I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to be honest with yourself when you answer.
Why do you read my emails and follow my work?
Is it because you’re just curious and interested in learning about your mind?
Or are you trying to become BETTER?
A better employee.
A better partner.
A better parent.
A better person.
If so, you’re not alone.
All of us come to transformational practices like coaching in order to change in some way:
To manage our anxiety.
To quiet our tempers.
To feel more confident.
To go after our dreams.
And of course, using thought work to achieve these goals can be incredibly joyous and healing.
But not if you believe you are unworthy now, and you want to use the tools to change yourself to become worthy.
Because when you believe you are lacking or unworthy, you feel SHAME.
And using shame as a motivating force never works out well.
If you have trained your brain to constantly search for evidence that you are not good enough, that’s all it knows how to do.
So it won’t matter if you use thought work to stick to an exercise routine, go for that promotion, or stop snapping at your partner and your kids.
You may change some specific actions and results. But you won’t even be able to appreciate that progress.
You will just discount it and move the bar higher, and keep striving for that day you finally “improve” enough to feel worthy.
You can do this for your whole life, and never get there.
So, ask yourself: Why do you want a promotion? Why do you want to change your eating habits? Why do you want to stop yelling at your kids?
Is it because you think doing so will prove your worth?
Is it so you won’t have to face negative thoughts like “I’m not accomplished enough” or “nobody will ever love me at this size” or “I’m a terrible mom?”
You cannot outrun your negative self-talk by changing your actions.
Because your thoughts are what create your actions. Not the other way around.
And until you address the thoughts that are fueling your shame, any efforts to change or be “better” will only produce more shame for you.
You will start thinking things like “I should be further along” or “I must be bad at coaching myself” or “I’m behind where I should be.”
This is so common that I actually coined a term for it: “self-improvement shame.”
Self-improvement shame is when you feel ashamed of your “progress” in “improving yourself” – and it’s always because you started trying to improve yourself to fix your shame about being yourself in the first place.
Having any shame about feeling “behind” in thought work or not being “good enough” at it is the clearest indicator that you have self-improvement shame.
What can you do about it?
The first step to changing your self-improvement shame is getting curious about your motivation for changing.
Keep in mind that even when your motivation seems obvious, it’s always a good idea to dig deeper because it’s very common to have mixed motivations for a goal.
Let’s say you’re interested in exercising regularly because you want to grow your relationship to your body and challenge yourself to become stronger.
That’s awesome! But if you are ALSO working toward this goal because you have the thought “I’m lazy and I need to learn discipline,” you will undermine yourself unless you address that thought first.
First, you won’t be able to achieve your goal because you’re creating so much shame and negative emotion surrounding it. AND, since you haven’t addressed your thought that you are lazy, you’ll end up just still believing you are lazy – not only about exercise but now about thought work too!
Don’t get me wrong – you can absolutely use thought work to make changes to your life. But before you can change yourself, you have to accept yourself as you are.
This is contrary to everything we are taught. We are taught if we hate things we will be motivated to change them.
But how’s that working out for you so far?
Self-improvement is built on a flawed premise.
You do not require improvement.
There isn’t anything wrong with you to begin with.
You are perfect and whole and worthy as-is.
Of course, you can grow. This work is all about growth. You can change, evolve, and learn. And it can be rewarding to change, because you can learn something from it if you choose.
But doing so doesn’t make you a better person. It isn’t morally superior to the alternative.
That shame you’re experiencing now? Nothing you can do or change or “improve” about yourself will make it go away.
You won’t be able to outrun it or outsmart it.
The truth is that you have to stop judging yourself for your current thoughts and feelings.
Because when you are trying to act your way out of your self-judgment, all you will produce is more self-judgment – your actions don’t change how your brain thinks.
The only way to stop shaming yourself is to change your thoughts about yourself.
Not to make yourself better or more worthy or “good enough.”
But just to accept – and then ultimately maybe love – yourself as you are.
Only after you do that will you be able to make any of the changes you think you want right now – because only then will you be able to discern what you truly care about AND how to create it in a loving way. And THAT is a change worth making.