Take yourself back to when you were a little kid.
Can you remember the first time someone said,“I am disappointed in you.”
“Shame on you!”
I know it’s not pleasant, but carry yourself back to that moment. Recall what it felt like.
Awful, right? You probably cringed, cried, hid in a corner, or all of the above. Or at least, you wanted to.
Shame is a terrible thing.
Here’s the really unfortunate thing: when people feel “ashamed,” it doesn’t actually lead to “better” behavior.
Shame doesn’t make us smarter and kinder. Total opposite effect.
Intense shame drives people to do terrible, antisocial, harmful things—everything from domestic violence to sexual abuse to virtually every form of dependency and addiction under the sun.
Studies prove it.
Shame is not good for us.
As we grow older, leading grown-up lives outside of our parents’ homes, a funny thing happens. Without any “parents” around, we often start to become our bigger “shamers.”
We eye ourselves in the mirror and coldly say, “What a disappointment you are.”
I see this happen all the time with women and their bodies, particularly women who want to lose weight (and oh Lord, I remember shaming myself like this, too).
“Ugh, so fat.” “Gross.” “I hate my muffin top.” “My double chin is so hideous.” “My stomach is pooching out.” “I hate my thighs.” “How could you let this happen?” “Out of control.” “Disgusting.” “I’m so ashamed of myself.”
Whether you say these kinds of words—alone, with girlfriends, in a dressing room while trying on jeans, or silently inside your mind—your body hears you. Your body feels you.
Your body becomes like a child cringing in sadness in the face of a judgmental parent.
When a child feels like intense disappointment like that, it rarely leads anywhere good.
Eavesdrop on yourself.
What are you thinking and saying to your body?
Are you cold and critical? Loving and caring? Forgiving? Hopeful? Encouraging? Cynical? Flat out bitchy?
Try to be a kind, encouraging “parent” to your body. Try to give yourself love, not wave after wave of disappointment. Shame won’t make you happier or more motivated and it definitely won’t make you thinner. Shame will just keep you trapped where you are, convinced that you are a f*ck-up who doesn’t deserve anything good.
Which is NOT true.
To transform your life and waistline, you’ve got to stop the shaming and work on shifting your inner dialogue to something new. (Coaching can help if that’s something you find really, really difficult to do. Many women do.)
It may seem ridiculous, or totally counter intuitive, but if you want your body to look and feel differently, the most effective thing you can say is not “I am so disappointed in you,” but exactly the opposite:
“I respect you. I love you. I have not given up on you.”