The Silent Self-Sabotage
By Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC
“You are not failing at your goals because you lack self-discipline.”
- Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC
There is a part of me that actually looks forward to January goal-setting. It is like I am unconsciously counting on the new goals to get me back on track and help me stop the “runaway train” of my undisciplined behaviors.
Setting goals allows me to imagine the best version of myself—twenty pounds lighter, efficient with my time, taking chicken soup to a sick friend… and the list continues of my idealized behaviors. Usually my first two weeks are encouraging, as I am out exercising, saying no to sugar and donating outdated clothes to Goodwill. But by week-three, the unexpected stressors and demands of life start to erode all my resolutions.
I start to panic like Julia Roberts’ character, Maggie, did in the film, Runaway Bride, when she took her eye off the goal of her groom’s handsome face. She loses her bearings and becomes overwhelmed by trying to accomplish that which she feels is impossible to do—to become and maintain something she is not.
Seriously, how does Hollywood depict our real struggle in a single scene?
We keep trying to change our “essence” and push and fight to become something that deep down, we don’t believe we are. That is why it is only a matter of time before we let go of our lofty New Year’s resolutions and hope no one else remembers how boldly we announced them. We soon join in the self-deprecating humor of our culture and laugh at our failures while really, we silently lose the hope of becoming who we long to be.
So, what is my point?
It is this:
You are not failing at your goals because you lack self-discipline.
Rather, you are losing the fight because of the underlying, core belief that you are utterly flawed and beyond repair.
Shame is the cancerous, unspoken and often, unrecognized belief that my very essence is not, and never will be, as good as others. No matter how hard I try, I can’t hide the fact that there is something defective about me that will always keep me from finding the love, joy and satisfaction in life that others seem to have.
Shame has many sources. Maggie, for example, experienced the public shame of three failed attempts at the altar; the family shame that came from being a child of an alcoholic; the professional shame of not reaching her potential; and greater than even these - the shame of having self-serving character as seen through her flirtatious behavior with her best friend’s husband.
Maggie had been trying to “change” herself and “fix” herself for years with no success. Much like you and I, her discipline and new self-help strategies weren’t working any better than our New Year’s goals have year after year.
Four Ways to approach this year differently.
So, what changed for our Runaway Bride chick flick to have a happy ending? Maggie faced the real issue of her toxic shame. She chose to deliberately target the deep crevices where shame had seeped into every area of her life - from her relationships to her goals. The following are four ways Maggie changed her approach that can serve as a guide to help us experience a game-changing year.
1. get honest
First, she recognized her problem had to be solved from the inside out.
Instead of trying to make herself over on the outside, she needed to find who she truly was within. This involves getting honest. Honesty with ourselves is not as easy as you may think. To be truly honest, you have to be willing to hear where you have failed God, yourself and others. And you have to let go of excuses. You may be familiar with the verse that says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The first offensive strike against shame is to tell the truth - first to yourself, and then a trusted friend. This frees you from keeping the tormenting secret of your failures bottled up inside where they can constantly condemn you.
Secondly, you need to grieve your losses.
Whether it be the loss of an uncaring parent, a moral failure, a physical flaw or anything that keeps you stuck. Instead of trying to suppress, out-run or medicate the losses, we simply need to feel the sadness and the hurt from our losses. Then, we can bring closure to the pain. Healthy and whole people truly have learned the secret of grieving well. The secret is to recognize the need for forgiveness of self and others. In my opinion, Christianity alone deals with the topic of forgiveness completely. John Eldridge’s Epic sums it up well. Don’t move on to step three until you have fully grasped your grief and practiced forgiveness in your core being.
Thirdly, you need to discover that your value is found in just being you.
Maggie started appreciating her unique talents and quirks. Instead of doubting them, she learned to embrace them. As a result of valuing her uniqueness, she was then free to create. Whether it was a new egg dish or an architectural lamp, Maggie was free to embrace the present moment instead of regretting and trying to overcome her past. Instead of trying to become—she simply was.
4. speak out loud
Lastly, you have to speak it out loud.
Why is this crucial for defeating shame in your life? Because speaking out loud is like the use of punctuation. It tells you where something begins, ends and starts again. It serves as a boundary that keeps us from run-on sentences and losing our way and clarity. Punctuation is universal. Everyone tends to respect its role and rules. When we speak out loud we are declaring ourselves as worthy of respect and value. In facing her shame, Maggie went first to her alcoholic father after years of hurt and loss, and she respectfully drew new lines in their relationship. Then, she went to her ex-fiancé, Ike, and vulnerably expressed her failures along with her newly found value which she knew would be the key in establishing a healthy and ongoing relationship.
So, new year, new you? I believe it is possible. Tackling shame is the name of the game if you are going to see a different ending to your goal setting in 2019. I recommend several must-haves on your bookshelf as you begin on your journey:
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown
The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson
Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch.
And of course, I recommend watching the chick flick, Runaway Bride!
Utter out loud a true farewell to the silent self-sabotage.
It’s time to be who you are without shame telling you differently.