As I’ve mentioned before, I am taking a local class this semester called The Science of Willpower. This class gets more and more fascinating each week. I always find myself wanting to write about it here but I can’t ever seem to get organized enough to do so. This week, however, some of the things my teacher mentioned hit home so much that I knew I had to take the time to write it down here.

This week’s topic was The Abstinence Violation effect. This happens when you have a goal and then you do something that you’d consider a ‘slip.’ For example, you’re on a diet and then you have a chocolate chip cookie. You were “abstaining” and you violated that. Makes sense? So if you were to do that, what do you think would happen next? Many of us would think that you would feel super-guilty and shameful and this guilt and shame would stop you from slipping again. Right?


Not the way the brain seems to work.

There’ve been several studies that prove that the more you feel guilty/shameful about slipping, the more likely you are to slip AGAIN and AGAIN. And possibly slip worse.

Makes no sense?

Well, it’s as if once you slipped, you (and your brain) goes into the what-the-heck mode and you figure you already messed up so you might as well mess up more and more.

But here’s the even weirder part.

After you slip, if you take a moment and tell yourself “That’s alright. I messed up. I am human and many others mess up all the time, too. I forgive myself.”

You are now LESS likely to slip again!

Fascinating, no?

So the cure to the abstinence violation effect is: self-compassion. If you take a moment to be aware, let go of the shame/guilt and then show yourself some self-compassion, you can more easily get back on track. Many people think forgiving yourself means letting yourself off the hook. It appears that’s not the case. It’s the key to getting back on track.

I found this to be fascinating and extremely important. I live with a lot of goals. I work hard on my goals but I certainly slip often. And knowing the effect of shame vs. self compassion is really crucial in being able to get back on track sooner than later.

So there you go, if you’re anything like me, next time you slip, remember the rule: no shame/no guilt.

Forgive yourself.

And then get back on track.

8 comments to Slipping

  • ErinK.

    I am so glad you took time to write about this. I have been inspired (by you and others) to eat better/less and move more. This is the first time that I have made this a goal, but given myself permission to make mistakes. I refuse to let this time be all or nothing, I will make mistakes but will forgive myself and move on. Thanks Karen for yet another amazing post!

  • Thanks for sharing. I am glad you wrote about this and am more glad that I get to read this. I agree and fall victim to my own self- judgements all the time – so instead of reflecting and realizing it is only “ok” to ne weak and move on, I would make the worse mistake of giving it up altogether. Your post is a great lesson to me. Thanks.

  • […] after a semi-dramatic declaration… but instead of beating myself down, I took advice from karenika’s blog post about slipping. I am hereby admitting my failure and probably, lack of willpower, if anything else. […]

  • Rosa

    This happens to me with every cookie – I eat one and then what the heck why not the whole package! I will try to forgive myself next time. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • dawn

    I like this and loved reading it. I hadn’t thought of it this way, good to know now!! Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • I’ve loved hearing about this local class as it sounds fascinating. I’ve found that forgiving myself works well for some many things – like you said in your video ‘just start’ not think about starting. Works well for forgiving too.

  • Christine

    Thanks for taking the time to write about your lesson. It am a good one for laying on the guilt, so from this day forward I am going to take some compassion. Sounds like an really cool class, I am sure there are lots of life lessons you will get from the class. Please share more!

Leave a Reply to Creative Business 101 – Pricing For Printable Art | - the virtual creative journal of Artist Linda Tieu Cancel reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.