Take Shame Out of Motivation to Get Healthy Results

by Carmen Catterfield, MA, Honeybee Healing & Counseling Services

We live in a culture that values change. We constantly set new goals, try new things or attempt to change old behavior. This can help us feel driven, motivated, accomplished. 

Too often, though, trying to change something in our lives leads to feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame and failure. 

Change starts with motivation. We often are motivated to create change based on what we don’t like about ourselves or what we don’t have in our lives: I want to go to the gym because I don’t like the way my body looks; I want to change my diet because I don’t like the way it impacts my health; I want to change my spending habits because I don’t have enough money. 

Change is often born out of a mindset of inadequacy — the minute we want to change we start experiencing shame that we even have to change.

Shame as a motivator is like mud, though — the minute we start to experience it, we get stuck, start to shut down. It makes us feel like a failure or that we’re not good enough. 

What if instead of being focused on what we don’t have, we shift our mindset to what we will get? What do we want to create? 

Use your imagination to shift your thinking. This moves us from, “I don’t like my body therefore I want to exercise” to “I want to exercise to feel comfortable and confident in my body.” It moves us from shame to celebration.

It can also expand how we reach our goal. When I’m focused on feeling comfortable and confident in my body, sometimes that means taking a rest day or eating something delicious or wearing whatever I want. With shame, change is rigid and often painful, keeping us focused on what isn’t there. 

When we are celebrating ourselves, change becomes fluid, playful and expansive. So the next time you want to create a change, ask yourself: How will this help me celebrate myself?