Shame and Striving by Ellie Hyatt

The following quote by Bob Stahl allowed me to make an important connection this week in my journey toward wholeness. “ The mind that’s perennially striving for a better place or condition creates suffering by leaving the present moment, which is the only place we can experience love, peace or happiness.

I only suffer when I am striving and the condition I most frequently want to change is any form of discomfort. I have spent the past few years studying and teaching compassion. I know striving to free myself from discomfort by criticism is based on a false belief, that there is something wrong with me. I now believe striving is based on shame.

Last week I finished reading a book I mentioned in a previous blog, “Whatever Arises Love That.” The final chapters of the book talk about the type of experiences you have as you pursue a spiritual path. I did not identify with what was being shared and thus concluded I must be doing something wrong! Of course I knew from reading the book that I should embrace this reaction. That was not my first response. I wanted to be free of this self criticism, a frequently practiced response that produces discomfort! I now recognize this response was shame.

I do know when I become the observer of my thoughts, I can choose a response.When I am suffering I can choose self-compassion; which is a form of self-acceptance. Self-compassion is a learned skill, and is contrary to what most of us have been taught to practice. Self-kindness, not criticism provides the emotionally supportive environment for change.

Research on self-compassion shows it reduces anxiety, depression, stress, rumination and fear of failure. At the same time it increases life satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence optimism, creativity and gratitude! 

Wanting to improve my thinking and my behavior does not need to produce shame but when it does, I can recognize it as a universal human response and respond with kindness!