Hello, friends. I came here today to be vulnerable and share things I am ashamed about. I ended up connecting with an idea that the things I’ve carried shame for my whole life might not be ‘my problem’, and actually underneath my shame I think I have some anger and a piece of truth to share. And maybe my truth actually reflects back on a collective truth. So hang in if you want to see that journey.
Shame & Hiding the Struggle
In the spirit of being honest and presenting my full real self to the world, I want to put some things out into my world today about myself, my life, my habits… the things I’m usually ashamed to show. Things a part of me wants to keep hidden.
I’m in a funk this week. I’ve been struggling at work and with my body. My routine just fell through the cracks. I’ve been sleeping in. My eating is all over the place. I don’t have a good grasp on my priorities and willpower. I hurt my shoulder pretty badly this week, the worst its been in what feels like a long time.
I’ve been feeling disconnected. At work, I feel as though I am pretending, that my reality is being filtered through my mind instead of being lived in my body. I’ve been feeling insecure and awkward and burdensome, and unable to articulate the source of the problem.
Even at jiu jitsu. Only part of me was there this week, and it was a part of me that was… trying to be better than I felt. I guess I tried in the wrong way, because I just ended up hurting myself.
I think feeling disconnected like this is something that happens when I am not being honest. I go to work and act the way I think I am supposed to act. And when I don’t know how to do something, I try to handle that privately because I’m afraid of admitting my ignorance. I end up tying myself up in knots in my mind – it really wouldn’t be so bad if I was just more honest about it! More forgiving to myself, really. Learning is a process. It’s really normal and okay to meet novel problems with ignorance, at first – how could it be any other way? And I work with friendly people who are willing to help me when I need help. I just need to learn how to ask.
It’s a balance, of course. I’m not even sure if the point is to ask for help more often. I think I’ve just been wasting my energy trying to hide when I’m struggling with something. Or – even a step removed – I get anxious prematurely about potentially needing to ask for help. When I have a problem to solve, before I even jump in I sometimes get anxious about my potential failure at solving the problem.
Body & Eating
The most shameful thing I feel about this pattern of mine is that when I’m privately burdening myself with unnecessary anxiety, I end up self-soothing with food. I snack at work to try to make myself feel better, or to avoid the work I’m stuck on. I present a neutral exterior while I do it, and hope not to be ‘seen’ in my actual experience of struggle and shame.
For a long time, I’ve felt ashamed about eating. My whole life I’ve felt like I was bigger than I was supposed to be, and at some point that body shame got directed towards my relationship with food. It’s truly a devastating place to get stuck within yourself, feeling ashamed of your body. When it’s acutely bad I can be a layer removed from myself, looking at my body judgmentally and feeling numb and lifeless, wishing at the worst of times to not even exist in this form.
In our culture, this kind of body shame inevitably destroys our natural relationship with food, because we say that if you don’t like the way your body looks, it’s because you are eating too much.
I think that way of looking at things might legitimately work for some people. It seems simple at first glance. “Eat less, be healthier.” And I don’t think that the idea itself is harmful – but our ways of approaching this topic with each other can be so… shame-based. When we force scrutiny and judgment and ‘wrongness’ on the eating process – a very personal and emotional experience that, throughout human history, has been intuitive and healthy pretty much all on its own – this can have a multitude of effects. I’d put myself in a second category of people, who have not responded well to our collective messaging about food intake and weight and body image. The impact on me has been long-term internalized shame, disordered eating, and a focus on my body’s ‘flaws’ instead of my embodied strengths.
Most of my adult life, a significant part of my relationship with food has been a power struggle between aspects of myself. I’ve tried to wrestle control from my body, which likes to follow its own natural impulses. I learned a long time ago not to trust my body’s impulses, probably because our culture doesn’t understand or trust the body’s impulses. We are told that, when it comes to eating, our bodies seek out fat, sugar, and salt, to our detriment. That we have to impose self-control over our natural impulses in order to not get fat and unhealthy. So I grew up with this idea, and also the perception that my body was ‘too big’, and that this meant that there was something wrong with me. It was painful. I always felt self-conscious. I wanted to change things the only way I knew how, and the option presented to me by my culture was the brute-force method of learning to eat healthier and exercise some self-restraint.
Again, nothing necessarily wrong with the idea itself, as an idea. But we’re all so different. You never know how something will get translated in someone’s mind and heart, whether it will be received in the spirit of growth and self-love or in the spirit of shame and self-suppression.
And is the idea actually true? Does my body crave fat, sugar, and salt at the expense of ‘healthier’ foods? Not so, for me! No, I find that the more I eat vegetables the more I grow a craving for vegetables. The more I’ve eaten local foods from the farmers market, the more lifeless processed foods seem to me. When I eat bitter greens and start incorporating them into my meals my body tells me it is good!
The ‘unhealthy’ craving is there as well, but is it evil? Is it even fair to label it ‘unhealthy’? Certainly there are people who seem to be slim and healthy who have integrated a moderate amount of fat, sugar, and salt into their lives without losing the health of their bodies!
My own experience tells me that binging on unhealthy foods actually happens when I’m disconnected from my body’s true impulses. My body doesn’t tell me to binge eat… it’s my mind, in those moments, telling me that I am helpless not to, that I am just a fat kid, that life is hard and I’m not good enough and there’s no point in trying and I might as well eat and take comfort in that. Under the delusion of that awful perception, in the franticness of my own discomfort and disconnection from my body, my self-soothing eating habit can spiral out of control.
Is something wrong with me?
When I think about my eating shame, I think I feel ashamed because it should be natural and easy to eat right. People have been doing it FOREVER. Eating is NOT a real problem. It’s one of those manufactured first-world problems. Or it’s something my overactive mind has made into a problem. But it shouln’t be a problem. Right?
And then I think… well, maybe this isn’t just me. After all, eating – and taking care of ourselves – has never been so confusing! There are so many options for how to live, so much information, so much! On one hand this can seem empowering – there are many ways to be healthy! On the other hand, it is novel that the burden of health rests on the individual instead of the collective. So many things we do *collectively* – convenience culture, sitting all day, eating processed foods, eating quickly, overworking, under-sleeping, etc – aren’t healthy for us, and even if we put in a great effort on an individual level to change or counteract the bad habits, they still get carried along by our culture. At the end of the day, we can ride that wave as best as we are individually able, but we all still have to ride the same wave! If the wave isn’t healthy, nothing we do can make us deeply healthy! Because in order to be healthy in an unhealthy world, it seems we would have to live at odds with our world, a practice that in itself is stressful and difficult.
One of our real problems for our health is that in our world, people have gotten comfy making money by selling other people cheap, unhealthy food. Our food chain has been corrupted by greed and gluttony and dishonesty. But we all love the vail that hides the way this works. We love spending less money on food so we can spend more money on all the flashy things. We love cutting off our foundation to try to build a skyscraper. But we hide from ourselves that that is what is happening. The vail is the thing that holds it all together, because we don’t have to look at the problems, only the ‘benefits’. We don’t have to see the results of our consumption, the results of the shortcuts we’ve taken in our systems of agriculture and consumerism and how that has affected the global ecosystem of ALL BEINGS, humans included.
But the vail isn’t real, we just choose to see things in a false way. We choose to blame individuals for their health problems, instead of looking at the wider systemic issues that we all take part in. We all see the obesity epidemic, the heart problems, the cancer, the depression and anxiety, and agree that these are problems. But we also all agree with taking shortcuts in our collective food system. We literally subsidize cheap farming practices so that they can exist artificially. It’s become a part of our culture.
It is not healthy to eat fast food. It is not healthy to eat fast, in between other tasks, at our desks, in our cars, as an afterthought. It is not healthy to stuff animals in factory farms and feed them growth hormones and antibiotics and make them live in their own feces. It is not healthy to tear out all the plants naturally growing over a stretch of land and replace them with a single crop, which in its imbalance sucks all the nutrients out of the soil and leaves it dead and lifeless.
It seems to me that when you try to take shortcuts on your path to feeding yourself – which is what we’ve all done collectively by exploiting our land and resources by using totally destructive mass-scale farming techniques, pesticides, monocultures, preservatives, all for the sake of ease and cost – when you place less value on food, the very substance that sustains you, you place less value on life itself. How could we be so foolish as to try to exploit our supply chain? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you! We are currently biting the Earth, the plants and animals, the delicate ecosystem which has sustained us throughout our history. And things are changing, losing balance. But we ignore the evidence of that. Blinded by greed and ignorance!
I started writing today intending to expose parts of myself I like to keep under wraps, in an attempt to be more real with my world, and lo and behold I ended up getting heated up about the things I’m passionate about – our food systems, our health, our collective imbalance. But I have to say, as much as I see toxicity and dysfunction in this world, I also see a path to healing! I believe in the power of awareness and positive intention! And I believe in creating a world that’s healthier for all involved. Today I do my part by trying to share my truth, a bit at a time. And I try to support other people doing the same. Remove the vail of shame that hides our individual vulnerabilities, and eventually we can bring down the massive wall we’ve all been holding up that hides the consequences of our ways of being from us. Let us be brave enough to face the reality that we live in, the feelings in our bodies, the things we are ashamed of, personally and collectively. Today! Now! What do you feel in your body? What are you hiding? What is this moment presenting to you? Life longs to shine light on the dark spots, and we all have bits of truth to share.