Managing self-shaming inner talk is key to career success.
Our self-talk has power. Self-shaming stops us from healthy behavior. We can learn to process the shame with compassionate re-thinking and choosing behaviors that move the needle toward the goal.
I made a faux pax on a Zoom meeting today. I always (well, almost always) have both video & audio muted when I log in. Today, I didn’t pay attention and my audio was unmuted. And, of course, I made a personal comment to my partner for the whole Zoom meeting room to hear.
I immediately caught my mistake and muted myself. But Shame had found its power. I was beyond embarrassed. My ears felt hot. That sinking, biting, burning feeling raised its ugly head in the pit of my stomach. For the next two minutes, the only thought in my head was ‘I am so ashamed. I am so ashamed. I am so ashamed.’ I wasn’t listening to the webinar. I was too busy listening to the self-shaming talk.
Then, I took a deep breath and channeled my inner-compassionate self. Yes, I had messed up. Yes, a few people will laugh at me. Yes, the next time I chat with the team leader, I will probably feel shame, again.
AND, yet, that moment was over. What was in my control NOW was soothing the feeling of shame with compassionate self-talk so I could do the ACTUAL work — of listening and learning. That re-routing of thought takes discipline. Here’s how the inner conversation went:
Shame Voice: I will never be able to face [..] again.
Compassionate, wise Voice: Yes, you will. You made a mistake. You corrected it. You learned from it. Next time, and forever (hopefully), you will mute first, before you do anything else.
Shame Voice: No, no, no, no. I will never get over this.
Compassionate Voice: Everyone makes mistakes. You will apologize, and be more careful next time. It is ok. No one is laughing at you. These are all compassionate and kind human beings on the call. We know this because of the kind of work they do in social justice advocacy. You will be ok.
Shame Voice: but… but… but…
Compassionate Voice (a bit more firmly, though still kindly): It is ok. You made a mistake. You are human. Now the next step is not to wallow in the mistake. Learn from it. And re-focus. Do the task you came here to do, which is listening to the talk, and learning.
Shame Voice: trying hard to keep the focus on itself but knowing that Compassionate Voice was going to keep it gently under control, and re-focus on the task at hand and to next step healthy behaviors.
- Do: Focus attention a bit more effectively on the talk.
- Write: Post about this experience to continue to learn, grow, and teach career success skills.
- Self-educate: Read Brene Brown’s work (and watch her TED talks) on shame and resilience.
Would love to know what strategies my readers use to compassionately, but firmly address shame thoughts to move the mind to helpful thoughts and behaviors.