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3 Reasons Why Shame is Your Friend

3 Reasons Why Shame is Your Friend

 

    Previously we discussed how Fear is your friend, because can guide you towards what’s important for you, motivate you to take action to improve your odds, and you give you a rush. We also discussed how Sadness can be your friend, because Sadness  shows you what you care about, Sadness helps you to appreciate what you have, and Sadness requires you to be authentic. Today we are going to talk about how Shame is your friend. This one is a bit trickier than the first two, but it’s no less powerful.

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    1. Shame Indicates Your Vulnerabilities

    First, Shame shows you what you believe about yourself, and what your vulnerabilities are. We all have our weak spots, and, when you think about it, wouldn’t you rather be aware of them than not? So, you may ask, how does this work? Great question, I’m glad you asked. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” When you feel shame, you are subconsciously consenting to what was said about you. Hmmm, sounds complicated you say. Fair enough, here’s an example. If someone were to call me stupid, it would roll  right off my back. No part of me feels stupid. I have a PhD from the University of Chicago, and they don’t just hand those out for free. I have full faith in my intellectual abilities. Now, when someone calls me ugly, I feel a flush of shame, because when I was a kid, I felt ugly, and part of me still feels that way sometimes, so that indicates that I am still carrying around that belief about myself, buried in my subconscious. When someone insults you and you get upset, part of you believes the insult might be true, that’s insight into what you believe about yourself, and it indicates what you might want to work on as personal growth.

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    2. Shame Deflates Your Ego

    Second, Shame deflates your ego. When you have done something that hurts yourself or others, you feel ashamed. When someone calls you on it, you feel even more ashamed. Both of those things are good, by the way. We all do things that violate our values (and that feeling of Shame can show you what those are, by the way!), and Shame is the emotion we feel in response to our values being hurt, just as physical pain is your body’s response to being hurt. Shame gets us out of our self-conscious ego that drives us to make selfish or foolish choices, and back into our values and our community.

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    3. The Back-Handed Compliment

    Lastly, Shame is actually a back-handed compliment. You can only feel shame if you have a conscience and it’s working! Maybe you do something stupid or cruel, and you feel ashamed. That’s great! That means you are a decent human being with a conscience. A psychopath won’t feel shame, but you do, so you are a good person! The fact that you feel bad about yourself is actually cause to feel good about yourself! Shame also highlights what your values are, because you only feel it when you violate your values. Also, when you feel Shame, part of you knows you can do better. No one feels ashamed that they can’t fly or breathe underwater, because these are impossible! You may feel ashamed that you don’t make more money, but that means that you already believe you could be making more money! Another back-handed compliment! So, while Shame may be quite painful in the moment, if you reflect on it and deconstruct it, you can actually find a lot to be proud of (I know, weird, right?)

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    So, Shame shows you what you believe about yourself and what your vulnerabilities are, it deflates your ego, and it is actually a backhanded compliment! Not bad, that friend has a lot of wisdom and good advice for you, even thought it may seem hard to swallow at first.

     

     

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    Dave Kaiser

    An Executive Coach who helps people make better use of their time, from productivity to living their life's mission.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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