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Shining a Light on Shame

It is only by shining light onto the darkest parts of our hearts will we find peace from the pain we carry deep inside.

After nearly two years of pretty consistent therapy and reading of Brene Brown’s work, I have come to better understand how shame affects us.

The struggle is that the things we are shameful of we carry deep inside and work hard to hide, afraid to let others see- afraid that if they knew our shame, then they would know just how terrible we are and reject us. Yet this hiding of the truth only breeds more shame. I am beginning to understand that when we put our shame out there for others to see we actually find relief and peace as we often are met with the compassion, love, and forgiveness from others that we cannot seem to give ourselves.

The other day I made a Facebook post about the joy I had for being able to ride the stationary bike for 8 minutes as well as the frustration regarding how long it might take me to lose the weight I have picked up during the last year.

I was grateful for all of the responses but one, in particular, touched something deeper in me.

“Love it all if it moves you closer to your goals” — incredibly wise words from a young female fighter, not even half my age.

While my goal is to get back to working out, Muay Thai and being fit… a much larger goal that I have needed to achieve for all of my adult life has been staring me in the face for a while now:

To love my body and not be ashamed of it regardless of my weight and to believe that my worth is not at all connected to my weight. 

As I have continued to search for the answer to why I have succumbed to a knee injury lasting more than a year, I have to believe that one reason is to grant me another opportunity to deal with my body perception and shame issues.

The shame I feel about my body is only known by a few. Even fewer have ever witnessed the meltdowns, the sobbing, the binging and sometimes purging, the refusal to stand in front of a mirror without (and even sometimes with) clothes on, or the layering of clothes in an attempt to hide my body under sweatshirts or suit coats. Because in my mind, the message is clear: the heavier I am, the less worthy I am of love, respect, and acceptance… be it my own and others.

Each morning I journal writing three goals or intentions for my day. Most days my goals center around my body. On Friday (June 24) I wrote, “I will feel comfortable in my body and clothes today.”

That morning as I was putting on my deodorant in the bathroom, I happened to catch a glimpse of my stomach in the mirror. Instantly the floodgates opened in my mind and out poured: ”You’re disgusting. Fat. Gross. Unlovable…” the list goes on and on.

I remembered my goal for that morning and so, in an act of courage, I raised my shirt stared at my stomach in the mirror and forced myself to say, “I love my body. My body is beautiful. I am so much more than my body.”

I cannot really recall a time that I have ever truly loved my body. Not even when I was 120 pounds and a size two. My friends and family can probably count on one hand the number of times they’ve ever seen me wear a bikini… and they probably can’t come up with one that didn’t involve liquid courage.

There is no scenario in my mind that I could imagine wearing a bikini (or even a one-piece swimsuit) in front of my friends at this weight. I absolutely envy the women that can and do wear a bikini at whatever their size and rock it with love and acceptance for their body.

Maybe someday that will be me, but for now, in a world full of body shaming images and messages that tell us our value is based on our weight, I’m just working hard to love my body and find the courage to share my shame and struggle with others.

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