‘Round about the end of January, many folks are beating themselves up and having feelings of failure in keeping their new year’s resolutions. There are other times any time of year, or maybe even any time of day, when that shaming voice in one’s head comes out to let us know all the ways we have screwed up or failed. Have you ever thought about how you work through feelings of failure in your own mind? Where do your thoughts end up? That’s what I want to talk about today.
I’ve written a blog and made a video in the past called “Shut The Frau Up”. It is a look at that shaming voice in your head, where it comes from, strategies for fighting it, and ultimately healing from years of listening to it. We tend to think that in order to be a productive citizen, follow the rules, have a bright future, achieve our goals, and otherwise be as perfect as possible, that we need this nagging, nasty voice in our head. This voice is filled with judgment and is downright mean. Are you beating yourself up for something you see as a failure or personal shortcoming?
I’d like to talk a little bit today about being a tad more graceful and realistic with yourself. I think that all of our lives, all of our experiences, are meant for our learning, if we will cooperate with the process. That sounds great in theory, right? What we don’t realize is how excruciatingly difficult that is in practice! It is an exercise in the denial of ego and pride, and I don’t know many people that do that really well and certainly not without putting up one heck of a fight! It’s against our very nature to deny our pride, admit our shortcomings, talk about all the ways we screw up, and even apologize. It’s hard to stick with goals, to forgive, to look in the mirror, and take responsibility for ourselves. It’s much easier and expedient to sit on the couch and blame. There’s one colossal problem with that mindset, however…it doesn’t work for very long, and it keeps us stuck right where we are.
Many people expect themselves to perform perfectly, to know everything the first time, to have a bliss-filled, successful marriage when they have never been modeled what that looks like or been taught what the keys are, and if they place the judgment on it that an outcome wasn’t successful, then they label themselves a failure. Beating yourself up for being a failure, bemoaning it, or feeling like a victim of your circumstances is the absolute best way to ensure that it will happen again. Giving yourself grace, realizing that your experience was part of your journey so you could learn a lesson, and realizing that you do the best you can and when you know better you do better, (as Maya Angelou would say), is a grace-filled, self-compassionate way of working through something that didn’t go as you hoped or expected. With this mindset, there is constant growth and better outcomes every time, not to mention some peace in your heart along the way.
Would you expect someone with no math experience at all to pass calculus? Of course not. But folks beat themselves up mercilessly for relationships that end with anything less than a 60 year anniversary. They struggle with big hurts like affairs and divorce and pass judgment that they aren’t over it fast enough, they should have seen it coming, they could have prevented it….etc. etc. They forget that perhaps no one modeled or taught them how to be in relationship, or even more to the point, that every relationship has two people in it with issues and wounds and pride, and most importantly…free will. There is a place in the middle of extreme self-shame on one side, and caring about nothing on the other. It looks like caring about what’s important and wanting to be the best you can be, but with a giant, realistic helping of grace and compassion on top.
I would encourage as much objectivity as you can muster, with the humility to honestly and courageously own what you need to own. When those feelings of failure creep in, be real about what you could do better, without shaming yourself. Let it motivate you. Squeeze every bit of learning you can out of every hurt or disappointment. Let it grow you. Didn’t keep that resolution? Let it shine the light on what motivates you and demotivates you. Find out what you’re passionate about, and what’s the most important to you. What holds you back? Fear of failure? Fear of success? A wish that someone else will do it for you? Blame? Lack of a strong sense of self? If you can’t find it for yourself (pretty common…we aren’t usually super objective about ourselves) come on in and let’s talk. We can find it together.
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Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038
© 2015 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW