I realized recently that I’m ashamed of myself at a deep fundamental level. When I fail at something big or small, I beat myself up emotionally more than I should and feel ashamed. I realize that this is not emotionally healthy, but I’m not really sure what I can do to change the dynamic.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
An example of how this plays itself out in my life: sometimes at work I’ll procrastinate. When this happens, I feel awful. It’s not just that I’m frustrated by my lack of progress on the daily minutia that makes up my work life. I beat my self up for procrastinating and tell myself that I should be better than this, that by this point in my life someone like me should be beyond this type of issue. I worry that my incompetence in time-management is totally obvious to everyone around me. I have this deep-ceded fear of being caught, of people seeing me for who I really am. By the end of a non-productive afternoon, I’m twitchy, grumpy, and stressed out, and I feel ashamed of my performance at work. The emotional response is powerful and way out of proportion to what happened, and it makes me feel really anti-social, like I just want to curl up and hide from the world.
But in addition to the ups and downs of day-to-day life, there are also parts of myself that I’m deeply ashamed at a more general level. For instance, I’m overweight, the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life, and not athletic. Because of this, I feel unattractive, and ashamed of the way I look. I’m embarrassed when I look at myself in the mirror.
Then there’s my career path, or lack there of. While I have a job that’s been good to me at a prestigious Fortune 100 company, I don’t have a defined career path and I have no idea where I’m going. The biggest surprise about the post-college transition has been how much I’ve mourned losing the ability to legitimately claim the identity of “student”. In my new post-student status I’ve been unprepared for that fact that “what I do” largely defines who I am and in the 4 years since graduating I’ve failed to come up with an answer to the inevitable cocktail party question that I’m genuinely proud of. I cringe inside every time I have to give my answer about still “figuring out what I’m going to do” to a new acquaintance or colleague.
(Of course I know that I’m hardly alone in my predicament as far as careers go, and aware of the fact that many people who think they have this figured out at my age end up being proved wrong and changing careers down the line anyway. But at this point in my life I’d rather be wrong than indecisive, and the career decisions I’ve made since graduating have been reactive and haphazard. The point is I’m not proud at the manner in which I’ve handled my career planning over the past 4 years, and it feels like a significant failing to me.)
When I think about my various flaws and failings, my first thought for how to go about losing this sense of shame is that I should focus on improving myself. I tell myself that once I’ve fixed my problems I will no longer feel the shame I feel now. There’s a certain amount of logic to this thought process, but when I think about it I realize that a “problem-oriented” approach to my emotions is fundamentally flawed--I can’t wait until everything is fixed to accept myself, because I’ll never stop waiting.
So the question then becomes, if I don’t become more accepting of myself through self-improvement what, exactly, do I do? What steps can I take to accept myself for who I am, flaws and all, in an emotionally healthy way? And whatever it is that I should do, does it conflict with the self-improvement actions that I’m naturally inclined towards, given that by undertaking a self improvement process I’m implicitly stating that there’s something wrong with me?
There’s part of me that’s worried that if I were to accept myself the way I’m now, I’d stop changing, stop growing, and I’d have to (paradoxically) give up on my aspirations of being the person I want to be. I’ve tried to analyze people that I know who are happy and satisfied with themselves to see if I can gain any insights into this. They all have flaws after all, and they are still growing and improving themselves, but that does not prevent them from being satisfied with their current station in life. But they also have an almost Zen-like acceptance of who they are, where they are, and what they are doing that seems to be largely unaffected by external events. That’s a frustratingly difficult quality to try and emulate.
So, what should I do?
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