Why Shame is Not a Good Motivator

You know that guilty feeling you get when you wish you had reacted differently after you lost your cool? Or that sadness you feel when you realize you accidentally hurt someone’s feelings or made someone feel left out? That’s the useful kind of shame. The kind that induces behavior change based on an action you took that you shouldn’t have or a reaction you had when you let your emotions take over.

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But there’s another kind of shame. Self-induced shame. Shame that comes from the mean inner voice inside of you. Your inner critic. Your own personal mean girl. It’s likely not your voice – but probably a combination of an angry unhealed parent’s voice, a difficult teacher or tough coach, or an actual mean girl from school. Somewhere over time, you collected these thoughts. These are guilt-ridden, shame inducing thoughts that make you feel unworthy and not good enough. You have repeated them to yourself when you felt like you were failing, when you felt like you weren’t showing up the way you wished you could.

Then, those thoughts slowly became your own inner voice. The one you berate yourself with to get your act together. Maybe you bring it out when you feel you need to be kicked into gear and feeling shame is the only way you know how to get moving. If you feel bad enough about yourself, you can only go up from here, right? Push harder. Get off your ass and do something. You’re so lazy. What’s wrong with you? You’ll never succeed. You’re just not capable. You’ll never look like her. You’ll never have your life together like her. You’re not good enough. You’re worthless. You’re a failure.


Have you ever noticed the pattern? You may follow some kind of weekly, monthly or seasonal cycle. If you paid close attention – your moods and motivation may even line up with your monthly cycle – ebbing and flowing, up and down as your hormones shift. But, including shame and guilt in this cycle when you are feeling your lowest is NOT the reason you get back up again. It’s the reason you keep doing this cycle, over and over and over. It’s the reason it never sticks. It’s the reason you don’t believe in yourself. SHAME is the reason you’re stuck. You can see it now. You can hear it. It just happens. It’s like a never-ending roller coaster and you can’t figure out how to get off the freaking ride!

The first step in stopping the cycle is JUST SEEING IT. There is so much power in noticing and it’s the step that everyone skips. It’s the reason most diets, challenges and hardcore all-or-nothing approaches to change do not work. They start at the wrong place. You have to start with what is happening now and begin to figure out and unravel your own patterns and why you do them. Once you know why, you can start to work on what, how when and where.

Shame is the intensly painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

Brene Brown

Start right now. What is your inner voice saying? If you were to say it out loud to a friend or your child – would you actually do that? Or is it just too mean? What happens today when you run late, or spill your coffee or yell at your child? What about when you show up to school drop off a hot mess because you needed extra sleep today? Or when you meet up with your friends for dinner, but feel like you never belong. When you lay your head down tonight – what thoughts put you to sleep?

We are all flawed humans. We all belong and the only thing making us think differently is our thoughts about ourselves. You have so much power in your own thoughts. Self-induced shame has never served you and will not motivate you into the lifestyle change you crave. Let that ish go.

Don’t be the reason you can’t even see your own potential.

No matter what that inner critic says – you are worthy and you can. ❤ MA

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