Shame. Ugh. Even the word is horrible, the feeling of it even more so. One thing for me that has always been a huge source of shame for me is my relationship with food and my body. Trust me, this is an uncomfortable post to write.

As Brene Brown says, “if you put shame in a petri-dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement.” I have all three in spades.

I realised that I have been using shame as a way to motivate myself to change. Using my secret, silent, inner judgement to shame myself into doing something different. And it wasn’t even just my current shame about my body and my eating – but imagined, future shame of what I might look like if I carry on this way. I have been using it to try and motivate myself to eat better, exercise more, not have that slice of cake. But it is totally counterproductive. Because the shame makes me feel bad, and that makes me want to eat to feel better. Ridiculous, right? When I look at it rationally, it isn’t even a debate worth having whether shame works as a motivator. It doesn’t.

Brene Brown goes on to say “if you put the same amount of shame in a petri-dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive”. The more I talk out loud about my relationship with food, the more the shame diminishes, even though at times it is excruciating. I also know the more we all talk about this, the more we diminish the shame everywhere.

One thing I’ve noticed around the way I eat is quite how disconnected from it I am. Too often I’m eating and multitasking, it’s not even just that I’m not enjoying my food, I’m barely noticing it. And that leads to less than healthy food choices as well as losing any hope of hearing the signals from my body to tell me I’m full – so over-eating too.

The start of my practice to eat more mindfully, and more healthily, starts with removing distractions when I eat – no phone, no TV, no book, no running through my mental list of things I still needs to get done today which makes me rush… It is also about giving myself the time I need to sit, enjoy, and be aware of what I’m eating and how it makes me feel. I know I have some deeply ingrained (and generally unhealthy) habits around this which are going to take some time to shift. I’m choosing to start anyway, and re-start as often as it takes. There’s some empathy for myself right there…

I’m also practicing speaking this shame out loud, not just here but all over the place. And every time I do, instead of the judgement and scorn that my inner critic has decided will inevitably come my way, I receive empathy, love and offers of support. And I start to heal, as the shame starts to diminish. I also get reminded over and over that I’m perfect exactly as I am.

Where in your life is shame causing you to stop? What would it take to speak it aloud, even if only to yourself, to starve it of the secrecy and silence that causes it to grow? How could you show empathy to yourself, today?

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