The Truth About Shame
Shame shuts us down.
Especially body shame.
Studies show heartbreaking statistics. Not only do the VAST majority of women (90% by some accounts) experience shame around some aspect of their appearance and feel uncomfortable every time they look in the mirror, the shame transcends to other areas of their lives and limits their ability to be true to themselves in their relationships and at work.
“What we think, hate, loathe and wonder about the acceptability of our bodies reaches much further and impacts far more than our appearance. The long reach of body shame can impact who and how we love, work, parent, communicate and build relationships.”
The Shameful Truth
Research on self-worth shows that ever since the body image movements of the 1920s, women began to relate to their appearance as a source of self-worth. This relationship has become increasingly central thanks to the relentless messages we receive tethering the perfect (and unrealistic) body and culturally defined flawless appearance with acceptance. And an ensuing moral superiority that classifies anything less as disgusting and inferior, and thus subject to rejection.
A perfect appearance is no longer about vanity, its about our very survival.
Which is why love your body messages and self-acceptance movements are just not sinking in. They’re logical responses to a need that’s become rooted in our psyche and affects us at our core. When we see ourselves as flawed and defective, we feel disgusted by ourselves, and ashamed of who we are as a person.
And so we withdraw, we hide, and we keep the shame hidden like a dirty little secret. We engage in people pleasing behaviors for fear of judgment about our apparent flaws. We punish our bodies with relentless exercise and disordered eating patterns to prove our worth. And we even undergo the surgeon’s scalpel to fix those body parts that disgust us – laugh lines, signs of aging, ‘imperfect’ features, and the magical parts that have borne lives and fed hungry children.
And our culture nods its approval and keeps the shame cycle alive.
But there’s a dismal price we pay. We never get to know our real selves and live empty, meaningless lives. And we leave behind a legacy we would rather not call our own.
The Way Out
We change from the warm receptacle of self-worth, not the cold isolation of shame.
And the research on self-worth shows that we grow a sense of worthiness by moving past the self-conscious focus of shame to taking action towards what we truly want to make of our lives.
But this takes courage – and courage requires empathy. It requires our own compassion, but also that of people we trust, people who can listen to our shame without judgment, people who can cheer us along in our journey while holding space for our struggles and imperfections.
This forum is about helping us do so. Because we cannot realize our potential as an interdependent species locked in our separate panic rooms and shame chambers. Supportive and non-judgmental communities where we give and receive empathy, bind us in our common struggles and build our courage to live the lives waiting to live within us.
Because that’s how we grow up and become the adults we’re waiting for. And help our culture do the same.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
I’m a self-worth researcher, a positive psychology coach, mother of four wonderful children, daughter to two doting parents – and a lover of life. But for years, I lived my life from the sidelines, first mired in an eating disorder, and then imprisoned by body shame, much like hundreds of millions of other women.
This is a sobering truth of female reality. Body shame, which includes shame around any aspect of our appearance, affects us more than we care or dare to admit. A universal secret that transcends social class, race, culture and even age group. There are more adult women entering eating disorder clinics today than adolescent girls…
Which is why I’m so passionate about fighting it. My background – academic, professional and personal – has given me an understanding of the factors that lead to body shame and insecure striving, an appreciation of what it takes to overcome deep insecurities and psychological fears, and a compelling desire to help those caught in its tentacles so they lead meaningful lives.
That’s the purpose of this forum, where I hope we come together as bold and brave women, committed to breaking the silence around body shame, and building a society where we wholeheartedly pursue the bright and fulfilling futures ahead of us.