Are you feeling shameful around your body and trying to use that shame as a motivator to make changes?
I have some bad news for you; it is not going to work. Shame not only has a profoundly negative impact on our mental health, but it is also harmful to how we see ourselves as people and our ability to make long-lasting change.
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If You Want To Stop Shaming Yourself Or Letting Others Shame You, You Should:
- Block and delete any negative talk or energy out of your life
- Get curious about where your shame and where your self-judgment is coming from
- Start to notice what is truly coming from inside of you
- Get clear on your personal values and your ‘here and now’ motivators
Why Shame Doesn’t Work
Shame comes from a very internalized place of believing that you are inherently flawed. Shame is different from guilt, which is a contextualized feeling about something you did rather than who you are.
Shame is scientifically proven to be a debilitating emotion that can come from external and internal narratives that are systematically pushed upon us. Shame, especially when it comes from the outside, negatively impacts how we see ourselves as people, and makes us hide, get smaller, and remove ourselves.
How To Create Sustainable Change
Shaming yourself or hating yourself into change simply does not work and can greatly impact how you see yourself and others. Social media and the patriarchy are only exacerbating this issue, which is why it is essential to treat yourself with kindness and approach change in a way that feels good to you.
Instead of operating from a place of shame, challenge yourself to create change in a way that feels sustainable and good. Block that body-shaming Instagram account, stop engaging with ‘concern trollers’, and get curious about where your thoughts are coming from.
When you have patience with yourself and stop linking your self-worth to your body size or shape, real change can happen.
Are you ready to stop using shame as a motivator, only to end up feeling worse about yourself? Share how you are going to tweak your mindset away from shame with me in the comments below.
In This Episode
- How guilt and shame play out in how you feel about yourself and changing your body (9:03)
- Scientific examples of how shame and guilt can impact your physical and mental health (13:15)
- The difference between guilt and shame and why shame is harmful to who we are as people (16:50)
- Why concern trolling is a serious problem for those in marginalized bodies on social media (23:20)
- Simple tips if you are falling into patterns of shame for yourself and negative self-talk (30:55)
“Shame is a normal human experience, but this chronically feeling shameful can be really harmful for our health, especially the mental health aspect of our overall health.” (14:30)
“That was so powerful, and really put it into perspective of why shaming people for their bodies does damage, and why shame for ourselves is really something to investigate and heal if it is persistent.” (16:47)
“Guilt may be more powerful in terms of helping us make change, and maybe less harmful to us if we are really able to make things right. But shame, especially when it comes from other people, is so damaging to us, and it can be really harmful to our health, really harmful to our mental state, and really harmful to how we see ourselves as people.” (20:59)
“Thoughts affect feelings and feelings drive our actions. So if you feel guilty, or shameful or shitty, generally speaking, how do you act or react? It is typically not going to be a change you feel really great about.” (30:24)
“Getting clear about a motivator in your life that is coming from a place of expansiveness, possibility, curiosity, growth, and transformation is far more powerful than hating yourself into change.” (34:59)
Featured on the Show
Why You Can’t Shame Yourself Into Changing Your Body FULL TRANSCRIPT
On Episode 320 of the Listen To Your Body podcast, I’m digging into why you cannot shame yourself into changing your body and what to do instead.
To Listen To Your Body podcast has one bold mission helped change-making women like you give themselves radical permission to listen to their bodies get free with food and fitness, and channel their energy, and to be a force for good in the world. I’m a certified intuitive eating counselor, nutritional therapy practitioner, and strength coach Steph Gaudreau. This weekly show brings you discussions around dropping diet and exercise extremes, letting your inner wisdom lead and taking up space from an inclusive body neutrality health at every size, nondiet nutrition perspective, we’ll examine how diet culture and the patriarchy keep women busy and distracted by the quest for body perfection, and how we can break free to live life on our own terms. It’s bound to be fiery, and ultimately to make you think, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s dive in.
Hello, my sweet, gumdrop, thank you so much for being here with me today on the podcast is going to be a juicy one in my gift, fiery. So if you’re a mixed company, put on your headphones.
I’ll just say that much. We are going to be continuing this new season of the podcast where I’m really framing out and introducing you again to what I do, why I care about it so much. And really taking a look at how diet culture and some of these bigger issues that often come up contextually. In the conversations around things like intuitive eating and nondiet, nutrition and body neutrality are so nuanced. And yet, it’s so important to at least start having these conversations or continue the conversations and give you some things to think about as you are on your own journey. And it’s really interesting, so many of you are at different places that listen to this show. Some of you have been literally following me on social media and or my website for almost eight years now. And you’re still here because you are growing and changing as well. And you’re realizing the limitations of some of the things that you used to think or believe about food or exercise or your body and why you want to keep growing and evolving and changing your own perspectives. Some of you are brand new, and you’re like writing me on Instagram, asking me I don’t even know what intuitive eating is. Or maybe I’ve heard a little bit about it. But I’m really unsure. And I’m confused. And I totally hear you on that. Because intuitive eating is not just a eat this don’t eat that list of foods. It is really a deep and wide framework. And it’s a piece of what my overall mission is. But food is one of the ways that we get there. So regardless of where you’re at, on your journey, we are all sort of doing this together. And those of us who have been here for a little bit longer, hopefully helping those of us along who are a bit newer, and we’re all learning from each other. So far in this season. Specifically, I’ve talked about what my mission is why I’m here and why I care about this so much. What diet culture is how is really rooted in systems of oppression, how it keeps the women are busy and distracted by the pursuit of body perfection. And ultimately, that makes us obsessed about our bodies.
How diet culture has really failed us and I talked a couple of weeks ago about how it’s really stealing the life out from under your nose. And then last week I talked about why fits bow frankly needs to die and needs to go away. And that is really the manifestation of diet culture in the fitness industry. So I’ve talked about all of those things. If you’ve missed some of those episodes, I highly recommend that you jump back and take a listen to those because I’ve heard from so many of you that these episodes have really helped you consider different perspectives or see the nuance in these conversations. Today we’re going to be talking about why shaming ourselves for our bodies, or other people shaming us for our bodies is ultimately not a motivator for change and definitely not helpful and in particular I just want to mention some nuance here that, yes, people in all sorts of bodies on the body spectrum, right, if you will, the body diversity spectrum, can experience unkind rude comments, inappropriate comments, hurtful comments. And people in all sizes of bodies along the body size spectrum can really have things like issues with body image.
And yet, this is really, really important because thinner bodies are not oppressed, on a systemic level in our societies, like larger bodies or fat bodies are. And I say this because and we’re going to be talking about this a little bit more next week. But whenever I talk about this idea of body positivity, and where the movement came from, and how it’s really being co-opted, I get, every time I talk about this, I get confused, or frankly, angry comments from folks who don’t quite understand the nuance of this. And so again, I’ll say it like this. For some people who are in very thin bodies, that’s naturally their body type. For example, they’ve been that way their whole lives. They may get teased for being skinny mini or a beanpole, etc, etc, which can be incredibly painful, and very harmful to self-esteem, or very harmful to body image, etc, etc.
However, in our society, because we’re in diet culture, thin bodies do not experience systemic oppression, right? There’s, you can walk into any store and buy clothes off the rack, you can go to the doctor without really getting any assumptions or comments about things like BMI, you’re generally not going to be experiencing things like discrimination in the workplace or in hiring practices. If you want more on this, go back and listen to the podcast that I did with Brianna Campos, I think that’s Episode 313. Suffice to say.
So again, if you’re in a smaller body, no matter what kind of body you’re in, you might have experienced shaming talk, right? People talk negatively about your body, etc. But on a systemic oppression level. That is not something that people in thinner bodies experience on that level. So it’s just really important to say this, because later on when I talk about concern trolling, and why people in fat bodies or people in larger bodies are the target of things like concern, trolling is important to keep that, that nuance and that distinction, fresh in your mind. So let’s dig into this a little bit more regarding shame. All right. Full disclosure, I am not a shame researcher. Right. There are many, many researchers who look at things like shame and guilt. And the difference between the two and the motivators that come out of those things are, how they’re harmful to us and our health, for example. So I’m not claiming to be the world’s preeminent researcher on shame. There are folks like Britney Brown, Julie Tangney, is another researcher at George Mason University, etc, etc. So there are so many people doing research on things like shame. However, I am a human being I’ve experienced these feelings. And I work with people all the time, in my intuitive eating support community, or in my other coaching programs, or just talking with y’all in the community about how things like guilt and shame have played out for you, and how you feel about yourself, or the ways that you have maybe tried to motivate yourself to change in the past that ultimately end up becoming a bit of a dead-end in terms of really causing us to want to change, whether it’s our bodies, our exercise programs, the way we’re eating anything in our lives. So I’m going to give you the super quick and dirty way of understanding this.
And then also just present you with a few studies. And what those studies say about shame, and then talk about some interesting sort of a spin on this because remember, this is very nuanced. So the best way to explain this is that guilt is I did something bad or wrong. There was some kind of event that happened, I did a thing. And typically guilt is contextualized in the sense that there was a misstep, and I did something wrong. And then I feel bad for what I did. And usually, it’s between ourselves in another party, although a lot of people feel guilty for the things that they engage in, whether it’s their eating habits, or their lack of exercise, for example. But typically, guilt is this, this thing that happened or this thing that I did, that I don’t feel great about. And usually, it causes us to seek to make it right, especially when we’ve wronged another person. Okay, so that’s guilt.
Shame, on the other hand, is the sense that I didn’t just do something wrong or harm another person, it is that I am bad or wrong. For what, not just for what I did, but I am a bad or wrong person, like internalized. And it becomes more of a focus on yourself and your faults and your shortcomings. And the sort of accompanying humiliation that comes along with the shame often causes us to hide to remove ourselves from certain situations to isolate ourselves, to pull back from connecting with other people, for example. So how this comes about in the world of intuitive eating, for example, is that a lot of people I work with feel very shameful for their, their not just their eating habits, but for getting to a point where dieting doesn’t serve them anymore, even if it did in the past. Right, I think it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes we learn things from the plans that we’re on, like it. Sometimes it’s helpful to say, you know, what, I actually learned that I like brussel sprouts. I didn’t know that or I learned that I really love to do this kind of exercise. So sometimes it’s nuanced. But in the sense of, I have done so many plans. I have failed over and over again, at these really restrictive, for example, intentional weight loss plans.
And because of this repeated failure, I’ve internalized that. And therefore, not only do I feel bad, but I am bad, right? And so instead of the diet plan being the failure, I am bad for having failed at dieting, so becomes really internalized.
So how this plays out in some of the research so is really interesting. So I mentioned June, I think I called her Judy, earlier, June Tangney of George Mason University and this is a quote from Scientific American, so I’m just going to read this. It says she has studied shame for decades and numerous collaborations with Rhonda L. Deering, or the University of Houston and others. She has found that people who have a propensity for feeling shame, often have low self-esteem. Tangney & Deering are among the investigators who have found that shame proneness can also increase one’s risk for other psychological problems. The link with depression is particularly strong. For instance, one large scale meta-analysis in which researchers examined 108 studies involving more than 22,000 subjects showed a clear connection. So that’s a connection between shame and mental health. Right, the link with depression. So shame is not it’s a normal human experience. But this chronically feeling shameful, it can be really harmful to our health in, in this study, right the mental health aspect of our overall health. And there’s another piece here that I really wanted to read to you, Tangney and her co-authors explained it well in a 2005 paper. A shame prone individual who is reprimanded for being late to work after a night of heavy drinking might be likely to think I’m such a loser, I just can’t get it together. Whereas a guilt-prone individual would more likely think I feel badly for showing up late. I inconvenienced my co-workers. feelings of shame can be painful and debilitating, affecting one’s core sense of self, and may invoke a self-defeating cycle of negative effects. In comparison, feelings of guilt, though painful, are less disabling than shame, and are likely to motivate the individual in a positive direction toward reparation or change.
That is really, really powerful. And this speaks so well to why shame around food and our bodies is so harmful, especially if then other people do it to us, they shame us, or we try to use shame, or negative, even negative self talk as a motivator for change. So again, it said, feelings of shame can affect one’s core sense of self, and may invoke a self-defeating cycle of negative effect. But guilt, even though guilt is uncomfortable, is less debilitating, and more likely to motivate you to make it right. Right? Remember, guilt is I did something bad. Not I am a bad person. I just think that that quote that section of that article, and we’ll link the article from Scientific American in the show notes because there’s lots of other studies that were mentioned, this was a 2019 article.
I just felt like that was so powerful, and really put it into the perspective of why shaming people for their bodies, does damage, and why shame for ourselves is really something to investigate and heal, if it’s persistent, and why and when we’re trying to make a change with food or our bodies, or exercise shame really doesn’t have a powerful place in helping us make a change. This also dovetails in with some of the other research that I found about shame and how shame might be is these are some other theories, shame might be helpful in making us change. If it is a big if we’re able to connect it with not living into like our highest version of self, we’ve somehow we’ve stepped outside of our values. And we recognize that we have, we’re not, we’re not matching up there. It’s a very self-directed sort of sense of you know what I let myself down. Because this isn’t really who I am, versus when the shame comes from other people and their external expectations. Right. So when we feel shame as a result of other people, whether it’s saying comments about our bodies are saying we’re bad people for our bodies, which happens literally every day online, and on social media.
This paints a really powerful picture that says it is not adapt as adaptive, or useful when the shame that we feel comes from other people in helping us to change. So I thought that that was an interesting, sort of set of a bit of a counterpoint to what I said earlier in that, you know, I said like, shame is a motivator to change. But I think there’s some nuance here to explore of, you know, if I realized I’ve stepped outside of my values, and who I really am as a person, and I’m feeling a little bit shameful about that, that may be more likely to help me get back on the track of feeling like I am aligned to my core values or who I really am way more than if I’m shamed by somebody else.
I’m shamed because of something that somebody says that I am bad for. Bring it in for a minute. If you are ready to get free with food and fitness, and I mean, true freedom, not just going back on another reset, if you fall off the wagon, if you’re ready to explore radical permission to listen to your body and to live life on your terms, the tune in membership is ready for you. inside of this monthly membership, we learn how to drop extremes when it comes to diet and exercise. You’ll learn how to let your inner wisdom lead, how to take up more space, and ultimately to take the energy that you were spending on the endless quest for body perfection, thanks to the patriarchy, and handle that into being a force for good. All of that happens in a supportive judgment-free community, via mobile app, not on Facebook, and the doors are open for you. So if this sounds like you, please head over to StephGaudreau.com/Insider, we would love to welcome you to the Tune In Membership.
So I wanted to make sure that I threw that in there because I found that was a really interesting subset of, of this idea that guilt may be more powerful in terms of helping us to make a change, and maybe less harmful to us if we’re able to really make things right. But that shame, especially when it comes from other people is so damaging to us and can be really harmful to our health really harmful to our mental state really harmful to how we see ourselves as people and not as adaptive.
The other thing, so to kind of put this into context with why this is a problem, for example, on social media, why we see this happening online so much, is that a lot of shaming that is happening right now, in terms of people and their bodies and not looking a certain way. And in particular, right. As I said earlier, people in larger bodies bear much more of the brunt of this than the rest of us who are in not bodies that aren’t as large. So I consider myself to be in a straight-sized body. So I’ll just say that, right? If you’re in a straight-sized body, you’re not going to be experiencing this to the level of somebody who is in a larger body. It’s just, it’s just the way it is. You can talk to anyone on Instagram who is out there, they’re in the arena, to use a Brene Brown quote, it’s not her quote, but she uses it all the time. It’s a Teddy Roosevelt, quote. You know, these folks are out there in the arena, they’re putting themselves out there, they are out there educating and leading and doing their thing. And it’s like constant fucking hate. And it is some of the things that I see, especially when some of the folk’s online share, the things that people tell them are just absolutely disgusting.
And so here’s why this is a problem, right? A lot of this shaming is a result of truly diet culture, and it’s not being internally driven, right. So I just kind of shared that those theories with you that if shame is really because we feel like we’re not living to our highest version of self and really, truly comes from inside of us like we’ve, we’ve let ourselves down. It may have some usefulness, but when it is coming from the outside, it is definitely not as useful and adaptive, and harmful. So when this is really coming from rude-ass keyboard warriors, who are not sticking their necks out in the arena, and hiding behind private accounts, and doing the things that they’re doing, like I said, particular, particularly to people in marginalized bodies. This is a problem. And this is why concern trolling is something I want to address. So concern trolling is essentially the behavior where folks feign concern over someone else’s life.
And they act concerned, right. So this is a concern, but trolling in the sense that it’s oftentimes, completely it’s just completely inappropriate, it’s completely unwarranted. The person doing the concern trolling just wants to get a rise out of the other individual. Right? Because that’s what trolls do. They just want to see other people get upset, and they get off on it. I’m totally convinced that they love to see how they can hurt people. But in this particular context to concern trolling that I’ve noticed a lot of is on is about people’s weight or their health.
So this might look like somebody in a larger body getting concerned trolled over, you know if they post a picture of food that is like anything, but quote, pristine, healthy or clean, that people will say, you know like you’re promoting obesity, or you’re promoting being unhealthy simply because that person happens to be in a larger body. Now, I’ve seen some counterpoints on concern trolling that I’ve read, and the CounterPoint is well, the person doesn’t really know that you know, there’s a nuance between weight and health, and they’re just trying to help. And to that, I say, big fucking pile of horse shit. That is complete and utter bullshit. If you asked a five-year-old, if that would be appropriate behavior, that kid would say no. So the concern trolling of like, oh, I’m just concerned about your health. And the biggest offender of this in recent memory is Jillian Michaels.
And how she concern trolled Lizzo, I think this was last year at this point. But this is kind of one of the most famous examples recently where she was just sort of like, well, I’m just worried about her health. Here’s the thing. You got to ask yourself, if you’re like, Oh, my gosh, I truly was concerned. Why? Why if? Why are you serious? Spicy? Why are you so concerned about someone else’s health? You would comment in such an ugly and ignorant fashion? Especially on their social media? A, you would never say that to that person’s face in person. Like my husband always says, if you’re not willing to get punched in the face, for what you’re about to say, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it. That’s a paraphrase, by the way, but gets the point across, right? We are so much more emboldened to say things online because we get to hide behind a screen. We don’t have to look at that person and humanize them, which is a huge problem. All right, social media and the Internet, and just being connected over devices, dehuman, it allows for dehumanization, because we don’t have to actually be with the person or see the person in particular, face to face, right. And oftentimes, it’s done from accounts that are private accounts, like you’re not out there in the arena, putting yourself out there. And but you just got to ask yourself why? Like, even if you think that that person might you’re making a massive leap by assuming that they’re being unhealthy.
But why do you care? Is that person’s health a moral obligation? Is it harming you in some way? And I think that some people might say, well, I, you know, I used to be like that, and I was unhealthy. So I care about helping other people, or I had a family member who got sick, and their health was really not good. And it just really, I just want to help other people. If you wanted to help people, you would not be concerned about trolling them. That’s one. Number two, especially for people in larger bodies, they are the target of concern trolling like this at a far and above and beyond anything, that those of us in straight size bodies do experience, often simply because they’re just existing.
They’re just existing in the world doing their thing, right? The assumptions that are made about people the way in which they are really just attacked online is it shocks me, and then it doesn’t shock me anymore, because it happens so much. But I got it. I’ve got to ask for anybody out there who might see this or you’re like, Why do people do this? Is? What is it really? Is it really accomplishing helping that person go? You know what, you’re right. Maybe I should change? Of course not. Even if there was a shred of that person thinking, you know, I was thinking that maybe I want to start exercising again, or I don’t even know. Right? Huh, vegetables. I might like to add more vegetables to my routine, even if that person’s thinking that what fucking good is it going to do to get trolled? And then are you going to say, you know what, you’re totally right. Of course not. It feels fucking shitty. So remember, think feel act, right? How would you feel if somebody were to comment? Or how have you felt once when someone comments on something like your weight or your body or what you’re eating and this is like, unsolicited, just concern trolling or people just making wild assumptions about you. It doesn’t feel good. And I would wager that the vast, vast, vast majority of the time it is not going to help, even if there was validity to it and you’re like, you know what, I do want to start getting some more movement in my life. Even if that’s the case, it’s not going to be a motivator to actually act in that way, right?
Because thoughts affect feelings and feelings drive our actions. So if you feel guilty or shameful or shitty, generally speaking, how do you act or react, it’s typically not going to be a change that you feel really great about, or that you’re going to go out there and make it happen. Normally, what happens is, you retreat I said earlier, right? What happens when we feel shameful, we hide, we remove ourselves, we play small, we shrink, we hold back, we clam up, we take ourselves out of the things that we really want to do, because that feeling is so very powerful, that feeling of shame. So just keep this in mind if you’re sort of like falling into these patterns for yourself. And yes, we want to have compassion for ourselves if we’ve been doing this, but think about it is your is the way that you’re talking to yourself, is the way that you’re relating to yourself about, you know, I’m a bad person, because maybe gained weight during the pandemic, or I’m a bad person because I just don’t want to exercise right now. Is that really helping you to move forward, to feel good enough about yourself to make a change that is going to be sustainable, that is healthy for you, and that you ultimately do enjoy? And I would wager that is not.
So I wanted to leave you today with some simple tips. Remember, simple not always easy, but some simple tips for what to do when shame is coming up. Or when this negative voice is coming up, your inner critic is coming up with what to do instead. So the first thing is, block and delete this shit from your life on social media. So if this is coming from somewhere else, right. And I totally feel for my colleagues, and I feel for the folks out there on social media who are in, for example, larger bodies, and they are doing work, especially in the fields of nutrition and body positivity. And the fat acceptance movement. Like I feel for y’all out there. Because the amount of shit that you receive is unconscionable.
But if you’re out there, and you’re like people are commenting on it, like block and delete, get it out of your space. There’s this thing right now, where people online are usually trolls. They’re like, Oh, well, you can’t take it. Oh, well, you should be you know, acting like this is their personal platform and that we need to let their shitty opinions and really harmful stuff stay in our spaces. I even wrote a post about this. It’s called stay in your lane, you can go read it. This is a little bit related to this a little bit different. But here’s the thing. You don’t need to let somebody’s bullshit stay in your space. So especially if it’s somebody you don’t know you’ve never met, like block and delete that shit. Just get it out, get it out of your energetic field, get it out of your social media space, you do not have to abide by that. So concern trolls beyond okay. The second thing and a bit more nuanced. get curious. If you’re sort of like, I want to make a change. But I’m, I feel maybe like it is coming from a place of feeling bad about myself or feeling like I’m a bad person because dieting hasn’t worked for me, or I did you my body has changed. I feel bad. I’m bad because this happened to me. Get curious about what is truly your voice and what is coming from others’ society diet culture, and start to notice what is truly coming from inside of you.
And I know that this sounds simple, but sometimes it’s not easy. And then the last tip that I have is to get clear on your personal values, sometimes called your core values, and something that I call your here and now motivators and I talk about this more in my mindful eating tool. We also talk about it in my intuitive eating support community. Getting super clear about a motivator in your life that is really coming from a place of expansiveness possibilities, possibility curiosity. Growth transformation is far more powerful than hating yourself into change. So those are a few simple tips that you can use if you’re navigating these topics in your life. Just to recap, today on this podcast, we talked about why using shame as motivation doesn’t work and you cannot really shame yourself into changing yourself or your body in any way. We talked about the difference between guilt and shame. We also talked about a little bit of the research about guilt and shame, and how shame affects us on a health level. It also affects us on our ability to really truly make a change and move forward in our lives. I also brought up the topic of concern trolls and talked about on social media why this is a huge problem. And also then gave you some tips for if you do want to make a change. How can you come at it from a healthier, more helpful place, rather than trying to shame yourself or hate yourself into change?
I hope this has helped you I would love to have you hit the subscribe button on your podcast app and share this episode out tagged me in it on Instagram. I would love to know what you think. If you are ready to really start putting intuitive eating practices into action in your life and it’s best done with support. If you are curious about my intuitive eating support community, It’s called Tune In, you can find information about that on my website, or just go to StephGaudreau.com/Insider. Thanks so much for being here with me this week. Next week. I will be back with another fantastic fiery juicy episode for you. I am so excited about this one. So you’re gonna need to put on your nuance hat. Alright, until then I will see you next week. Be well.