Recently, I asked my Thyroid Fix in 6 community what they wanted me to support them with, and someone brought up one of the big, fat, hairy elephants in all our living rooms: shame.
“I got stressed and I broke down and ate brownies. Gluten ones! That was days ago and I still haven’t gotten back on the gluten-free wagon. Would love advice on how to move past the shame and forgive myself.”
Oh, sister. Have I been there! Actually, haven’t we all? We make a poor choice in the heat of the moment and then the shame cycle starts — which can be even more detrimental than the bad choice in the first place!
The shame issue has to be addressed. We have to stop beating ourselves up. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. What we can do is forgive ourselves, move past it and put strategies in place to keep us on track.
Carl Jung said “Shame is a soul-eating emotion,” and I couldn’t agree more. If you let it, shame will tear you apart.
Are you a human doing or a human being?
The real roots of shame lie in the question of whether we are valuable because of what we do, or whether we are valuable simply because of who we are.
If we believe we are a human “doing,” then we will never do enough or do it good enough. It’s like the donkey chasing the carrot dangled in front of her on a stick: we’ll never reach the carrot! We’ll never be perfect enough for ourselves, we will never have done enough to believe we’re truly valuable.
If, on the other hand, we are a human being, and our very being is enough to make us valuable, then no action (or lack of action) can take that value away. We are valuable simply because of who we are.
I believe this wholeheartedly. Every individual is special, important, unique, and valuable just for being. Every individual makes choices, and some of them will not be the best choices, but that doesn’t diminish our value.
Your thyroid or autoimmune condition does not define you, and neither do your past actions. And honey, everything we do is almost immediately in the past. So our lesson is to learn to just let it go!
A bit easier said than done though, right?
The best strategy for overcoming shame is to practice regulating your emotions. Studies show that shame can be mitigated by skillful emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is what you do when you cheer yourself up — or when you make yourself feel anxious worrying about something. It’s all about the control we exert over our own emotions, and we can learn to be better at it!
Our emotions lead to thoughts, and our thoughts lead to behaviors, and this can become a vicious cycle. We have to try to do something consciously to break out of that cycle in order to break free of shame.
Try these strategies when you find yourself caught in a shame cycle:
- Ac-cen-tu-ate the positive. Doing more enjoyable, pleasurable activities is actually a great way to increase your ability to self-regulate your emotions. Think of it as filling your piggy bank; when something stressful happens, you’ll have a reserve you can withdraw from. As opposed to when the bank is empty, and you have to go looking elsewhere (like the bakery case) for emotional sustenance. Plan at least one healthy, pleasurable distraction for yourself each day, and take the time to truly enjoy it fully.
- Look at it from a different angle. OK, so from one point of view, you failed. You ate the brownie. But from another point of view, you really needed something you weren’t getting emotionally and you tried to get it with food. If you’re not getting your needs met, is that such a character flaw? It’s not. Try looking at your perceived misdeed from another angle to be more understanding and kind to yourself.
- Sit with the uncomfortable emotions. Woah, nelly, that’s a rough one! We are conditioned to avoid painful emotions at all costs — and that’s frequently how we end up scarfing down a bunch of brownies when we’re stressed or upset…or because we’re annoyed that our health condition requires us to be conscious of what we’re eating (and sometimes it’s a pain!) But learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions can be a very helpful practice. Start with a relatively safe uncomfortable feeling, like hunger. Instead of eating the second you feel hungry, try postponing it for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour. (But no longer — you need to eat!)
- Try doing the opposite. What’s your default when you feel shame? It may be to hide from other people or to attack yourself for your perceived defect. A good emotional regulation strategy is to try the exact opposite. If you tend to withdraw when you feel ashamed, reach out to a friend. If you tend to berate and abuse yourself, try approaching yourself with kindness and understanding.
- Turn off the recording. Shame often manifests as a broken record in our heads, repeating the same negative messages over and over again. If you find yourself in that situation, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and visualize yourself stopping the playback. Literally picture yourself turning off a blaring TV, taking the needle off the record (for us old-timers) or pressing STOP on an iPod or CD player. You could picture the message on a piece of paper and ball it up and throw it in the trash. Whatever image works for you is great.
The biggest and most important thing you can do to overcome shame is to forgive yourself. We are all human beings, and as they say, “To err is human. To forgive divine.”[bctt tweet=”To err is human. To forgive divine.”]
Tap into your divine nature and forgive yourself. Try writing yourself a letter, spelling out exactly where, why, and how you forgive yourself for any past transgressions, then move forward with a clean slate.
If you need a safe place to talk about your shame (instead of hiding it) or want to publicly declare your forgiveness for yourself, I urge you to come over to the Facebook group and share. You won’t find a more wonderful, supportive group of people who truly understand what you’re going through.
If you liked the article you just read and are looking for even more support, I provide a ton of resources on healing your thyroid naturally, including:
- Our totally free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Report and Coaching Sessions
- Right here on my blog, where I talk about what’s worked best for me and my clients, as well as the latest research and resources I come across. You can subscribe to get new blog posts delivered right to your email by signing up on the righthand side of the page.
- My book, Healing Hashimoto’s Naturally — part memoir, part instruction manual for how I personally healed my Hashimoto’s disease.
- My exclusive free 6 Thyroid Myths That Can Keep You From Healing workshop — with info on the comprehensive Thyroid Fix in 6 program, which walks you through, step-by-step, the exact actions you need to take to heal your thyroid and get your life back! We’ve seen hundreds of participants in the Thyroid Fix in 6 avoid, decrease, or even eliminate the need need for thyroid medications.
- The incredible Your Best Thyroid Life Video Bundle, in which I personally invited 27 of the world’s top health experts to share their best tips for living with and healing thyroid disease.
We are valuable simply because of who we are, and your thyroid or autoimmune condition does not define you!
Jen Wittman is a Certified Holistic Health Expert, Chef, Author & Vitality Coach, who teaches women how to reverse thyroid and autoimmune conditions naturally. She’s helped hundreds of women decrease (or even eliminate) their thyroid medications and has helped others stay off thyroid medication entirely.
Through her free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Jen teaches easy and simple steps to thyroid healing that can fit into your busy day. She also provides print outs to bring to your next doctor’s appointment so you can get the support and respect you deserve.