Shame and Courage

In today’s fast-paced culture, it’s hard enough to come to terms with our imperfections in private. It’s ten times as hard to be transparent about these imperfections in front of other people. Most people only showcase the high points of their lives on social media. It’s far less terrifying to present our strengths to the world than it is to present our weaknesses.
I have forever been guilty of trying to hide my imperfections from the world. I’ve relentlessly fought to hide the places where I’m still a work in progress, striving only to show the places where I’d already polished and improved in my own life. I’ve damaged friendships with this behaviour, and I’ve crippled my own personal growth as well.
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes “shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it. It can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story.” I whole-heartedly believe this is true, which leads me to strive for transparency with my own struggles.
I’ve realized that a healthy, ordered relationship with food is a practice, a journey, not something that happens overnight. The reality is we are inundated with all kinds of toxic nutritional beliefs about weight, fitness, food, and our bodies. We put excessive worth in having the ‘perfect body’ or the ‘ideal weight’. We drive ourselves crazy searching for the perfect diet, and drive ourselves even crazier trying to carry out the diet with absolute precision.
As a recovering perfectionist, it still frustrates me that I am not exactly where I want to be. I have struggled with binge eating since high school, possibly even elementary school. I’ve made huge improvements in this area, particularly in the last few years. I’ve learned to be more curious about my binge eating episodes as opposed to self-deprecating. I’ve realized that my binge eating episodes are almost always a signal that I’ve been trying to stuff down my emotions or have been neglecting my need for rest and relaxation.
In spite of this, there are still times when I feel immense shame about my binge eating. I recently shared with a good friend that I feel like a fraud when I eat this way because I’m helping other people get where they want to go with their health and fitness, but I don’t even have my own eating habits in order one-hundred percent of the time. I told her that there are times when I’ve speed-walked through the grocery store half-hunched over my cart of unhealthy foods, silently hoping I won’t run into anyone I know. My heart is pounding. My body reacts as if I’m trying to commit a crime.
She responded with “you know what I’d think if I saw you with your shopping basket full of that food? I’d think ‘she’s real. She has her own struggles, just like the rest of us, and that makes her so much more relatable.’
Being real is one of the scariest things I have to do in my day-to-day life. It takes more courage than bungee jumping or leaping over fire during a Tough Mudder race, which is why I know I have to do it.
The Gifts of Imperfection was a life-changing book for me, one I would recommend to anyone struggling with any kind of shame. The reality is, we’re all on a journey to better ourselves and learn to respond to the world in healthier ways. There’s nothing wrong with being a work in progress. In fact, being a work in progress is what makes us all interesting, colourful and able to connect better with each other.
I would encourage anyone struggling with shame around something in their life to share it with someone they trust, to stop wrapping secrecy around it, to stop giving it more power by attempting to stifle it. It’s one of the most courageous and life-changing practices imaginable.
By: Kayla Van Egdom

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