Body Shame? 5 Ways to Embrace Imperfections

I can always count on my mom for book recommendations, so when she passed along The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, I was really excited to read it. I will admit it sat on my bedside table for a few months until I got to it, but once I cracked it open, it cracked my heart right open. Gifts of Imperfection

Brene Brown is a researcher and story-teller talking about the thing we don't want to talk about - SHAME.

We all have it. We don't talk about it. The less we talk about it, the more we have it.

The Gifts of Imperfection is about the idea that you have to "let go of who you think you're supposed to be and embrace who you are."

That's how we live a wholehearted life. It means we have to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there in the world, imperfections and all. We have to stop trying to control and perfect. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, being vulnerable can be really hard. Showing failure to myself or others is terrifying at times, but luckily, I've learned to soften these traits and let go of perfectionism and the shame that follows.

Perfectionism, Shame, & Eating

This rings so true for me. I've tried to eat perfectly, dress perfectly based on what I think others would think of me, and it's just not a very fun way to live. It's not who I am.

Perfectionism and shame are closely linked to eating disorders and disordered eating. If you can't control the world around you (you can't), you try to control what you can. You can control every calorie you put in your body and try to eat perfectly because giving up all control is terrifying. There is so much shame around our bodies too. Just listen to this interview where women describe their bodies as "disgusting" rather than strong, incredible, amazing.

To give this up takes courage and self-compassion. It's really hard to be vulnerable and open to the world, so we numb. Some people numb by going out partying, alcohol, drugs, and others numb with food - emotional eating, restriction, binge eating.

We believe it's easier to numb than let our true selves be seen. Yet, Brene says that we can't selectively numb, and when we numb the hard, I-don't-want-to-feel feelings, we also numb joy, gratitude, happiness. She says, "When we numb the dark, we numb the light."

In order to live a wholehearted life, we have to believe that we are enough. That we are worthy...right now. It's easy for us to believe that we'll be happy and worthy of love and belonging when we are 20 pounds lighter or in shape. If you've ever told yourself that "I'll be happy when I lose weight," stop waiting to live a wholehearted life. You have to be willing to be vulnerable now and feel like you are enough no matter how much you weigh. Self-worth is not dependent on the scale or your size.

So, how do you live a wholehearted life?

(This is a constant journey, but here's some tips that have worked for me and my clients)

5 Ways to Embrace Imperfections

1. Listen to Brene Brown's TED talk or read her books!

Both The Gifts of Imperfection & Daring Greatly are two of my favorite books! I've lived with plenty of "shoulds" in my life (I should run, I should eat another salad, I should get a steady clinical dietitian job...), but that's not who I am. Letting go of what I think I "should" be is the best choice.

2. Start a gratitude list.

Lately, my mom and sister have been writing their gratitude list nightly on Facebook, so I've started writing one as well in a journal. It's so easy to focus on the ONE thing on our day that went wrong rather than to focus on all the amazing, incredible things that are happening in our lives. Instead, start a simple gratitude journal or list, and come up with 3 things each night that you are grateful for. Anything counts.

3. Find a mantra or quote to repeat to yourself during the day.

Research suggests that we can rewire our brains. If we change our thoughts, we can literally change our lives. Some of the quotes from her that I love are:

  • "Today I'm going to believe that showing up is enough."
  • "I will invite courage, compassion, and connection into my life."
  • "Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection."
  • "To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us and say, 'I'm all in.'"

4. Make a "feel-good" list.

Make a list of what is going on in your life when everything feels good. Now, compare it to your to-do and to-accomplish list. Different lists, right? Is weight loss and counting calories on your feel-good list? I bet that they are on your to-accomplish list. When you're able to let go of trying to control your weight and eating (and eat intuitively), that's when you'll be able to find your "feel-good" weight and find health.

5. Play AND Rest.

The elliptical and burpees are not play for me. Maybe some of you love them, but exercise really can be fun (and not torture). Yoga is totally playtime for me, and when it gets too serious or strict, I stop having fun. Adding playtime - your hobbies, family time, friend time, whatever makes you feel good - to your life is so essential for stress relief and living life.

Rest is important too. I don't make healthy food choices or have the energy to move my body if I don't get enough sleep, and my weekends are for time away from work (even though I could spend the whole time on my blog or business stuff), so I'm refreshed on Monday.

6. A bonus one!

Listen to Brave by Sara Bareilles. Love this song :)

What does living a "wholehearted" life mean to you? How do you embrace imperfections?