This is my second blog post about shame and I’m starting to believe it won’t be my last. Just when you think you’ve uncovered all the dark stuff, you find some more lurking in a shadowy corner. Self-compassion practice is like peeling an onion; when we start to treat ourselves with more kindness, old problems and emotional wounds begin to reveal themselves one layer at a time.
I’ve discussed my struggles with body image and relationship to exercise in previous blogs. When I discovered Kristin Neff‘s work on self-compassion 6 years ago one of the first big revelations was that trying to stay motivated by berating myself was an ineffective strategy to achieving my health goals. I’ve done a lot of work in this area and I have experienced some success. I can honestly say that I usually motivate myself with compassion and rarely ever beat up on myself. But there is one sticky area. I have never completely given up monitoring my weight and feeling discouraged or jubilant in response to the number on the scales. I’m consistent with a healthy diet and exercise regime and my weight has remained stable for about 5 years. If I am really strict with myself and restrict carbs I can lose about five pounds but I always come back to the same weight range as soon as I start eating normally. Sometimes up a couple pounds and sometimes down.
I bought some clothes a few weeks back and it must have been during one of those times when I was down a few pounds. The clothes were a little snug, but I told myself that I was doing well with my diet and exercise and I would likely lose a little more. So I bought several articles that are too small. Now every time I put these clothes on I feel uncomfortable and unattractive since all of my bulges are showing. While reading Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead and reflecting on the tight new clothes I suddenly realized “OMG - I feel like I am not enough as I am”. Here I am, a 56 year old self-compassion teacher, still making purchases for the body that I intend to have in the future! Still not accepting my body as it is today. It’s so humbling to discover yet another layer on this shame onion!
But it’s ok. As Brene says – shame cannot survive when you take it out into the light, acknowledge it, share it and realize that you are not alone. Everyone has shame. This is our common humanity. And I know the antidote to shame is self-compassion. I recognize that I’m not alone with shame related to my beliefs about my weight – lots of women feel this way. I can become more mindful and name it when shame happens and then choose to respond to myself with kindness.
So today I’m revealing another layer on my shame onion. This layer was developed by a lifetime of self-critical thoughts and cultural messages that said my inability to make my body perfect made me not enough. I will speak about this shame with all of you and I will bring it out into the light. I’ve decided to make a vow to give up the ever present goal to lose ten pounds and this will be a hard habit to break. I have shared this vow with friends and with my personal trainer. I want to cherish and be grateful for my health and level of fitness that my body has today. I want to know that I am enough – just as I am.
If this resonates with any of you please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.
With Kindness, Patricia
Cathy & Patricia