What If The Shame You Feel Isn’t Yours?

Have you ever spent time with a young child? One that is under the age of five or six?

They do not have any issues with their body. They freely show it off. They never hesitate to move, play, or dance in public. They are SO much more pre-occupied with their big dreams, making friends, or spending time doing what they love.

Their body is an afterthought.

But somewhere along the way, we have all had someone give us a reason to start feeling ashamed.

Maybe it was another kid who made a comment at school and teased you about something you were wearing. Maybe it was a family member who talked about your “baby fat” and suggested not having that second slice of cake. Maybe you were told that sweating and playing hard was not “appropriate” for a girl.

Whatever it was, it changed you. You felt self-conscious and it warped your view of the things you love. Even worse, for many of us who identify as women, we were taught that our bodies were the most important aspect of our identity and determined whether we were desirable or worthy of love.

It’s likely that many of these thoughts and lessons of shame impact how you show up in your life today. It might make you fear judgement around physical activity or afraid to wear certain types of clothing. 

I hear many women all the time who vehemently deny being “athletic” and say that they hate exercise. Even more who feel uncomfortable wearing a sports bra to class or that they have to wait until they lose weight in order to feel better about themselves.

The saddest part is, most of the people who made us feel badly about ourselves were not actually doing it to hurt us. Yes – sometimes kids can be mean and people can have malicious intentions, but in most cases people are repeating patterns of behaviour.

This is called “Learned Shame”.  You learn why/how to hate your body from the generation before you. Women are taught by our mothers, aunts, sisters, and friends how to hate our body. You are taught how to make yourself smaller and given a template for how to be “good”.

Self-care is how each of us can stop the cycle of shame and pave a new path forward.

It starts with small steps and building our awareness. When you are able to understand that shame isn’t about you (especially when it comes from other people’s judgements!), it becomes easier to choose a different pathway forward and to be brave in your vulnerability.

Shame only has power when it is hidden and when you avoid it. When you hide yourself. 

So the next time you notice you are struggling with thoughts and feelings of shame, try asking yourself “Is this my shame or was this given to me by someone else?” That will help you choose a way forward with love.

If you’re looking for support on your journey of stepping away from shame and stepping into the spotlight of your own life, consider my Unlocking Your Potential Self-Guided Online Course. A five-day course dedicated to helping you heal your relationship with your body and challenge negative self-talk. It will help you: Understand the story you are telling yourself about your body (and shame) and the meaning you are creating around your weight or body size; Understand the influence of diet culture and how the language you use impacts your self-esteem; Learn tools and strategies for challenging negative self-talk and weight stigma; Create a clear vision of the relationship you want to have with your body and actions that you need to take to get there.

You aren’t alone in your shame. It is possible to heal.

You’ve got this.