Shame on You
No joke, not two seconds ago I typed this text to a friend after telling him that I’d found a glaring mistake on a just-published blog:
“I feel foolish.”
Guess what that is? That’s shame.
In my estimation, shame runs along a spectrum. At one end is shyness, then discouragement, embarrassment, self-consciousness and finally humiliation.
We think of shame as something you do to somebody: “You should be ashamed of yourself!” or “Shame on you!” But truthfully shame is a self-inflicted wound.
The final chapter of “Emotional Eating 101” is about shame. Shame is a dirty lens through which you see yourself. No matter what you achieve or accomplish it is instantly diminished because your vision is distorted. Your own thoughts play cruel tricks on you. There is no peace because even if someone offers reassurance, you don’t really believe them.
This stuff hits me where I live. On a scale of zero to curled up in the fetal position, I’m somewhere around a six and a half, but I’ve had days where I’m totally in the red zone.
Shame is not a stand-alone emotion: it comes shrink-wrapped with fear.
For as long as I can remember I was afraid I wasn’t good enough just as myself, so I placed too much value on other people’s assessment of me. I could not take the chance of being rejected or ridiculed so as time went on I took fewer and fewer risks. I tried to stay in my safe little bubble, hiding behind my children and my busy schedule when invited to do something outside my comfort zone.
My efforts were in vain of course because I could not anticipate every threat to my self-esteem.
One year when taking the kids to sit on Santa’s lap for the obligatory Christmas photo I was dealing with a cranky toddler who’d been standing in line for hours. I knelt down to whisper something reassuring in his ear and could not get back up on my own. I was so physically unwieldy that I couldn’t manage my own body weight. Naturally everyone in line could see; a few kind souls came to my rescue and helped me up, but my humiliation was beyond words.
These open wounds never heal because they are ripped open over and over again.
Perhaps cruelest of all, when I tried to stuff down my fear and self-consciousness with food I exacerbated the problem by putting on more weight.
Ultimately my obesity became the source and the manifestation of my shame.
It is a pain I cannot describe and would not wish on another living soul.
If you have experience with these feelings on the shame spectrum and have turned to food to cope you know all too well what I mean. Intuitively I’m sure you also know that no diet can fix this.
But it is fixable.
I cannot tell you how much I wish I had a one-size-fits-all answer to accomplishing that. If I did, I’d be a gazillionaire. Regrettably I am not.
What I can do is offer insight and example through my own experience of turning around emotional eating and obesity.
Ultimately, I have found an appetite for something greater than food. I crave accomplishment and risk, adventure and honesty. But the text I shared with you earlier about my mistake reveals that I’m still on that journey.
Feeling “foolish” is sometimes my gut reaction, even now.
Losing weight is hard, but it gets easier. And you’re so damn worth it!
Let’s go get it!