So I forgot to tell you that I still deal with shame. There was the time a few weeks ago when I was trying on new lingerie in a dressing room where the lighting was terribly unflattering, and I left with the image of every single cellulite dimple etched into my brain.
And not just body shame I deal with, although that is definitely in the top three. Career shame, money shame, parenting shame, you name it, I sometimes still feel it.
So here’s what I do to get myself out of the shame spiral, no matter where it originates. I hope this list helps you too:
- Play. Yes, getting playful in some mental, or better yet, physical way, makes me forget to think so much, and I start to experience my body as what she really is: a strong, fun-loving creature, capable of great joy. I especially love roller skating and bouncing on my mini-trampoline.
- Read someone else who inspires you out of your shame-spiral. When I pick up Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly I can’t help but get re-inspired by our shared human experience. When I’m stuck in the seriously debilitating “writer’s shame” (yes, I’ve published 4 books and still sometimes think I’m a terrible writer) I go read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. It works like a charm and I get excited to try again.
- Call a friend or parent or loving aunt. I have made my community of support super strong over the years. It’s the #1 thing that helps every area of my life. (more on how I help you do this here:) My parents are both retired educators and I probably call them once a quarter to get parenting support. I sometimes feel at a total loss with my son’s dyslexia and the accompanying anxiety over homework and school. They remind me that I’m actually doing a lot of extra work on his behalf and that he’s a great kid who is growing through his challenges. Whew.
- Help a friend. I have 3 very close friends who are all going through terrible break ups right now. I try to get on the phone with each one regularly to check in and listen. Just being there, and sometimes offering advice, helps me feel capable and like a good person. Yeah, it’s not 100% altruistic, but everyone ends up feeling loved so it’s a win-win!
- Listen to someone inspiring. If you’re not able to pick up a book, download a podcast. I like funny and inspiring shows. 2 Dope Queens features mostly female stand-up comediennes, and 2 amazingly smart hosts. I enjoy On Being with Krista Tippett, about spirituality and faith. Invisibilia on NPR is just packed with cool, mind-blowing stories, and RadioLab is great story-telling that gets me excited about being alive.
- Sleep. I can’t tell you how many nights my body has woken me up at 2am (hello peri-menopause?) and my brain has kept me awake for hours worrying about how I’m not doing life/money/food/career/parenting right. I use a few things to help me sleep, like 4-7-8 breathing techniques. I also know from experience that when I feel sleep-deprived that I can’t trust my brain so I find a way to take a 20 minute nap and then think about next steps.
- Reality Check. When I’m having money shame, I have a money date with myself or my book keeper. I look at the actual numbers, rather than worry about what might be happening. When I’m having body shame, it helps to get my husband’s perspective. NO, it doesn’t always help to have someone else tell me I “look great!” but sometimes it does. Sometimes it’s just enough to get me out of my head and back into my life. I also remind myself that I’m 41 and not 25. I remind myself that I’ve healed my body a dozen times from major illnesses (candida overgrowth, adrenal issues, etc.) and that I’m doing pretty damned good all things considering.
- On that note, talk to your partner/husband/bestie. Sometimes I can’t talk myself into a happy place, but my best friends or my husband can. Just hearing from him/them how much they love and appreciate me, how I’m being too hard on myself, or some other piece of wisdom is really lovely. Try it. Pick up the phone. I’ll wait…
- Guided meditations. Kind of like the sleep and/or listen to someone else, a good guided meditation can bring you back into feeling your body and what an awesome miracle she is, so you can top thinking about your body. Sometimes I listen to guided meditations for sleep when I’m up at 2:30am. In fact, I’ve got a guided meditation at the bottom of this page and in the top navigation across the top if you need a good one. It’s called Stop Emotional Eating In 5 Minutes.
- Go outside. I find that when I’m moving my body, breathing fresh air, and hopefully getting some sunlight on my skin, my mood and body both feel better, quick. There are dozens of studies showing that being in nature is calming and helpful for all types of anxiety. Try it. Go for a walk. Look at a tree. Leave your phone behind – you’ll thank me for it.
- I’m going to die. Ok, this one is weird, but it has worked wonders a few times. When I can remember that life is reeeeally freaking short, and that I have a ton of stuff I still want to do, I can get out of my way with the shitty shame stuff. Just remember: we are all going to die. Do you really want to waste time worrying about your belly right now? Your thighs? Nope. Me either.
Share this with a friend. Print it out and tape it to your fridge. Recite this out loud when you feel a bit of shame lurking. Time is short, honey lamb.