If I were not the one writing this – I would probably turn away just seeing the word “shame”, but I pray you don’t. I pray you continue reading. There is a gift at the end I would hate for you to miss.
Shame – the mere mention of the word shame makes me sick to my stomach as I involuntarily trip back in time, when I was about 5 years old.
I had eaten a second, forbidden half of an ice cream sandwich. My younger sister told on me and I don’t truly remember what happened after I was ordered inside for discipline. That is a blackout discipline time for me. The next thing I remember is going back outside to join the family and I put on my little, red, plastic sun glasses to hide my puffy eyes from crying.
59 years later I can still remember the shame of walking back outside to join the family and how mortified I felt. I had eaten 2 halves of the ice cream sandwich and I was told I could only have one half.
If this were a movie I would walk out now. I cannot tolerate watching movies or reading articles where children are abused. The mere mention of abuse puts me into a mental fetal position. I become frozen in fear. Please keep reading.
How can one shaming incident be so harrowing at 5 years old that 59 years later it still has a hold on me? To be honest it wasn’t just that one incident. But it was the first traumatic incident I remember involving food.
For the first 11 years of my life – I was the middle sister between 2 tall, rail thin sisters. Then came along a new baby sister when I was eleven. She grew up to be just a tiny bit taller than me – but she was even more thin than the other two sisters. Four sisters and I was the shorter and chubby one of all. I was also the one with bad eyes at seven that needed glasses. I was different from my sisters and my uniqueness, was not a time for celebration. It felt more like a time of shame. I felt like I was looked at with disdain at times – instead of pride.
The shame of overeating the ice cream sandwich at 5 years old, graduated into eating some pie when I babysat for the neighbors at about 12 years old and then lying about it when confronted.
The woman I babysat for came to my house afterwards to ask if her sons ate the pie when I was watching them. I assured her the boys did not eat the pie. And I lied and said I did not eat the pie either. The pie mystery did not get a confession from me that day or ever. This the first time I have shared this with anyone. Ever.
I could not trust the truth would be my friend on that day 52 years ago. I was not about to tell on myself and get in trouble for eating some of the neighbor’s pie. I had learned how truth did not set me free when I was 5 years old and I was not going down that road again.
The shame of eating the second half of the ice cream sandwich and the shame of the pie served to create a closet eater out of me. I do not eat much when out with family or friends – I save my eating when I am alone, isolated, by myself. I am currently 60 pounds over my ideal weight.
I have battled my weight all my life. I have never been at peace with eating. Multiple times I have lost weight. I have lost large amounts of weight. I lost 50 pounds 16 years ago…and several other times have lost 20-35 pounds only to regain it all. Today I am 60 pounds overweight. Embracing where I am today, acknowledging my current weight and loving myself for all the times I felt shame in my past.
I regained 50 pounds, in one year, 10 years ago – after a devastating loss when my grandmother passed away. She was my rock and I have not truly recovered since her passing. I gained weight due to grief but shame has keep me stuck.
Shame has kept me a prisoner in an overweight body…crying, trying to break free. I want to turn the lock on this cage and break free from this constant battle.
So how do I do this?
How do I go back in time and protect that 5 year old girl who was beaten and shamed for eating too much?
I start today, and everyday, with loving me right where I am. When I love myself right where I am – I don’t need extra food to cover up the bad feelings. I can protect myself with my own love, my own self love that is true and constant. I don’t need anything outside of myself to make me whole again. I can breathe and cry and love purely, deeply and honestly.
I am grateful how much I hurt over my grandmother’s passing. I am grateful I loved her so much. Yes, I hurt terribly with her passing. But I would never want to love her less. I would choose to love her just as much – even knowing it would hurt for so long.
There are two things my grandmother said daily, for at least the last 5 years of her life. She lived to be 94 years old. She would say “This is the best day ever” and “I couldn’t be better” – whenever she was asked how she was doing.
Her daily response came from a deep place of gratitude. Her life was certainly not perfect. Her birth mother died when she and her identical twin sister were 3 weeks old. They had 5 older siblings and several of the children had to all be adopted out to different families as their father could not care for the youngest ones himself. My grandmother and her twin were adopted together to a loving couple and thrived for the first 15 years of their lives – until their adopted mother died instantly and without warning on Thanksgiving day 1929. Their lives changed instantly again. My grandmother went onto marry at 16 years old and was married to a loving man for over 58 years…she made lemonade from the many lemons in her life. Over and over she made Lemonade with life’s challenges.
We can let shame eat at us and use food to dull the pain by eating everything in our path or we can love ourselves through it and feel blessed for having had an experience that forced us to learn to love more.
Love more. Love deeper. Love stronger.
How can shame orchestrate this? Shame can be so powerful – and can cut so deep, it requires we go deeper to address it at the core. Shame can render us lifeless, powerless. When we feel powerless – we have to seek deeper purpose, deeper meaning in our lives, for restoration. It is in finding this deeper meaning, deeper purpose that shame can become a catalyst for change, for restoration. Shame can bring us to a much more beautiful place than we could have imagined.
We can feel gratitude for being shook to our core. Gratitude for having understood what it feels like to be lifeless, powerless. When we have felt this, we are able to far better understand others who have felt the same – and be able to connect at a much deeper level, a deeper understanding.
We can love more, love deeper, love stronger.
And it all starts by loving ourselves more and through life’s challenges.
May the power of shame work for good in your life.
“No thanks” to anything less than deeply rooted love.