“Me, too”: A note on shame.

I am now two weeks into this fitness and lifestyle overhaul. We are falling into a more comfortable routine. I am no longer panic stricken wondering how the screamer will react. Actually, she has NOT cried on more days than she has cried while I’m gone. I will take that as a win!

I want to give another nod to my village. I cannot stress enough the importance of creating a village in parenthood: find your people, find your tribe. Parenting is SO HARD, so isolating, and near impossible if you live in a silo. We recently moved to a new town and while it may take some effort and stepping out of your comfort zone, it is worth it to put out some feelers and meet people. Exchange numbers, add people to Facebook, plan play dates, wine nights, park meet ups, whatever you like! It is also way easier to find a mom interested in a play date than to find a babysitter…cheaper too!  Just be sure to give as much, or more, than you receive! (Thank you, Village… for all your support, both practical and emotional!)

In just 2 weeks of strength training, I feel stronger, tighter, and less sore. In week one, I quickly realized just how “muscular” I really am! By muscular, I mean I have muscles….many muscles! I know this because every. single. one. hurt! It is a good hurt though, a strong hurt, a productive hurt! It hurts so good! 😉

The scale? It has not budged. At all. That is discouraging because I really have been good about my diet. It is so much work cooking family meals and eating on plan. Not to mention drinking all the water. So much water. I thought the weight would come off more quickly, especially in the beginning. Not so. “Trust the process”. “You’re building muscle to burn the fat”. “Your measurements will tell a different story”. I know all this…I really do. But anyone who knows me knows I am not a patient person. So there’s that.

The main thing I wanted to write about today is really important to me. It’s been a revelation, and is definitely a huge hurdle in personal growth and personal “gains”. I touched on it in one of my initial posts. Mirrors. I mentioned that I hate mirrors at the gym because I don’t like to see myself struggling, sweaty, no make-up. I hate looking at this body I fail to recognize. For the most part, this new gym has minimal mirrors and it is easy enough to avert my gaze to the floor, the wall, the equipment.

But there I stood, face to face with this new me, with nothing but a barbell between us. “You have to look at yourself to see your form; you have to see what you are doing so you don’t hurt yourself.” Locking eyes with myself in the mirror, seeing the disheveled, sweating, mass in front of me, I have never felt more embarrassed or ashamed. I was there, and had a plan, and I take pride in the journey I am on. But in that moment, all I felt was shame. Shame that I had allowed myself to get here, that I look like this. I felt like I was drowning.

I’ve done a lot of contemplating and research on shame in preparation for writing this post. Brené Brown (2013) defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection”. Yup. That’s the one.

If you have never heard of Brené Brown, you are missing out. She is a shame and vulnerability researcher. She is amazing and her TedTalks are extremely thought-provoking.

In processing these intense feelings of shame I felt at the gym that day, I watched a couple videos on guilt versus shame. Guilt is about behaviour, shame about the person. Guilt is external actions, shame is internal identification. I did something bad, versus I AM bad; I made a mistake, versus I AM a mistake (Brown, 2012). Shame is not productive, motivating, or helpful. Shame is extremely harmful and dangerous, and causes people to withdraw, disconnect, and spiral downward.

I thought hard about my feelings of shame as I looked at the woman in the mirror. Is that me? Am I a failure? Is the person I have become physically so unrecognizable and awful that even I won’t connect with her? This has to change.

The truth is, I don’t think I am a failure. I don’t think I am a mistake. I also don’t think I am a fat person. It is my actions, not my being, that have gotten me to this point. I have to reframe my self-talk to move from unproductive feelings of shame and helplessness to productive, vulnerable, self-accepting but change-provoking, guilt.

I am guilty of over eating and making poor food choices. I am guilty of not being active. I am guilty of not loving myself through it all. I am guilty of questioning and doubting the connections I have with others based on my physical appearance. I am guilty of withdrawing from many social situations because I put my worth in my physical appearance. I am guilty, but I am not ashamed (see what I did there??….just keep telling myself that!). I am not ashamed. My actions did this and my actions can undo it. I can grow from this. I am not ashamed.

Related to the gym, (because that is why you’re reading this, right?); only when you accept and recognize where you are, will you later see and appreciate how far you have come. So, today I opened my eyes. I looked at the woman in the mirror with a little more grace, a little less judgement, and a little more pride.

“Shame is an epidemic in our culture, and to get out from underneath it, to find our way back to each other, we have to understand how it affects us, and how it affects the way we are parenting, the way we’re working, the way we are looking at each other” (Brown, 2012, at 18:00). Shame needs secrecy, silence, and judgement to survive and grow exponentially; empathy is the antidote to shame.

The two most powerful words when faced with a struggle are “me, too” (Brown, 2012). So, to my village of supporters, friends, family, (and now, blog readers…who would have thought?!): thank you for reaching out. I hope as you read this, you are hearing me screaming, “ME, TOO!” at you.

No more silence, secrecy, or judgement. No more shame.

 

 

 

 

Seriously, watch the TedTalks. They’ll change your life.

 

References:

Brown, B. (2012). Brené Brown: Listening to shame. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame

OWN (2013). Dr. Brené Brown: Why Guilt Is Better Than Shame. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/dr-brene-brown-why-guilt-is-better-than-shame-video

Brown, B. (2013). Shame v. Guilt. Retrieved from http://brenebrown.com/2013/01/14/2013114shame-v-guilt-html/

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