Guilt: The Silent Self-Esteem Killer
In this week’s Body Love Tip, I share with you a few tips to help you start keeping the commitments you make to yourself, in any area of your life, so you can avoid the guilt-driven-habit cycle, and finally start seeing the progress you want in your health and your life.
And I’m speaking from years and years of experience.
Why Letting Ourselves Off the Hook Causes More Damage Than We Realize
Breaking a commitment to ourselves may not seem like such a big deal. After all, if we’re only accountable to ourselves, who will even know if we don’t follow through? How can it be a big deal if no one is affected by our broken commitment?
We may think it affects no one. But in fact, it affects, quite deeply, the very person we’ve made the commitment to: ourselves.
It doesn’t matter what area of life we’re talking about, if we’ve made a commitment to ourselves to do something, and we break our word – even if we’re the only ones who would know or notice – it affects us.
Because more often than not, with that broken commitment, comes guilt. And unfortunately, with that guilt, comes a growing body of evidence that supports a lowered self-belief (in our ability to change), and eventually, a lowered self-esteem.
Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way how damaging these broken commitments can be. With every new diet I broke, every “gym” hour scheduled in my calendar and didn’t do, and every yoga class I planned to attend and didn’t. Even though I always had a number of great excuses/justifications for not following through, and it never affected anyone but me – the impact on myself was indeed damaging: my self-esteem shrunk with each decision I made to break my commitment.
This morning, it struck me how far I’ve come with respect to keeping my word, especially to myself, which is what inspired this week’s topic (I’d made a commitment this year to record a video and write a blog post each week, and I followed through on it this week, despite having a million good reasons to let myself off the hook! You can watch my video to hear more of my personal insight.)
I got to this point over time, but I know that all change starts with an awareness of what’s “not working” right now – and I believe, that what’s not working for most people in the area of permanent change (especially with physical health – ie. nutrition and fitness), is how lightly we take the commitments we make to ourselves – because we can tend to think it’s no big deal if we break them… “it’s not hurting anyone else”…
But it hurts us, and it hurts us on a deeper level than we may even realize.
We usually just think of the immediate superficial damage. When in reality, skipping one workout, or eating an entire bag of chips or a whole tub of ice-cream won’t necessarily have a drastic devastating impact on us physically right away, but it definitely adds to the underlying damage happening under the surface: it changes how we think and feel about ourselves, which further impacts our behaviours and habits.
Unfortunately, the impact of the guilt, lowered self-belief and self-esteem, causes a vicious cycle of making new commitments to ourselves and breaking them. And this can transfer to and from various areas of our lives, including our finances and our relationships (i.e. if we make an unaffordable purchase on our credit card and no one else sees the bill, it still hurts us….if we betray a partner, and no one finds out, it still hurts us. Guilt hurts us.)
Guilt is a low-vibration, highly unproductive emotion, and if we experience it too often or stay with it too long when we do experience it, it will impede our ability to make any permanent changes.
So, how do we overcome this vicious guilt-driven habit cycle?
The trick is to reduce the opportunities for guilt as much as possible, which can be helped with these three tips:
1) Be Realistic
Make sure that you think through all your commitments before making them – treat commitments to yourself just as you would any commitments to others: be honest and realistic, look at your life and make sure that the commitment you’re making can realistically fit in. If it doesn’t, adjust accordingly (either the commitment itself, or your life) – until it seems doable.
You can always increase your commitments later. It’s better to make them smaller and build up, than to consistently break them because they’re too big. Also…make sure you realistically want to make the commitment in the first place. Committing to something because you really want to is very different to committing to something because you think you “should”.
2) Develop a “No Matter What” Attitude
If you make them realistic, you should be able to say that you’ll keep your commitments no matter what. Life is always happening, there will always be good excuses and justifications for not following through on your word, but the only way to not allow them to take over is to commit NO MATTER WHAT. It has an amazing impact on confidence building when you do something, even when you could have easily justified not doing it.
3) Focus on Progress, not Perfection
Perfection is paralyzing. And it’s often one of the best excuses out there for not following through on a commitment. It’s the All-or-Nothing excuse (one I’ve known quite well for most of my life): “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all.” But I’ve learned that the best way to get anything accomplished, without quitting or getting off track for too long, is to do a little bit at a time, take a little action every day, one step at a time, and it will add up to results.
I can honestly say that my health, my body, my business, and my life would not be where they are today (awesome, yet always progressing) if I hadn’t given up my perfectionism and tendency to over-commit and then let myself so easily off the hook. Guilt definitely would not have lead me here.
The only thing that’s ever helped me to really progress has been to build my self-belief from the inside-out. Not always the easy route, but it’s totally worth the ride.
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Do you have a guilt-pattern going on in your life too?
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