I sincerely enjoy the daily guided meditations on Calm. There are many meditation type apps that are packed with goodness and resources. If you aren’t hooked up with one, consider giving one of them a try!

Today’s meditation led by Jeff Warren (called “The Daily Trip” on the Calm app) talked about common humanity. He was describing his own experience of always trying to “fix” certain parts of himself, and then doing the exact thing he thought he’d “fixed” again, and regretting it, again.

Jeff was explaining that this is something we all do, and it certainly resonated with me. We make a plan (don’t eat this or that) hold on tight for days or weeks, then eventually we indulge, then move to self loathing, guilt and even shame (my words not his.)

If you are one to lose your temper, you might swear off ever doing that again, after you hurt people’s feelings or react in a way that is not “who you are.” Days or weeks later, you do it again. Then you move into, “how did I get here again? Or why can’t I fix this one part of myself?”

The behavioral feedback loop is one that we run (or runs us) hundreds of times a day whether we realize it or not. Compassion around our self improvement goals is usually absent, but recognizing that we are not alone in letting ourselves down, that we are in fact “human” can at least be a comfort along the way.

What is NOT comforting is when our guilt turns to shame. I learned this distinction from Brene’ Brown and I have never forgotten it. As Brene’ says (paraphrasing), guilt is what we experience, when we engage in a behavior that is not consistent with who we are. We may regret it. “I did something I am not proud of.”

Shame is different. Shame is insidious and dangerous. Brene’ says that shame, is when we take the poor choice to be who we are, and not just a behavior. We don’t separate “who” we are from “what” we did.

Guilt: I did something that I wish I didn’t. I made a bad choice. I acted in a way that is inconsistent with my core. I will do better next time.

Shame: I am a bad person. I am inherently flawed. I will never be good. I can’t trust myself. I am scared people will find out who I really am.

Are you able to see the difference? Feeling guilty implies there is hope for change. We can learn from our misgivings and make better choices. Shame is a lose-lose game. If we are inherently “bad” and can’t trust ourselves, we see everything through that lense, afraid all of the time that our true colors will show and everyone will find out we are terrible and not worthy of love.

Obviously a complicated topic, but since Jeff Warren’s meditation today focused on this common human experience of wanting to fix our “flaws” I wanted to share these distinctions on guilt and shame. They are critical to our own internal morale if we want to actually evolve and even self actualize.

Let’s not let our mistakes define us, as we take comfort in the fact that wanting to do better next time is something innate to living in a human body. Being human is what drives our pull to make better choices, while also being the exactly capable vehicle in which we can attempt to do so.

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