“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” — Brene Brown
Spencer and I’s business venture, Novo Veritas, is off and starting to run. (Pun totally intended.)
We have done a handful of presentations – each one has been a great experience. We are meeting some incredible people!
Our format for these interactions is intended to be much more like a conversation, than a ‘formal presentation’. We talk bluntly and honestly about our lifestyle changes and the crap that led us each to make an overhaul of our lives. We purposely save half of our time for the audience to ask us questions. Any questions they have.
They can, and do, ask us anything.
Things get authentic and candid PRETTY quickly.
Spencer and I are not shying away from talking about the painful and ugly stuff. We try to talk about, and answer questions, to help people understand how we each got to the point of being ready for a major change. How we made those changes. What our respective journeys look like today.
Why are we doing this?
We hope that by sharing our stories people can relate to what we continue to tackle and be ready/inspired/motivated to gear up for their own fight…
And make honest, lasting change.
When people talk to me about my story, shame seems to lead the pack of comments that people identify with.
It was right smack in the middle of it all for me.
Shame made me feel like I had to work harder and fight harder than a ‘thin’ person to be thought worthy and valuable since I was fat.
Shame made me feel like I had to apologize to the world for my overweight existence intruding into their thin world.
Shame convinced me that most conversations about my worth and abilities professionally probably went like this… ‘Well she’s good at her job, for a fat woman…’
Shame had me questioning whether anyone beyond my immediate family could/would ever love me.
I may have seemed normal on the outside, but I felt like I being eaten alive on the inside by shame.
And in my case, shame manifested itself in me literally trying to eat myself to death.
I mean, I freaking wore visible proof every single day, for everyone to see, that I couldn’t control food and I was lazy.
So I ate to bury the embarrassment and pain and shame…
‘Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, Shame is the feeling of being something wrong.” — Marilyn Sorensen
I do want to be clear about something. For me, SHAME IS PAST TENSE.
I am NOT asking for sympathy, not trying to sound sad or desperate.
I am NOT in that place of shame anymore.
But these presentations are showing me that I was never alone. But a lot of people feel like they are…
They’re showing me that a lot of people – men and women – are weighed down with or paralyzed by shame. Weight, bodies, food habits, past failures… The list is long, emotionally daunting.
BUT, it turns out vulnerability is actually a very powerful opponent against shame.
‘If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. ” — Brene Brown
(Dr. Brene Brown. ‘Daring Greatly.’ WISH LIKE HELL I would have found this book long ago. It’s helping me put into words the process I’ve been fighting through.)
When I started to put the feelings and reasons for shame into words… Something amazing started to happen.
Slowly, but it happened...
Shame no longer had me in a choke-hold.
I was NOT openly posting these emotional upheavals or awakenings on social media. And I was not dismissing them and ignoring them like the old days.
I finally accepted it was a problem. And I knew I needed to figure it out. Face it. Begin to fight it.
I chose to have soul-baring conversations with people who knew me, cared deeply about me and who I trusted.
I talked my way into a whole new experience of freedom when I opened up about the things that I was ashamed of…
I talked about hating my body. I talked about developing a deadly disease due entirely to my lack of control over food and my laziness. I talked about embarrassing/mortifying/horrible moments. I talked about being lonely and alone and unloveable. I talked about the physical indignities of being so obese you literally can not even care for your own feet…
There was some pretty deep shame involved in my story. Turns out that it’s a lot of the same shameful ‘stuff’ other overweight people have in their stories too.
While shame is largely in my past, I will admit that I still have moments of doubt and shame and fear. C’mon, who doesn’t?
BUT I’ve been able to figure out at least two of the major triggers that cause me to revert to old ways of thinking. Shame seems most able to temporarily ‘rent space’ in my head when…
- I’m tired.
- I’m trying something new that scares, frustrates or embarrasses me.
Discovering these basic triggers proved to be a MAJOR weapon.
I can now tell myself that I’m not feeling pain or sadness or heartbreak over not belonging — I’m more than likely just tired.
And I’m not flawed and worthless and unlovable because I am trying to learn a new skill or can’t quite (yet) do what everyone else can do — I’m more than likely just embarrassed or scared.
Just knowing the triggers gives me a better chance at changing the self-dialogue in my head.
That dialogue is so different than it used to be.
Am I cured? No.
Are there times I question my worth or my value or whether I’m loveable? Hell yes.
BUT the key this time around is I can usually recognize and STOP that line of thinking much sooner rather than later.
And – FOR THE WIN! – even if shame grabs a temporary foothold, it no longer translates into me finding the answer in the kitchen, the candy bowl or at a fast food restaurant.
Exposing shame to the light is the only way you can really begin to fight it.