Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shame-Free Tuesday

Think of that of which you're most ashamed. Perhaps you betrayed a trust. Maybe you screwed up when everyone was counting on you. It could be a secret that you've kept for years and are too embarrassed to share with anyone. It might be something that you do all the time and hope that no one ever discovers.

For me, shame always comes down to my being in one of three states: an idiot, an ass or just bad. All shame can be traced to one of them and bad overlaps the other two. So, for now, we can just go with idiot and ass.

The distinction between idiot and ass is one of intent. For example, driving in the left lane, 20mph below the speed limit and not realizing that you're leading a parade of would be passersby would qualify as idiot whereas driving in the left lane, 20mph below the speed limit to annoy the guy behind you would qualify as ass.

The characteristics of my ill-fated exploits are pretty much evenly split between idiot and ass with a slight favoring of idiot, though given my general level of intensity, others would likely characterize the vast majority as ass.

Either way, one thing is certain; when you come to the realization that you've been an idiot or an ass, a likely response is to feel ashamed. You can use other words like embarrassed, bad, guilty or wrong, but the point is that you likely feel badly about yourself. If you don't feel ashamed or if you feel insufficiently ashamed, then others will assist you in doing so.

To eradicate the bad feelings of being ashamed you berate yourself. You become contrite. You promise never to do it again. You apologize profusely and repeatedly. You decide that you're just not good enough and never should have tried. You might become sullen or even angry.

So there's a cycle that goes:


The reason I say cycle is that the recovery techniques often lead to more ass/idiot phenomena. You make a mistake. To avoid future mistakes, you feel ashamed. To recover from feeling ashamed you do things that increase the likelihood of making another mistake.

Why do these things to recover? To feel better.

To feel better from what? From feeling ashamed.

But who made you feel ashamed? You did.

Sure, others may assist you in shame, but it only works if you buy into it yourself.

So shame doesn't actually work very well. It's a distraction and a hindrance.

What would happen if you were and idiot or an ass, but you didn't feel ashamed? Would you continue making the same mistake? In the absence of feeling badly, what would cause you to change?

The funny thing is that the absence of shame increases the likelihood of doing better. Shame doesn't help you to see your mistakes clearly; it shrouds them in haze and causes you to avert your eyes. Being unashamed by mistakes allows you to see your them more clearly and to respond better when others point them out. Seeing mistakes more clearly allows you to analyze and deal with them. Not being hindered by the shame-recovery process frees you to deal with them more effectively.

Without shame, a mistake is just a mistake. You can stop yourself in mid-sentence and say, "Wait a minute. I am being such ass. Let's start over, shall we?"

Think of all the time you might save if you were never to succumb to shame or if you were never to aid others in succumbing to shame.

Big shame, little shame, it doesn't matter. How about making today shame-free. Each time you make a mistake, rather than feeling badly, just say to yourself, "Oh well, I was doing the best I could. Let's take a step back and try again, shall we?"

Happy Shame-Free Tuesday,
Teflon

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