Having worked with clients for decades around many, many things, including how to calm down dynamics around the ways we feed ourselves and how we feel toward our bodies, I’ve long wondered, “Is this all about shame?”
In every woman’s story of how she feels betrayed by her own hand when she hurts herself with overeating or binges, or by the painful thoughts and beliefs that repeat relentlessly, there is shame at the heart of it. But only always.
I know this place oh-so-well. Having lived smack in the middle of my own binge eating struggles for years, I know that shame is what drives it all. That full-body feeling, that sickening sense of self-hate — that becomes the lens we see ourselves through.
Without getting at some of the shame, without naming it, the painful eating and body thoughts can’t get gone or stay gone because shame is a longstanding feeling with deep roots.
And when it becomes so closely entwined, so totally embodied by how we feel about our bodies and enacted by the way we feed ourselves… we have to bring true compassion into the mix if we want to let it go.
Shame is the birthplace of perfectionism
Here at Green Mountain, we’ve been showing a Brene Brown DVD called “The Hustle for Worthiness“. It’s all about learning to be seen and heard for who we truly are, without trying to people-please, to be the chameleon to get others’ approval in order to feel worthy.
The film is short and powerful and has led to some poignant discussions around here that continue into classes all week. Because we all get it. It’s not an easy thing to name or admit to but once you can really see how this works it’s a game-changer.
One of the things that Brene says during the talk that I think is worth sharing is “shame is the birthplace of perfectionism.” This is huge if you consider how it might be impacting the way you think about yourself, your relationships, the misery that all-or-nothing, black-or-white, right-or-wrong, good-or-bad thinking lives inside of you. The way it backs us into a corner and doesn’t allow us to even try.
That feeling of shame controls more than we may realize. Trying new things – probably not. Letting ourselves really truly reach for more, whether a job, a new partner, creating an environment that really supports us – probably not.
It may not even occur to us ways that we could do or have this because we are waiting until we are more “perfect” (for us that may mean “When I lose the weight, stop the binges, don’t hate my body so much“… fill in your own way that you postpone the things you really truly want.)
In the film, Brene makes the point that shame either sounds like “not good enough” or “who do you think you are?” Are you nodding your head yet? Personally, I really get this. Always knew the feeling of being careful, the fear of being seen as “too big for my britches” (for lack of a better more modern expression). I believe that weight, or the shame around how we feel in our bodies is sometimes how we stay emotionally safe. At some point we picked up the emotional energy, the message of “don’t you dare shine too brightly or take up too much space.”
The sense of never feeling good enough?
If you are reading this blog, I suspect you have some personal experience of this. Despite the myriad successes in your life, despite all of the ways in which you have loved, have given to others, have achieved… somehow it continues to leave you feeling not quite good enough.
Shame, like all painful beliefs or experience, tends to fester when kept under wraps. As we start to allow ourselves to be seen with our imperfections, with our fears and doubts, without rushing to slap a happy face on it all, or figure out how to do the cover-up dance and move into chameleon-mode to become whatever somebody else most wants or needs us to be — we can see that shame dissipates in the light. That so much of what we feel to be so very unacceptable in ourselves is often universal. That allowing ourselves to be seen and heard as we are is where the most beautiful connections are made.
I am not talking about talking and talking about our “wounds” or our problems, although with some choice people we may do that at times. But more about allowing ourselves to be open to vulnerability. Which is where so much of your true beauty lives. Where we can see each others’ hearts and bright lights in new ways, in ways that let us be who we are meant to be with our unique gifts and ways of being.
I so want that for you.