I talk a lot about shame and how to deal with it--in fact, in case you’re new here, I have an online course called Shame Resilience Skills. This will be the first of a series of posts where I will discuss shame specifically in relation to different things that can come up in our lives. So, to start, let’s talk about what to do when you feel shame about your productivity.
The first step to reducing shame in any situation is always to recognize it. Say to yourself “I am in a shame spiral about productivity”, or “I am getting caught up in all the messages about my productivity being tied into my worth”. Remind yourself that this is shame talking.
If you’re ready to explore shame about productivity in greater depth, you might want to ask yourself where you first learned that you needed to do more in order to feel good enough. A lot of the time, the way that this works begins with an experience where something bad happens in our lives. For example, we are bullied, or a parent is neglectful, or we experience another type of hardship. But the child brain doesn’t know how to make sense of these difficult events and, at a young age, is very, very egocentric. What this means is that a child believes everything happens to them because of their own doing. So if something bad happens, a child believes it must have been because of something they did or didn’t do. A child’s understanding of why abuse or neglect happened might be “It’s because I’m not good enough”. They’re not able to see the bigger picture of why a parent would be neglectful or someone would be abusive toward them and realize that it has nothing to do with them. Instead, they accept the idea that it’s because they are not good enough as a fact.
Because feeling not good enough is so uncomfortable, we as children will do what it takes to get away from this feeling. If we truly believe at our core that we’re not good enough, then what makes sense in order to cope with that? Children try to “be better” in ways like increasing their productivity and achievements at school, or by being more likeable and pleasing in their families and in their relationships. They do everything they can in order to earn a sense of worthiness. What the child doesn’t realize is that they never had to earn it to begin with.
This is your reminder now – you don’t have to earn your worthiness. It’s okay to put down your projects, close your laptop, and rest for the day.
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing trauma, building shame resilience, and setting boundaries.
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.