How to change your behavior without spiraling into shame

Can you recall a time when you learned a new word?

There is a certain joy in acquiring a new word, in possessing the precise vocabulary to describe something.

When humans learn something new, however, they sometimes react negatively.

Instead of appreciating what they now know, they put themselves down for their past lack of knowledge.

They say, "Oh, why didn't I know that before?" or even, "How could I get to this age without ever knowing that?"

You can see this in the meme phrasing, "I was today years old when I learned..."

The same sequence of

  • learning
  • regret
  • remorse
  • shame

occurs in human relationships.

Have you ever discovered that one of your behaviors is actually driving somebody near you crazy?

It could be something you thought totally innocuous, such as whistling while you work, or it could be a bad habit of yours like leaving the door unlocked.

It could be unconscious biases or using language that hurts other people.

When you find out that your activity has bothered someone else, it is easy to react with shame and guilt, which can even turn into anger towards the one who pointed out your irritating behavior.

When these reactions occur, you are demonstrating an attachment to the past.

Part of you is saying, "I don't want to change," and this part is in conflict with another part saying, "I want to change," as well as, "I should have figured that out myself instead of bringing down criticism on my head!"

Invite yourself to step into the present again.

You have the power to change.

Furthermore, you have access to all the wisdom you require, and you have it as of this moment.

Don't curse your personal past, when you didn't know what you know now. Remorse is correct, and guilt is motivating because it focuses on actions, and actions are changeable. Shame is personal and non-productive.

When you operate from the present, you are standing in your power.

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