I have often told clients that goals are stars in the sky. We can use them to guide us and inspire us. When goals are used as a a stick to beat ourselves, they’re no longer useful. So, put the stick down. Stop beating yourself up. Tomorrow is a new day.
Self-destructive habits reinforce guilt and shame. A few definitions: Guilt is “Oops! I made a mistake.” Shame is “I am a mistake.” It can also include feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, helplessness, powerlessness, inferiority, and many more horrible feelings. So, let’s say that you feel guilty about your self-destructive habit or addiction and you want to give it up. You make some progress, and then you relapse.
You’re right back to square one. Starting over. This is where many of my clients start feeling guilty and ashamed. They engage in negative self-talk and feel terrible about their relapse. ("I’m doing it again. I’m so stupid. Why can’t I do it right?”) Of course, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. We all have slips. But some people get REALLY down on themselves, making it harder to bounce back. Now they’ve put extra pressure on themselves to perform. They must do it PERFECTLY. And let’s face it: no one is perfect.
So what do you do instead? You learn to forgive yourself. You learn to be gentle with yourself. Over and over and over again. When you catch yourself in the act of being hard on yourself, say something different. You could say, "It's just a mistake. We all make mistakes. I'm still a fine and worthwhile person. I choose to let this go and not be so hard on myself."
Claim your right to be human (translation: less than perfect). Put the stick down. As you move on and resolve to let go of the shame or guilt, you will value yourself more, making it easier to do better in the future.