Everyday we can look around and see signs, commercials, and ads for the latest fad diets, extreme workouts, and weight-loss quick fixes. These diets label some specific food as “the fat maker”. The workouts make big promises but are too extreme to stick with long term. The weight-loss quick fix guarantees “this pill will melt fat away.” What are these ads really saying? They say that we need to change ourselves to achieve the “perfect body”. These messages look helpful from the outside. Yet, the more probable picture is not helpful at all. How much harm are these messages doing, and what does it mean for you?
What’s really being said?
On the surface, this message implies that we need to take better care of our physical health to look better and feel better, but sometimes that’s not all we receive. Sometimes we hear that we’re not good enough as we are. We start to believe that we need that slim physique to be happy and feel as though we’re worth something. Sometimes, we even start to believe that we are shameful for not matching that ideal body seen in the media. The danger of shame is the lengths we take to achieve the perfect body and what it really means about the way we view ourselves.
What messages are you receiving: motivation or shame?
You may be wondering what’s wrong with wanting to better yourself? On the outside, someone may have started eating healthier foods and working out every day, but what motivations lie underneath this lifestyle change? Someone taking steps towards making better eating choices for a healthier life is different from someone cutting out food groups out of fear and shame for being the size they are. Someone going for a walk or run more often to feel better is different from taking on an extreme workout program out of a desire to hurt and tear down the body to force it to change.
Shame is not only mentally and emotionally exhausting, but also physically taxing when it manifests into the way we treat ourselves daily. For some, behaviors fueled by shame can become unhealthy habits or obsessions attempting to achieve or maintain the social construct of the “perfect” body. For others, the feelings of worthlessness and shame can be so strong that they immobilize them from even attempting to take care of themselves.
The weight of shame
In most experiences of shame, we isolate ourselves from those around us. We feel disconnected from the people in our lives and disconnected from ourselves. The weight of shame can be heavy and fuel our own form of self-abuse as we try to change ourselves. This self-abusing cycle of shame can lead to a deterioration of our mental, emotional, and physical health.
What is a healthier approach?
We can start to uncover an expose our shame by becoming aware of it. Taking a moment of pause and being curious about what is driving us to change ourselves is a first step in becoming more aware. We notice our motivations and what our inner voices are telling us about the changes we feel we need to make to our bodies. When we become more aware, we give more power to ourselves. In our awareness, we can start to show ourselves kindness and compassion through the things we tell ourselves and combat the heaviness of shame.
Beauty in diversity
If we all looked the same, the world would be a boring place. We are all beautiful in our own way and change in various and unique ways throughout our lives. Our differences make the world a more interesting and beautiful place, so why are we fighting so hard to look the same? We are all deserving of loving ourselves as we are. We are also deserving of wanting to do better for ourselves, but where does your motivation come from? Is our motivation a desire to be and feel healthier? Or is our need to change based on fear and shame for being the way we are? Knowing what drives us gives us new opportunities to show ourselves kindness.
Are you struggling with the weight of shame? Our therapists at Fuller Life Family Therapy provide a kind and compassionate space to help people work through shame, self-esteem, and a variety of other challenges. Call us today at (855) 245-5433 to schedule an appointment.
Clinical Supervision by Amy Fuller, PhD, LMFT-S, LPC-S