Shifting from Blame and Shame to Self-Compassion

Without intending malice, parents and teachers often leave a scarred battlefield behind them. “How could you?” “Why didn't you?” “You should have...” “What is wrong with you?” “You couldn't possibly have...” These admonishments stick. They borrow into the deepest recesses of your brain. Then, when you are trying to motivate yourself to do your best or do more, they slip out and chide you in the exact tone that your mom, dad, grandparent, teacher, or clergy used with you when you were young.

The shamer and blamer has become you. So, the important question is: How do you shift from that learned behavior to one that is more effective? Self-compassion is the beginning of the shift.

It starts with something like, “Hey, just because my mom or dad talked to me like this, I don't have to do the same. I can be kinder to myself and that's okay. And besides, I'm allowed to have a margin of error. I don't have to even try to be perfect. It's okay to put my best effort in and not go for perfection.”

Then to bring in some compassion toward and understanding of your parents like, “They didn't know any better. They were doing their best to raise me to be a great person. They had no idea that what they were saying pierced my heart so deeply. I can forgive them, love them, and speak to myself differently. That's my job now.”

Then, there is always the angle of talking to yourself like this: “You know you accomplish more when you feel good, when you're happy and joyful. Shaming and blaming yourself just makes you shut down. If you are positive, you'll be happier and then it will be easier to move forward.”

Using any of the ideas above or any others that get you out of the survive side of your brain to the thrive side is the first step.

Then, moving into practice is the second. Check out these practices: Your Short List of Positive Self-Talk, Questions for a Thrive Path, Positive Your Head, and Getting Back on the Road and choose one to start doing.

Here's where self-compassion comes in again. You've had a lifetime of practicing being hard on yourself and probably not that much time practicing self-talk that really helps you feel great, do good things for yourself, and actually change the architecture of your brain. As you practice self-compassion, you will be in the midst of what is called self-directed neuroplasticity. When you practice something new, your brain works to develop new synaptic connections so that you literally grow your brain. The old connections don't go away. They are embedded deeply in your brain. But, you can develop new networks that can get stronger and stronger with practice. Over time, self-compassion can become your go to self-motivation program.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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