companion. A book that helped me immensely was called Facing Shame by Merle Fossum and Marilyn Mason.


    I don't think Ezra is very far off the mark when it comes to shame and achievement. I struggle with shame when I fail to achieve a certain goal I have set for myself. Conversely, when I do achieve something, especially if it's difficult, my self-respect and therefore self-esteem are bolstered, I think in a healthy way. He also made an excellent point that unrealistic expectations are not helpful.


    Be sure to not be ashamed of those things that are INTP about yourself. No we shouldn't make excuses for our faults, but we should at least be understanding that all people have blind spots that they have to work on.

  8. #18
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by INTJMom View Post
    I don't think Ezra is very far off the mark when it comes to shame and achievement. I struggle with shame when I fail to achieve a certain goal I have set for myself. Conversely, when I do achieve something, especially if it's difficult, my self-respect and therefore self-esteem are bolstered, I think in a healthy way. He also made an excellent point that unrealistic expectations are not helpful.
    One interesting thing in gender studies is that there seems to be a preponderance of males whose self-worth is validated through achievement (i.e., what they do), while women in general finds validation in relationship and acceptance (i.e., who they are). This is why many men, if they lose their jobs or otherwise feel weak/incapable, can be overwhelmingly devastated even if they have decent relationships, where women seem to be more resilient to that sort of loss as long as their relationships remain intact and supportive.

    Obviously this is only a very general thing, with a wide spectrum of where a particular person might fall on the scale. (I have an intuition that T will push a person more towards achievement as a validator, where F seems to push a person in the other direction.)

    In any case, overall, achievement is one factor but not the only factor in the study of what triggers human shame and feelings of self-worthlessness.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  9. #19
    Senior Member INTJMom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    One interesting thing in gender studies is that there seems to be a preponderance of males whose self-worth is validated through achievement (i.e., what they do), while women in general finds validation in relationship and acceptance (i.e., who they are). This is why many men, if they lose their jobs or otherwise feel weak/incapable, can be overwhelmingly devastated even if they have decent relationships, where women seem to be more resilient to that sort of loss as long as their relationships remain intact and supportive.

    Obviously this is only a very general thing, with a wide spectrum of where a particular person might fall on the scale. (I have an intuition that T will push a person more towards achievement as a validator, where F seems to push a person in the other direction.)

    In any case, overall, achievement is one factor but not the only factor in the study of what triggers human shame and feelings of self-worthlessness.
    I think you're right about it being a T/F thing more than a male/female thing.

    I agree there are other factors. That's why I highly recommend the book.

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