“Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” – Brene Brown
I’m putting the finishing touches on the new 200 page workbook for Heal Overeating: Untangled, and I’m jumping up and down excited to share it with you. As I write, I’m near tears because I feel so happy and proud. And yet I also feel so, so tender – my heart feels split open, vulnerable, naked.
Today, I finally understand this tender opening. I’ve struggled with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and low self esteem for most of my life. But more than that, I’ve struggled with the shame I feel about all of the above; the shame I feel about being broken, wounded, too sensitive, too empathic, and too emotional.
And of course, there’s the deep shame I feel about how I’ve coped with this pain, the shame in having had so many decades of eating disorders, the shame that I haven’t been able to fix myself into human perfection or be more in “control.” Yes, yes the deepest shame is this: you should’ve been more together. You should’ve prevented all this.
I’ve been ashamed of my very self.
When I’m in this shame trance of “You should’ve known better,” all sorts of patterns play out in my life. This is what ensues:
- I don’t love or accept myself. I beat myself up to be and do better.
- I lie to myself. Instead of getting help when I’m struggling, I isolate and hide in embarrassment, trying to gut it out on my own.
- I don’t give myself the support I need – whether that support comes in the form of seeing a psychiatrist and getting on medication, getting my finances in order, or admitting that I’m a binge eater. The suffering continues….
- I blame myself for my suffering. I believe it’s all my fault. I feel guilty, judged. I feel separate from others. This only makes me want to hide more.
- I hide my needs and emotions. I suppress, minimize, edit, shame them. Then I walk around with one hand tied behind my back as I try to maneuver with these giant unmet needs.
- I feel tight and anxious, trying to keep these messy needs down.
Suffering, suffering, suffering…
And yet. And yet.
When I can pause, remember and step out of the shame trance, something else happens….. a much different cycle.
With the shame softened, I can:
- Remember who I am – a being who is so much bigger than my “failures”
- Find our shared common humanity
- Love and accept myself
- Stop beating up on myself to do and be better
- Take a deep breath, stop cracking the whip, and get help when I’m struggling
- Reach out. Stop isolating and hiding.
- Accept and honor my needs
- Accept and honor my feelings
- Listen to myself
- Forgive myself
- Find the loveliness – the goodness – in my very being
So this brings me to the reason for my tears. I’m crying and vulnerable and happy and proud and feeling split open because I’ve finally realized what I’ve been writing about, teaching, and doing all these years: I’ve been healing shame. It’s why I’m so passionate about self compassion, mercy, befriending feelings, and self kindness. They’re how I’ve softened shame; and I want you to have this, too.
More than healing from food, more than healing overeating or sugar addiction or binge eating, what I most deeply want for you is healing from shame. To rest in your loveliness; to know your loveability; to feel held and accepted and that you belong. I want this for you and I’m crying, aching for it.
Softening shame is the key to allowing yourself – yes, allowing; most of us don’t allow ourselves to be real! – to be who you are. To feel what you feel, to need what you need, to see what you see, to know what you know.
When we shame our human needs and emotions (particularly those “dark” emotions like anger, despair, fear or grief), when we shame what helps us thrive, when we shame the things that support and nourish us – we’re stuck. We’re caught in a double bind: if we give ourselves what we need, or allow ourselves to feel what we feel, we feel ashamed. We feel guilty for needing or feeling whatever we’re needing or feeling.
If we don’t give ourselves what we need, then we stumble around in pain. Then we judge ourselves for feeling so undernourished and fragile – and for the messy ways (like food!) that we compensate for this emotional malnutrition.
What a bind. So we feel powerless to do the things that would support us, because there’s a judgment, a giant should in our heads that says, “I shouldn’t need XYZ to thrive.” We don’t give it to ourselves and we suffer.
But…. if we soften and question the shame, if we step out of the shame trance, then we can step out of the bind.
We can accept our needs and feelings. We can listen to them. We can honor them. We can give ourselves what we need. We feel free to give ourselves what we need. To paraphrase Rumi, when we soften the shame, “we remove a barrier to love.” We remove the double bind. In fact, it’s no longer there.
So I’ve been playing with this, stepping out of my shame binds.
Here are some of my experiments of late:
- This week I went to bed instead of pushing myself to stay up late and finish my work. I allowed myself to be tired and done and put the computer away. (This is why this blog post is a day late.)
- Yesterday I called up my friend Cara when I was feeling lonely instead of gutting it out and feeling disconnected.
- I said no to someone I love about something pretty big. (I’m still taking a deep breath about that one.)
- I talked with a friend after yoga and shared my sadness with her – a feeling I feel very vulnerable sharing because of times when I’ve felt shamed by others’ discomfort with my sadness, as well as my own internal shame about feeling sad.
This was incredibly freeing. So far, the world hasn’t ended. And in the case of talking to my yoga friend, I felt validated and heard, and realized that not everyone shames sadness. This healed something in me. And it felt really, really good. By the end of our talk, I felt hopeful, and even laughed.
My friend, what shame binds do you want to step out of? I invite you to try this and explore. Try doing the opposite of what your shame says you can’t do, and see what unfolds….
I’d love to hear about your experiences – please share in the comments.
Needing more hands on help?
If this post was helpful to you, you may enjoy these articles:
- Heal the shame that keeps you stuck in overeating
- Listen to this sample from session 10 of Untangled, on dropping blame, guilt and session
- Heal overeating by healing your relationship with yourself
I also encourage you to explore my overeating program, Heal Overeating: Untangled. Untangled is a 12 session audio program and 200 page workbook that heals the emotional roots of overeating – shame. In this program, my most popular, you’ll learn how to heal your relationship with food by healing your relationship with your very self. Based in self compassion, self acceptance and self kindness, this program is a great fit for highly sensitive, empathic and intuitive men and women who struggle with food. Learn more here where you can listen to an audio sample and watch a video to see if Untangled is a good fit for you.