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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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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