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  1. #1
    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    Default Pressuring Ourselves to Improve (Shame & Self-Improvement)

    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?

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    Senior Member Grayscale's Avatar
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    pursue (focus on) the positive (pros) aspects of self improvement, dont flee from the problem.

    this way, you not only are motivated by something positive instead of being driven like a cart horse to correct the problem...

    you are also not prone to falling back into a downward spiral, because with that way of viewing it, whatever you can do is just more of a good thing, and the lack thereof only leaves you wherever you are, not lower than where you are because you've felt like you've failed at fixing (running from) the problem. this is actually accurate, not delusional, if you attempt to get somewhere and don't, you havent gone backwards.

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    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Shame leads to avoidance... something you don't want to be fixated on.

    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 think so... I've read this from a book. Self acceptance arise from seeing both the good and bad of everything. Putting things in perspective. No matter how bad something seems to be, there's always a good side to it. So what if you made a huge mistake? It was a good learning experience. If you can see that, then you can make the shame go away. The author of the book called it "owning" your bad traits. Self improvement isn't just about being better (having more good qualities) but rather being more complete. Only by owning your bad can your good shine.

    One of the exercises she suggested was saying you have this embarrassing trait over and over to yourself out loud (or have somebody say them to you) until you've come to an acceptance that it's a part of you and that's okay.

    *shrugs* Interesting ideas... I believe she's an INFP. If you're interesting...

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    I think you are perceiving shame for what it is but I need to make sure. Guilt, as I see it, is a sense of having done something "wrong" or inconsistant with who you are. Shame, on the other hand, goes much deeper and is a sense that one's being is "wrong" or, somehow, defective. Behaviors are not the issue in shame, therefore self-help is not likely to be effective as they, usually, address behaviors. The only direction from which to address and/or eliminate a sense of shame is from the spiritual. So, unless you are spiritual, I cannot give any advice.

  5. #5
    Mamma said knock you out Mempy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seanan View Post
    Behaviors are not the issue in shame, therefore self-help is not likely to be effective as they, usually, address behaviors. The only direction from which to address and/or eliminate a sense of shame is from the spiritual. So, unless you are spiritual, I cannot give any advice.
    I agree with Seanan about the spiritual rather than behavioral solution. But I don't mean spiritual in a religious sense, or in a mystical sense. I mean that a spiritual solution would be one that involves faith in oneself and a genuine appreciation of oneself rather than the behavior of trying to cultivate defense mechanisms to protect oneself (such as pride, arrogance, the pursuit of perfection, etc).

    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?
    Excellent question. I do not think they are irreconcilable. In fact, I like to think that when one focuses on one's real self and appreciates one's real self, including (or perhaps especially) one's vulnerabilities, that improvement will naturally take place without much sweat, and without any shame.

    If you are going out of your way to improve and "get value" for yourself, rather than seeing the value of your raw and vulnerable self, you are probably never going to feel ok.

    I've realized that I need to appreciate who I am beneath the image I present, cast off the image of strength, intelligence, and capableness that I have been cultivating, and instead focus on my real self, which is not always strong, capable or intelligent.

    Casting off your emotions and becoming more detached so that you can function better is not a good solution. Sometimes, we chase after the traits we most want to embody so that we can distance ourselves from our shame and sadness. In that sense, thinking highly of oneself and trying to detach from emotions is only a defense mechanism against feelings of shame. Arrogance and pride are maladaptive and most of the time go under our radar because they protect us from the immediate threat of shame.

    I do not think that wanting to improve oneself and wanting to like oneself as one is are irreconcilable states of mind. In fact, I think self-improvement can only come when one appreciates oneself as one is, including a realistic acceptance of one's vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and limitations. Polishing one's strengths and talents and only presenting those to the world in an effort to buy the favor and respect of others (and the self-esteem one desires) is not improvement, but only deception.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seanan View Post
    I think you are perceiving shame for what it is but I need to make sure. Guilt, as I see it, is a sense of having done something "wrong" or inconsistant with who you are. Shame, on the other hand, goes much deeper and is a sense that one's being is "wrong" or, somehow, defective. Behaviors are not the issue in shame, therefore self-help is not likely to be effective as they, usually, address behaviors. The only direction from which to address and/or eliminate a sense of shame is from the spiritual. So, unless you are spiritual, I cannot give any advice.
    Well said.
    .. who you are!

    Exactly.

    Shame goes deeper, as you say. Beyond who you are.

  7. #7
    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    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?
    I don't think the two are contradictory at all and actually go hand in hand. I think well-balanced people with a clear view of themselves and others will be aware of their shortcomings and strengths and have a healthy ego response to each. Meaning you don't beat yourself up on the shortcoming and you don't become an egomaniac with the strengths. You're able to objectively see how you 'rank' with others in life.

    I also think balanced people know they will change over time and accept it. Further balanced people know they have the right to empower themselves and control their destinies.

    Basically, they are not mutually exclusive. Just because you acknowledge and accept yourself as you are in this moment doesn't mean you have to lock yourself in a prison and stubbornly try to stay exactly the way you are. And just because you want to change something, doesn't mean you hate yourself.

    Instead, I think the two things you mentioned are complementary and in fact necessary to going about self-improvement in a healthy and effective way.

    Balanced healthy people can accept responsibility and try to make things right when they can and acce

    What practical techniques could a person employ to strike this balance?
    1) Ask yourself why do you want to change? What is your motivation? Is it do avoid something or to run to something? Do you really think you can change? Do you have the resolve and the tools necessary?

    2) Perhaps before asking this, taking an honest assessment of yourself is helpful. Enlisting your friends and even strangers (a therapist? counselor? advisor?) to see how they view you and your strengths and weaknesses. There is no value judgement on these things, they are what they are.

    3) How bad is the bad really? There are points in our lives where we just have to admit it's too late for things and that we cannot change the past or other people. Or just accept the truth of the moment. From my own experience there are lots of things I used to be ashamed or angry or hurt about. And there was just no relief in sight.

    A practical step towards that is making an assessment of pain points in your life, things you deny or avoid or carry a sense of failure or regret or anger about. And then write down why you feel that way, who did you fail, who do you blame, what were the consequences, can you remedy the situation now? What can you do to change that situation? What resolution would make you happy? What do you really want?

    4) Visualization and assessment in general. I think from your 'short questionnaire' post you're on the right track.

    5) Thank yourself. Honor yourself. Be kind to yourself. Our worst critics are usually our own selves. We would never say or treat our friends the way we do ourselves.

    6) When something "bad" happens, instead of yelling at yourself, avoiding the problem, or blaming others, be smart about it. Figure out what went wrong and why and how you can prevent it in the future. Acknowledge how much impact the mistake or slip-up actually has, honor your anger or disappointment, and be responsible towards anyone else negatively impacted by it. "Fix it" if you can. Then use all this as a motivator to do better and move on.

    6b) To strike a balance you really need to start with honest assessment and always be humanitarian. Remember, you're changing because (as cheesy as this sounds) you are worth it and people around you are worth it. I think integrating that respect for self and others goes a loooong way to striking that balance or moreover, just being effective at achieving personal growth and happiness.

    Hope this helps and good luck with all this! I think this response started veering away from the OP but you get the gist of it. And yeah, I know I sound like a motherflippin' metaphysical new age hippie. :rolli:
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  8. #8

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    I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss shame as an agent of change. I think part of the reason that our country is in the bind it's in is because too many people are concerned with fostering self-esteem where none is warranted. Shame used to point people in the right direction.
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  9. #9
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Think big, but start small. Big goals are more motivating (at first). Small goals are easier to accomplish and confidence is built every time you accomplish one. Therefore one should think big, but start small. Think of where you'd ultimately like to be and put no limits on your imagination. Then break that huge goal down into as many small easily accomplishable goals that you can. Make the small goals give tangible returns whenever possible. Then start on the first small goal. Even if you never achieve your overall big goal you'll make valuable progress that will leave you better off than if you did nothing.
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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    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.

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