Shame, or why you don’t do what you know you must

Photo courtesy of Neal Fowler

 

If you’ve spent any time with this site—or even if you haven’t—I want to ask you a small favor.

I’d like you to trust me enough that you won’t skip this post. It’s pretty short. You can skip the first section if you want. This one even has a soundtrack. Thanks.

Please lift it off

In a recent post, I made a slightly flip remark about how a budget isn’t actually the straightjacket that people seem to think it is, but instead is in fact a license/excuse to spend money.

I believe this wholeheartedly, but you may not. You may still feel like spending without having to worry about it feels more freeing.

However, there is often more to the emotional story from what I’ve seen than this: the worry is still there, but is just translated. Instead of worrying at the point of purchase, there is often an more pervasive worry, of spending too much, not having enough, of feeling out of control.

Intellectually, a little bit of preventative planning seems much preferable to an all-pervasive worry. So why would anyone willingly choose the path of feeling out of control?

Because there is another force at work which is even more powerful. I of course refer to shame.

Every one of us, myself included feels shame at some point. Shame about our thoughts, shame about what we want, shame about things we’ve done, shame about things we haven’t done. Shame is a powerful feeling. It causes us to avoid things. Shame causes us to not want to think about what we need to think about.

What’s under the bed

I know you feel like you’ve made some bad choices.

You might also feel like you continually make bad choices. This can make you feel worse, which leads you to continue to make more bad choices.

I want to tell you that your decisions are okay, even the ones you think are “bad”, because they are what seemed like the best options at the time.

You see, when we’re feeling wounded or hurt or scared, we don’t think as rationally. Our decision-making process changes. What seems optimal in an emotional context seems crazy from the benefit of hindsight, at least when the fear has passed.

It’s actually quite important to be at peace with the choices you’ve made, even if they may have the unfortunate consequence of taking you farther away from where you want to be.

Why? Because it gives you strength. Or rather, it keeps you from beating yourself up further.

Once you’ve gotten to this point, you can turn around and better face what you’ve been running from. What is causing the fear and anxiety? What is causing you to do anything and everything instead of what you know you need to do?

If you continue to lay additional layers of blame on top of yourself every day for not facing the underlying fear, you will cover it and hide it.

Remember that to the clam, there is nothing beautiful about a pearl.

Make it stop

None of this is easy, but equally, none of it is impossible. You can change the way you act. You can change the way you react. You may just need to be at peace with the understanding of why you do what you do.

And I can assure you that once you gather the strength to face what you’re avoiding, it will not be nearly as bad as you had built it up to be.

So there is no blame if you ignore some good advice. But I also know that just because you did it yesterday doesn’t mean that you’ll do that always.

After all, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

P.S. It impossible to talk about shame without mentioning the almost mythically important work by Brené Brown. If you haven’t already seen it, watch her TED talk.

P.P.S. Thanks for reading. I know you have plenty of sites competing for your attention, so I am truly honored that you chose to spend some time here.

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on July 14, 2014