Shame is the root which sabotages our happiness and wellbeing. It lurks in our subconscious where it influences our choices. Shame was the core of my obesity and overcoming this was the key to losing weight.
What is “shame”? Shame is more easily understood when contrasted to guilt. Shame is self-focused, whereas guilt is behaviour focussed. Guilt says, “I did something bad.” Shame says, “I am bad.” Guilt is the feeling which arises when we believe we have done a wrong deed. Shame, however, is the feeling that as a person, we are flawed, incurable, or worse.
Does a person’s behaviour make them good or bad? Logically, this cannot be true as we all behave good or bad at times. In a short period of time, any one of us can choose to be kind and caring, then a few minutes later we may think or do something which is destructive to ourselves or others.
Does destructive behaviour make us bad? The answer is no. Everything we do is an expression of what we believe about ourselves. A person is not fundamentally bad because they do bad things, rather a person does bad things because of a deep unmet need for love.
For example, I believed I was unlovable, insignificant, defective and worthless. My addiction to food stemmed from this core belief. My logic was that the closest thing to love was food, and there was no point taking care of myself. In the absence of no obvious alternatives, I just ate. Then I was judged, ridiculed and rejected for my obesity which I used to reinforce my belief that I was unlovable, insignificant, defective and worthless. It was a vicious cycle.
Overeating and obesity were not the problem but a symptom of shame. The problem was my core belief that I was bad. And, as a bad person, I did a bad thing by overeating and became obese.
How do we overcome shame? In my experience, there is only one answer: “love”. This sounds too simplistic and even trite. But the experience of love is essential to our wholeness and health. Shame is the absence of love.
In fact, love was the catalyst for my journey out of morbid obesity. By adolescence, I firmly believed that I was not worthy of love. Subconsciously I thought that eating myself to death wouldn’t matter. No one would care, nor would anyone miss me.
Sadly, the primary way many of us seek love is to earn the acceptance and approval of others. We assume that those receiving love and approval are doing so because of what they do. That is, they have earned love. I believed that women who were thin were accepted and loved. Dieting to make myself thin required that I deny myself food, which represented love to me. My efforts to lose weight in this way triggered a greater need for love, hence my overeating increased.
But then one day, someone saw beyond my rolls of fat. Rather than treating me with judgment, ridicule, rejection, scorn and disgust, this person related to me with kindness, acceptance, dignity and interest. For the first time in my life, I felt valuable, significant and good. I could be wanted, enjoyed, respected and loved by another.
Loving myself was the catalyst to freedom. Learning to love myself lifted me from the shame, which enabled me to overcome obesity. I overcame obesity as an act of love to myself, not in order to gain love from others.
Love heals everything, every pain, bruise and wound. The greatest gift you can give is love. To love oneself is an act of kindness not only to us, but to those around us. Love sets us free to be our best self. Wanting and needing love is not a sign of weakness, it’s a fundamental human necessity.
In my work as a Wellbeing Coach I offer people acceptance, grace, kindness, understanding, empathy, and love. Feel free to contact me for a chat.