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The Solution Is the Problem: The Shame Series: Part Two

Two weeks ago, I started a series on shame. It’s the first time I’ve tried writing a series of articles on the same topic. Normally my blogs are more impromptu so that you can see the variety of mind-tricks someone with bi-polar experiences. But I realized shame colors every aspect of my life. Bi-polar – just the label – makes me feel shame. But there have been many other sources. Today, though, I want to show you one way I avoid the shame work.

One of the ways people ignore shame is by MOVING TOWARD or appeasing others. We seek to overcome the shame by showing our worth. If I’m necessary, needed, or valued, then I must NOT BE BAD. Right?

Too Much To Do

Evaluate your to-do list. Do you take on too much? Is your to-do list so ridiculous that you could never accomplish it all with any degree of quality? Mine is. This is a boundary issue – and for me it’s also a shame issue. I agree to do things or I decide to do things or I do more than is required all the time. Currently, I am taking three writing classes, teaching two writing classes, running a writer’s critique group, trying to write novel number two, writing this blog, trying to get people to buy novel number one, and considering novel three as well as a non-fiction work based on this blog.

Why??

There are several reasons – some helpful, most harmful. Let’s see if I can be honest with myself (and vulnerable with you).

  • Praise – when I over-give, I receive praise. Praise makes me feel LESS BAD. When I receive praise it’s because someone sees SOMETHING GOOD in me.
  • Improvement – I never believe I’m GOOD ENOUGH. So, I take classes – trying to be better. I also seek praise, validation, comfort from the words of “experts”. I’m constantly seeking someone to tell me I’m enough. NOTE: There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve and learn – but when it becomes obsessive or compulsive or necessary for mental health, it’s time to admit you’re avoiding something.
  • Learning – beyond improvement, I’ve always FELT DUMB, LESS THAN, UNITELLIGENT. This stems from several events/comments during my formative years. Therefore, I’m constantly trying to dispel this belief. Again, there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn more or new things. It’s my motivation to prove I’m not stupid that’s wrong. When I’m learning because a topic interests me, I’m healthy. When I’m learning to fight off low self-esteem or lack of confidence, I’m unhealthy. Today, I’ve veered into the unhealthy zone.
  • No Time To Feel – have you ever noticed when your to-do list is jam-packed, you leave yourself no time to feel or evaluate motives? And, at night, once I’ve shut down for the day, I am too tired to engage my feeling center. This is the most important reason to get this back under control. I cannot let my emotions get buried because they can be volcanic.
  • Productivity – I was raised to believe that value comes in the form of production [as opposed to just being me]. My siblings and I all have an amazing work ethic. But, sadly, it comes from a place of needing to be valued for what we do rather than who we are. Don’t laugh, but every time I finish the laundry, I send my husband a text. He doesn’t care about the laundry. But, I want him to know I did something of value.
  • Pride – as opposed to praise. I feel a great deal of pride when I have a long list and check things off. For a while this was so crazily necessary, that I wrote things on my to-do list just so I had lots of check marks. I’m past that at least!
  • Bragging Rights – I hate admitting this but when I have a long to-do list, I can answer that question “what do you do?”. I hate that question, but I want to be able to answer it with something that sounds important, worthy, intelligent.
  • Self-Esteem – many people with bi-polar disorder suffer from low self-esteem. But, when I’m going that extra five miles, I get a boost in my self-esteem (from getting things done, from praise, etc.). This type of self-esteem is ethereal and will likely/definitely backfire -- but for a time, it feels great.
  • Excuses – when I stay too busy, I’m able to excuse several yuck things: 1) not to complete my “self-help” work that I hate; 2) the hard work on the novel (after all, I have to teach tomorrow so that has to be done today); 3) housework that I hate (i.e., mopping) … after all, if I’m being productive for others, I can justify not taking care of self, right??
  • Lots of Friends must mean I’m not BAD. I need to re-read/re-do my own Power of Six (watch for that coming soon!)

And Now?

Being honest about this is embarrassing (and shaming). But if I can keep this in my frontal lobe, I can begin to evaluate the to-do list so that it aligns with my values, goals and dreams. I can be honest with myself that I’m agreeing to such-and-such because I have a need for praise or a desire to avoid conflict or to feel competent. This realization will help me rebuild the boundaries that I’ve allowed to slip. It’s all about being CONSCIOUS and INTENTIONAL. Lately, I’ve been neither and it’s starting to bite me in the ass (again --- and the fact that it keeps happening only adds to the shame – ugh the never-ending circle). And, when my husband goes to edit this, I can expect a conversation (L).

Mania/Depression and the Ever Elusive Balance

One of the hallmarks of mania is the ability – or need – to be busy. It’s like the mind and the fingers can’t stay active enough. It’s a slippery slope because eventually I’ll wear myself out and when that happens, I’ll be forced to forgo my to-do list, to let others downs, to be unproductive. I’ll slip into depression – adding another layer of shame.

As I’m writing this, I’m crystal clear that I’ve tilted the balance toward mania. I’ve lost sight of MY values, MY goals, MY desires. I’ve gotten caught up in other people’s goals and accepted those as “right” as opposed to “right for them, not for me.” To that end, I will work again to redefine MY VALUES and then see what has to be adjusted to create the LIFE I WANT – a life where shame doesn’t rule the to-do list. That’s next week’s topic – refining my values and goals.

YOU?

What does your to-do list say about you and what you think of you? Are you the balanced priority? Are your boundaries in-line with your values? Can you say what your values are? Are you finding ways to cope with shame instead of “sitting in it”??

A Side Bar

When I over-do my list, I also can track too much spending (they go hand-in-hand). When I overspend, I add to my shame bucket and again don’t align with my goals. I MUST get a handle on my GOALS and spend accordingly. One of my goals is no debt ever and that goal is abolished when I over commit. Debt is shaming! Yet another reason to re-establish my goals and be INTENTIONAL in everything!

Your Response?

It seems there are lots of topics I can delve into regarding shame. I’d like to hear from you – is this resonating/helpful at all? My blog is helpful to me because it helps me process and be honest. But I also want you to get something valuable out of your time.

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    In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....

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