The biggest barrier that most of us face to practicing body kindness is shame. Shame comes from feeling like we are somehow less than what we "should" be. We learn shame at a very early age... from family, from religion, from teachers, from the media. Anywhere there is a message that tells us we are "wrong" or "bad" or "not good enough," there is shame. Diet Culture, therefore, is ALL ABOUT shame.
When we experience shame because we don't like what we see in our reflection, or because we feel paralyzed by all of the healthy behaviors we "should" be engaging in that we aren't, or because of a particular diagnosis, or because we -- or people like us -- are ACTUALLY being shamed by certain voices online or in the media or even in our own family... it feels impossible to choose kindness towards our body because our body feels like our enemy. Our body, full of shame, feels like it is the thing that is bad.
Our body isn't the enemy. Shame is. And the only way to really reverse or erase shame (on an individual, immediate level) is to engage in Self-Compassion. Most thoroughly explored by Dr. Kristin Neff's research, Self-Compassion is defined as "being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism" (Neff, 2011).
Self-Compassion is about taking a moment when we find ourselves hurtling toward shame to stop and consider another approach. Maybe what we are going through is just part of being human. Maybe what we are going through is something most other people face as well. Maybe what we are going through is a trick of marketing or just social conditioning that has led us to believe some folks are better, more lovable, or worthier than others.
Self-Compassion can remind us that we deserve body kindness.
One way that Neff suggests we practice self-compassion is via our self-talk. When we find ourselves sliding into self-criticism and shame, we can use the following script or a variation of the following script:
I am having a hard time right now.
This week, re-write this self-compassion script out (or write your own variation of it) and place it somewhere you will see it every day or in the places where you tend to experience shame most often. Every time you see it, repeat it either out loud or quietly to yourself. See how this script can help turn your mind and heart away from shame and self-criticism and toward self-compassion and body kindness.
Then, attend the next Coaching Call on Tuesday, October 12th at 7pm, to tell us what kind of effect giving yourself these words this week had on you!
is an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer; an ACE-Certified Group Fitness Instructor; a certified Yoga Teacher; a Certified Intuitive Eating Professional; and a degree-holding Health, Fitness Specialist. She lives in Frankfort, Michigan and owns Every. Body. Fitness and Yoga Studio.