I love egg and yogurt. Not one after the other. TOGETHER. AT THE SAME TIME. MIXED. Of course for years I ate it when nobody was looking, too afraid of being shamed for such a weird/gross/strange combination. But I still ate it. I thought other people will find it disgusting and that was a reason good enough for me to deprive myself of something that I liked. At the same time, I was the best at shaming people’s choices, especially when it came down to food. Shaming your choices, and therefore others’ peoples choices, is a form of control. Shaming is after all a way of organising behaviours in your world, a way of categorising things. Should and shouldn’t, good and bad. Shaming is a poor strategy to try to convince ourselves that something is bad. Shaming is a way of trying to help ourselves to do the right thing from a place of control rather than power. Shaming is actually the opposite of power: we think we can’t take good decisions and choices, therefore the only way to do it is by making us feel so bad that the feeling will stop us. it is as useful as to shoot you on your foot to stop yourself from going to the fridge to grab the ice cream. There are better ways. More supportive. Less painful. More helpful. Unfortunately they haven’t being taught to us. Why? In most cases I think our immediate environment didn’t know any better and did that to themselves and to us growing up, so it’s a legacy issue (manageable and changeable). It is also promoted by media and mainstream culture: diet culture, for example, is a the epitome of body and food shame.
This is what I do to escape self shame and shaming others’ choices:
1- Embrace your choices in a proud way: feeling proud and confident of your choices and not being apologetic drives people crazy. Crazy people run out of arguments pretty quickly. You win. Battle is over. You get to fully enjoy your egg and yogurt and give the other person some food for thought. Not too bad.
2-Show empathy: when a person is shaming my choices I think that they probably are twice as hard with themselves. And that’s painful. So I try to understand where they are coming from, what type of people they have in their lives modelling that behaviour for them and how horrible that must feel. Particularly when there is no awareness on those internal processes and they feel powerless and condemned to feel like that forever.
3- Show curiosity: as soon as the person is a little bit off guard I ask them about their own choices. If they have a choice or behaviour they like but hide because they are ashamed, they’d love the opportunity to open up without being judged. Secrets are painful, and again when trying to control them we become less powerful. So talking about them takes the power back from them to the individual.
4- NEVER AGAIN SHAME SOMEONE ELSE’S CHOICES: if you do that to other people you do it to yourself. There is no way a happy, supportive person is the worst critic of others but love herself unconditionally. NOPE. That doesn’t happen. So every time a shaming feeling comes to your mind (about clothes, body, food, parenting, relationships, career move…) REFRAIN YOURSELF. STOP YOURSELF.JUST DON’T DO IT. It won’t happen overnight, so if you do it, just apologise mentally to the person and commit yourself again to not doing it. This is a mindfulness technique and a great way to regain your power: you decide what thoughts enter your brain. your intelligence has the power to control the mind in a gentle way and decide what is best for it.
I’d love to listen to your experiences with self shame and shame from others and to others!