Being overwhelmed, and even debilitated, by guilt is how I often describe what it feels like to have an eating disorder. I’m my own harshest critic and when I was fully engrossed by my ED guilt consumed my every thought. From disappointing my loved ones, to not exercising enough, to eating too much or even the “wrong thing”… I always blamed myself and felt, what I thought was, outright guilty. I never really understood why this emotion was such a dominant part of my life, but I came across a very interesting article the other day that is helping me to comprehend where this emotion emerged from and… more specifically that I wasn’t actually an individual filled with guilt all of these years, but one consumed by shame 😦
“Shame In Today’s Society: What It Means, And Why It Absolutely Needs To Stop” by Stephanie Castillo for Medical Daily highlights how our culture has become one that is obsessed with “shaming.” Castillo argues that we must put an end to this behavior immediately. One of the most eye opening parts of this article, for me based on my own personal emotions, is when Castillo distinguishes the difference between guilt and shame. After reading her piece I finally understood that I wasn’t simply engrossed by guilt while in my ED, but I was consumed by a feeling significantly more powerful and damaging : shame. In order to clarify the difference between shame and guilt Castillo references June Tangney, author of Shame in the Therapy Hour, who has found that when a person feels guilty they, they say, “I did a bad thing.” When they feel shame, they say, “I am a bad person for having done that.”
Holy shit was that eye opening for me. From now on I will never define my emotions as guilty ones because they are in fact those of shame. My ED thoughts correlate directly with our society’s need to shame one another based on being “too thin,” “too fat,” “too slutty,” “too prude” etc. and as a result of this I have been relentlessly “fat shaming” myself for the past couple of years. From “fat shaming” to “thin shaming” NO ONE deserves to feel defective, impaired, or wounded, which shame will always cause…and which I can truly testify to…we all just need to
The antidote, according to Brene Brown, a renowned shame researcher is empathy. “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment,” she said. “If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re [struggling]: me too.”
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State in Los Angeles added: “The changes we need to see are more realistic media images, [starting to] value women for their minds and accomplishments, and raise public awareness of these eating disorders, and their depth and impact. Change can begin one woman at a time. And instead of shaming each other, we can support ourselves instead.”
So, ladies and gentleman as someone who has felt shameful because of their eating disorder, body dysmorphia and anxiety for FAR TOO LONG I too am calling for an end to “shaming.” We all have enough to deal with emotionally, socially, mentally and physically so why should we make others feel badly about themselves? The answer is simple…we shouldn’t. Just because our society has become a mean one where it is ok, and even normal, to comment on women’s bodies doesn’t mean that we should continue practicing this behavior.
From this day forward I encourage all of you to join me in pledging to stop spreading shame by looking inward and attempting to find empathy for others. We must remember that we are not alone even at our lowest points. I truly hope that since I am honest and open about my own struggles than others may relate to my story and realize that no one deserves to feel shame. This will be a challenge and change won’t happen in a day, but I believe in you all and I know that together we can make a difference, so let’s do it 😉