Meet Wildflower Group member Carrie Kollmar, who has a story to share. She wants you to be gentle with yourself and not tie constant achievement to your self worth and happiness. She offers tips on changing those tapes we all run in our minds on shame, failure and self esteem and has found more balance and contentment in life. Thank you Carrie!
For most of my life, I have equated achievement with self-worth. From the time parents and teachers began showing approval for a job well-done, I have not only blurred the line between achieving a goal with my self-esteem and worth, I have made them one and the same.
Not everyone who reads this will relate, thank goodness! Because while working on and achieving goals is a great way to go about your daily lives, making that synonymous with what you deserve as a person is not the best idea. When others want to shower me with praise, I am smiling outwardly with gratitude, while inwardly criticizing my shortcomings on this or that.
What about “failure”? We have all probably heard that failures are part of life and should be welcomed as teaching moments…platforms from which to launch ourselves into a new direction, or the same direction for another try. Absolutely true. However, for the person who ties their self-worth to their achievements, these learning moments get lost in the shame with which we cover ourselves like a heavy, suffocating blanket. It’s difficult to truly receive praise while under the covers nursing a wounded psyche.
Shame has been named by many wise people as the most detrimental emotion we manifest. Yes, we create it. However, un-creating it is not easy. Just like all self-esteem factors, our opinions of ourselves begin when we are very young. We pull influence from family, then friends, then other outside forces….feedback that we attempt to line up with what we think we should be or say or do. Through a multitude of experiences we formulate who we are with these interactions and our interpretations of our own performances in them. When we shame ourselves, this has extreme power over how we perpetuate these visions of how we “should” be. We can never measure up to the ideal we have created. Because all-too-often, the ideal is not even possible. I didn’t say it was logical.
Getting a good grade in a class (or all the classes), getting the solo in choir, getting that job we really want, creating something from the vision in our head into a piece of art….there’s an internal success-monitor that either gives us the gold star or the thumbs down. I am very internally-motivated, meaning my self-monitoring judge is more powerful than any other influence in my world. This can be great, because I really don’t need someone to bug me about staying on task or rising to the challenge. However, I am also my worst critic. I stay late at work to finish something that can easily be done tomorrow. But I have that internal judge telling me, “Hey, don’t be lazy…just because you didn’t get time to make those last 5 calls today is no excuse to leave on time!” I am constantly checking my own to-do list in my mind (or often, on paper) to make sure I am getting everything done. I have a tendency to judge myself harshly if I do not.
My cousin also suffers from this “affliction”. I think she put it best when she said to me once, “I feel like I must earn my place on the planet every single day”. How did we become so hard on ourselves that we don’t feel like we even deserve to EXIST until we have achieved?!
This is not easy to overcome. I work at it daily. I have gotten better at loving myself and accepting myself for just being. But I must always work at awareness I am running those critical tapes in my mind. This fall, I am going on a vacation. I intend to have 3 consecutive days where I achieve virtually nothing! I will be so proud if I can do it!