3 min read

Shame is about believing that I am essentially a bad person who is unworthy of love.

Shame has been a very corrosive force in my life. 

It is the agonising sense that no matter what I do, and especially because of what I fail to do, I will never be good enough.

It is based on a deep mistrust of my innermost intentions. It is rooted in the idea that I am selfish, greedy, uncaring, inadequate and unworthy of my seat at the table of life.

My shame used to be centred on my appearance.

It used to revolve around my body. I was ashamed of how I looked and wanted to hide because I didn't want it confirmed that my self-loathing was warranted.

I still hoped that I wasn't as disgusting as I feared. I still wanted to believe I could be loved and desired. I craved approval, and an end to the pain of feeling like a reject and a loser. An excuse for a woman.

Releasing shame about my body has given me a new lease of life.

Six years ago I woke up to the truth that there was nothing inherently wrong with my body, and other people's condemnation (imagined and real) lost its power. 

For the most part, I no longer fear it. There are still occasions and places where the legacy of the conditioning rears its ugly head. But they are few and far between, and don't impinge upon my quality of life very much.

The lightness I feel at having put this burden down is wonderful. It has unleashed creativity which I didn't know existed. I started to write and even, in private, to sing. Unthinkable to me until only very recently! 

I delight in the simple things of daily life. And my default state is one of happiness, excitement and gratitude. I am continually touched by the beauty of life. 

I also have new energy and courage to share what I've learnt with other people who are still struggling with insecurities about their appearance.

It seems that letting go of shame can have very wonderful consequences! It is a blossoming and a blessing. Like the carefree joy of a child who has the power to lift the mood of a home and renew your enthusiasm for life.

But shame has reared its ugly head in other areas...

However, shame is not done with me! Not by a long way!

It now tells me that my work to help others with their body image struggles is not good enough. I should be helping more people. And I should be helping them achieve more dramatic results more quickly. And I should be helping people in other places in other ways.

And, wait for it... while there is any suffering in the world, I should not rest. Because not to get involved in trying to end all suffering everywhere means that I am lazy, selfish, indifferent, uncaring and despicable.

I wasn't born feeling ashamed of myself.  I learnt this attitude.

I have no idea where all this shame came from. My parents seemed far less judgemental. They were critical of people who were doing bad things in the world. But they didn't focus unduly on fault-finding. They noticed when people took steps to effect positive change. They looked for them and celebrated kindness when they witnessed it.

But it came from somewhere. I certainly wasn't born with it. I learnt it. I know because I remember a time when I was little when I didn't have an eating disorder and I danced with wild abandon. Before it had occurred to me that I might be irredeemably flawed.

Shame seemed like it protected me from other people's judgements.

At some point, it seems I decided shame would protect me. If I hid away and wallowed in shame, I thought I would avoid being vilified by other people. I didn't understand that the suffering wasn't coming from other people's judgement of me. It came from the fact that I bought into their judgement. Their judgement just brought my own pre-existing judgement into my conscious awareness. It brought it forward, so I could feel it more strongly.

No wonder I turned to food to numb it. To try to escape it.

"You should be ashamed of yourself!"  Or should you...? 🤔

There is huge pressure in our culture to use shame as a motivator for better behaviour. "You should be ashamed of yourself!" seems to be drummed into so many of us. And we take it to heart, believing that it will help us become better people.

But my personal experience so far is that it does the opposite. It keeps us frozen in unhealthy patterns that fragment our society. So terrified are we of being found out for the repugnant, evil, incompetent, inadequate villains that we truly are that we stop trying to make a difference in the world. 

We conclude we have no contribution to make. That what we have to say is unimportant. And others are better qualified to run things than we are. So we stay silent. We hold back. We retreat into our little comfort zones that turn out to be stultifying. And we hide our light under a bushel.

This is where I am now. Bogged down in shame. But something is definitely shifting. And I'm beginning to question whether it is really serving me or anyone else. Yes, it's excruciating. And the voices that tell me that I should be ashamed of myself and distrust my intentions and intuition still sound very persuasive. But I'm feeling the shame more fully. And feeling is healing. And from that I draw hope... 


  • Shame is at the heart of our suffering with our appearance.  It is based on the misunderstanding that our value comes from our bodies conforming with popular societal expectations about how bodies 'should' look.
  • Shame is learnt.  What is learnt can be unlearnt.
  • Shame is based on ignorance.  When we feel ashamed, we are disconnected from, and unaware of, the full depth and breadth of who we truly are.  We are blinded from the truth by judgements.
  • The antidote to shame is self-knowledge - the self that lies beyond our habitual thoughts and connects us with all of life.

And now it's over to you.  What's your experience with shame?

  • Do you feel shame?  What do you feel ashamed about?  Your body?  Other things?
  • How would you describe the experience of feeling ashamed?
  • What is the impact of feeling ashamed on your mood, behaviour and relationships?

Reach out if you'd like support

If you're struggling with feelings of shame when it comes to your appearance, check out my free resources or find out how you can work with me.

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