As I have written about in the past, I am not a big fan of making resolutions for the New Year. I find that such resolutions often bring with them failure, self-judgment and self-criticism, and ultimately shame when I might step away from such rigid demands on myself. Sounds more like a recipe for depression than self-improvement if you ask me! Which made me wonder if that is why many of us don’t bother with setting resolutions and, if we are brave enough to attempt them, why so many of us don’t succeed in such undertakings. Could it be more about being hard on ourselves versus the unrealistic goals that we tend to set for ourselves at this time of year? Or is it the shame that holds us back? Or might it be a combination of both?
So, when I sat in reflection of my self-improvement efforts in 2017 in order to create a vision for myself in 2018 that is more intentional, motivating, and empowering, I found myself drawn so strongly to the #MeToo Movement that is now evolving into the “Time’s Up” campaign! What felt so powerfully moving to me was the act of shining a light on the shame, that is transferred to someone who experiences one of the most natural, normal, adaptive, human responses to a body-mind breaking situation, so that shame can be given back to the rightful owner, the transgressor. When we find ourselves in a situation that appears threatening, whether to our physical bodies or to our physical circumstances like our livelihoods, our bodies/brains know what to do to survive without much thought. The first automatic survival response is to flee and when the mind realizes that might not be possible, it considers fighting for its life. When the mind suspects it might not survive the fight, it freezes, even sometimes fainting, as a defense mechanism to try and trick the predator into thinking they are dead and leave (them alone). And, of course, when we freeze – or faint – our voices go silent.
It is only when the “after” (survival) thoughts arrive that we begin the real battle, because we unknowingly took on the trangressor’s shame as our own. The thoughts get really loud while our voices remain silent, for fear that we won’t be heard and supported and, instead blamed and rejected. Anxiety and depression present themselves and become the unwelcome visitors in our daily lives and homes. When we can experience the acceptance and support of others, we can then begin the journey of healing, bringing more acceptance and compassion towards ourselves. When we can see the shame as not ours and give it back to the one who transferred it to us, we can begin to accept that we are human and we did what we had to do to survive at that time. And now we can move forward and thrive, by embracing – maybe even expressing gratitude towards – our vulnerability as one of the strongest parts of ourselves, the part that helped us survive to live another day and become a part of a movement and campaign that has the energy to transform the world.
So, my intention is 2018 is be a compassionate support for those brave souls that are able to honor their vulnerable parts by speaking up, identifying and talking about shameful words and behaviors. I intend to stay connected to the well of compassion for myself as the perfectly flawed human that I am, leading by example, showing others that self-compassion is the first, last, and every step in between on the path of healing. Connecting to our ability to experience self-compassion while, at the same time, holding shame in the light is the true recipe for individual self-improvement and inner peace as well as contributing to the elevation of the collective consciousness of the world.
If you are interested in reading the recent research showing that self-compassion is more effective than the more established strategies of acceptance and reappraisal in decreasing depression, click on the link below: