Brian Petermeyer, MA, LMHCA
Keeping Shame Out of Your New Year's Resolution(s)
3 Solutions For New Year's Resolution(s) Sans Shame
The new year is a natural time for us to think about change and it usually starts with the inevitable question…”What is your new year's resolution?” As far as small talk goes, it’s as small as the weather. You can count on it being an ice-breaker during that first team meeting back at work, in the classroom, or wherever you might be. And if no person asks, a commercial certainly will!
So before you get asked, let's think about what we might actually want to change this year and how to take a step towards solutions driven by kindness and not by shame. Shame is the deceptive feeling of “I’m not good enough and therefore not worthy of love or good things.” When shame enters in, we often have a hard time accepting good from others and from ourselves. This keeps us from healthy change and stuck in a toxic cycle of destruction. So how do we avoid this destructive cycle in the New Year?
The things that drive us to change are often not out of a desire to love ourselves more, but rather we illuminate the things we want to fix or (strong word alert) “hate” about ourselves. I share this to invite you into a new way of thinking about the New Year and what it can mean to seek healthier change. We can all jot down a list of things we’d like to be different about ourselves, but I’m not sure those are the things we really want to change. Do I want to shed the belly fat that came from Covid/holidays? Sure, but what I really want to change is my ability to love and care for my body and the view I have towards it. Do I want to spend less time on my phone? Yes, although that isn’t going to happen unless there is an internal shift that understands the reasons I look to my phone for comfort, escape and distraction. Do I want to want to stop buying things and spending unnecessary money? Of course! However, what I really want to know is why I’m drawn to buying clothes and enough shoes to dress a small village. I may need help regulating in certain situations, but there is a reason I tend to turn towards these things, that reason is often shame.
Ironically, what I’ve noticed about myself (over many repetitions), is that when I use shame to try to correct a pattern or behavior, not only do I not stop, but I end up doing it more! Have you felt or experienced that? Well, that’s the destructive cycle I'm talking about. Do you hear how insidious and toxic shame can be? The thing that may drive us to want to change is often shame, and because the way the cycle works, it will be the same feeling we are left with when our resolution(s) ends after week 3, day 3, or hour 3. Soooo, we absolutely need to remove shame, right? I know, it's easier said than done, but let's take a step!
This year, as the New Year sits patiently waiting behind the glory of Christmas day, I can't help but desire to do it different this year. I hope to seek change with kindness, not with shame. Here are 3 solutions to help get us all a little closer:
3 Solutions to keep shame out of your New Year’s resolution(s):
Language matters. Flip to the positive and be mindful to use words that avoid shame inducing verbiage. Instead of, “I’m sick of my belly fat and want to lose weight.” Try, “I deserve to be the healthiest version of myself this year.”
Change is hard. We’re wired for routine, so please BE KIND TO YOURSELF!
Don't do it alone. When we try to change all by ourselves, it can be lonely and isolating. Who is someone you can share it with? Do you have a safe person in your life? One of the biggest changes I’ve ever made was to address my own shame and the healing I experienced came through relationships with my therapist and other safe people. Did change happen overnight? It did not. But not having to do it alone was half the battle.
This holiday season and beyond, you’re invited into a new way of thinking about change. Leaning into kindness and togetherness just might result in some much needed healing, growth, AND change. Remember, isolation is shame's best friend, so please DON’T go alone!
If you’d like to set up a free 20-minute phone consultation to talk more about how shame might have infiltrated your life, feel free to reach me HERE.