Are You Headed Down a Shame Spiral?

Last updated on: Published by: Recognizing Potential Coaching 0


Have you ever forgotten something you needed in the hustle of the morning that was imperative to the success of that day? A document, a prop for a presentation, your kid’s something or another they had to have, your breakfast? Then you get to your destination, realize you failed and for the rest of the day you can’t get the thought of “How could I have forgotten that? I’m such an idiot!” out of your head? 

Welcome to the shame spiral, where one action triggers an endless repeat of thoughts, experiences and memories of other times you screwed up in life causing you to be absolutely certain you are the worst person in this world. 

For some, this spiral can last a few minutes to a few hours. For some, it can last days or even weeks! 

So how do you stop? 

First you have to understand two things:

1) You are a completely imperfect human being and when you present yourself authentically, imperfectly and confidently as such, you will gain a higher level of self-acceptance. 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has a sense of belonging as the third rung of needs. However, that need can never be met if we aren’t showing up in this life as our true self. When you show up just as you are, your self acceptance (the fourth rung) actually overpowers your need to belong and makes you a happier, healthier person. 

2) Shame stems from the life drift of approval. This life drift has a core motto “I’ll never BE enough.” The shame spiral starts because you’ve convinced yourself that you have to be perfect not for yourself but because others will judge you, others will be let down due to your lack of responsibility, intelligence, loyalty, etc. You’re disappointed in yourself because of the repercussions it has on others. You’re a compassionate individual so while this feeling is understandable, it’s not realistic. Realistically, no one in this universe is perfect so every once in a while we are all bound to make mistakes. Lord knows I make them on a daily basis and I’m betting you do too! It’s OK! What’s not ok is to sit in that for too long, let it spiral to the worst case scenario and convince yourself that you’re the worst, ultimately causing you to make more mistakes and wreck your subconscious mindset. 

Understand that you were enough before you messed up and you’re still enough after. What you do with that mistake says more about you and your character than whether or not  you come across as perfect. 

The healthiest way to handle a mistake is to learn from it and apply the lesson. Application says “hey, I’m trying here. I’m human and I’m trying to be the best version of myself.”

Apologize, not for making the mistake but for the situation it put others in. By doing so, this helps you eliminate the need to be something for others on a subconscious level. By acknowledging that you wasted someone’s time, that you created an inconvenience for others, etc. you’re also eliminating that one thing that anyone could judge you for (the trigger for the life drift which then triggered the emotion, remember?). 

It’s like in the movie 8 Mile where Eminem comes to the rap battle at the end with Falcon and starts off by putting his greatest weaknesses out there, leaving nothing for Anthony Mackie to come back with and ultimately creating a win for B-Rabbit (Eminem). 

You are B-Rabbit here. You screwed up, you acknowledged it and now no one can judge you or use it against you because it won’t affect you. You’re human again, you’re enough and the shame spiral stops dead in it’s tracks because you’re now showing up in a state of vulnerability to say “Hey, I’m not perfect, just like you. We’re on equal playing field here. So let me have this pass and when you screw up, I’ll show you the same courtesy. Thanks.” 

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You’re a powerhouse of information and experiences that are unique to only you. You ARE an incredible person. Live in that truth and stop telling yourself lies on repeat. It’s not doing you or anyone else any good. Own your imperfections, they are precisely what make you great.



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