The Totally Illogical Shame Cycle

If we operated logically, there would be no need for “accountability strategies.” Upon deciding that a goal was deeply important (lose 20 lbs., write a book, pay off credit cards, etc.), we would lay out the steps and then start doing them. Of course, setbacks might come up from time to time, but given the importance of the chosen goal, we would get right back on track to head towards the finish line.

But of course, we are not logical. We let our fears and distractions take hold of us and our “very important goal” is just another one on the list of things we didn’t finish. Cue the Totally Illogical Shame Cycle. (TISC – It’s a thing.) It goes like this:

  1. We didn’t meet our goal.
  2. So we feel shame for not meeting our goal.
  3. So we don’t choose another goal.
  4. So we feel more shame for sitting idle.

Sometimes we sit idle for so long that we actually forget what it’s like to be actively working towards something. It’s a really scary place – I’ve been there.

I don’t have this figured out by any means, but I’ve noticed a few things that help to quelch the shame and keep me moving towards my goals:

Seek Empathy

Brené Brown says “Empathy’s the antidote to shame” and I believe that with all my heart. In the times I’ve been vulnerable enough to share what’s causing me shame with someone I trust and they’ve given me a heartfelt “me too,” it’s almost like I’m physically lighter. All of a sudden I can look at the situation with the logic I’ve been lacking because some of the powerful emotion has been taken out of the equation. It gives me back the ability to pick myself back up and get moving again. Make it a priority to find someone you can be vulnerable with.

Use Visuals

Calendars, checklists, a posted goal statement, a row of Ship It Journals on a shelf: these are all things that provide a visual cue for what you’re doing and what you’ve accomplished so far, which can be incredibly motivating. When you have reminders of where you’re headed and how much you’ve done so far, it somehow seems easier to just do one more step. Write it down and put it in a place of importance.

Carve out Time for Reflection

It’s easy to get super busy with all of the day-to-day “stuff” our lives our filled with. This takes away any opportunity to reflect on life and where you’re going. (Sometimes this is not by accident.) It’s easy to go days, months, or even years without realizing that you’re stuck because you’ve been so busy doing. Make some time each day, even just 15 minutes, for quiet reflection.

Find Your Teachers

Find those who are further along the path than you and soak in everything you can from their wisdom. My teachers include Seth Godin, Brené Brown, Pema Chödron, and Dave Ramsey. Feel free to try them out for yourself or ask people you respect who their teachers are. I’ve spent endless hours listening to my teachers’ podcasts, audio books, and Ted Talks and they keep me motivated and positive. When I find books that particularly resonate with me, I listen to them at least once or twice a year, and their words start to become part of who I am. Invest in a subscription to Audible and listen to your teachers daily – you’ll get way more value out of it than Netflix. (Even Seth says so.)

It all comes down to being kind to yourself. No one really has it all figured out – even when they really really seem like they do. We’re all just works in progress.


4 thoughts on “The Totally Illogical Shame Cycle

  1. What a surprise. We have the same teachers. 🙂 I recently got a weekly calendar so I could quite literally carve out time for different tasks. I look at my to-do list, prioritize it, and then allot time in my day/week on an hourly basis. Sounds like a bit much, but it has helped me minimize the unproductive time periods of goofing off.

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