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Breaking Out of the Shame Spiral

Written by Arianna Wheat

photo by Leighann-blackwood of Unsplash

I looked in the mirror and thought briefly and quietly, “I just want to lose weight.” Ugh. When this thought pops up I feel like I have failed myself and all of Fat Liberation everywhere. I can easily start down a shame spiral into all the ways I have failed at self-love, tell myself I haven’t grown, and that all of my hard work has been for nothing (HARSH!). This time I've decided to give myself another option. First, I can notice and allow the thought. A tool my own therapist offered me recently is to say to myself, “I am having the thought that…” in this case, “I am having the thought that I want to lose weight.” Just this phrase gives me enough space to breathe. I am not my thoughts, I have many thoughts and I have some control over the story of my body. I am me, and my thoughts are just my thoughts. I do not have to tend to every thought that passes through my mind, I can just let them pass. That whole concept blew my mind. This process gives me the power to neutralize the thought by recognizing it as a passing thing. It is tempting to build a story for every idea that moves through my mind, but maybe, just maybe, not all of these thoughts are gold and do not require that level of devotion.

Next, If I have the capacity, I can compassionately explore the thought. I find that specificity makes it harder for the truth to hide, and nuance brings us closer to our own authenticity. I can get curious about what this thought really means to me. Just as Fat is not a feeling, saying “I want to lose weight” does not provide a full picture into the heart of my experience. Instead of “losing weight” as a catch-all for my feelings, I can lean into the vulnerability of digging deeper.

I feel tired and underslept. I think my skin and face look tired. I feel undesirable. I feel stiff in my body. I miss getting fresh air. I miss feeling strength in my body. I feel listless. I feel bored. I feel stressed. I feel sad. I feel unattractive. I feel ineffective. I am freaking out about getting older. I feel some passing loneliness. I feel frustrated. I feel powerless.

It turns out that little phrase was holding quite a bit for me. I am having these feelings, and allowing them to pass without trying to fix them or subdue them. Every moment of discomfort is also a path to discovery. I’ll admit that it stirs up some grief and some sadness. But connecting with my feelings, and expressing them honestly, brings me clarity. I can honestly say that it feels good to experience my thoughts and feelings without the burden of shame. Some things are in my control. Some things are outside of my control but I do not have to be afraid of my own thoughts. Shame can masquerade as truth, but if you have the courage to remove the mask, there is a world of possibilities. I am thankful to have support and be a support for others doing this kind of soul work. Right now, I am having the thought that I am thirsty and could use a nap, and I think these particular thoughts are definitely worth exploring.

Arianna Wheat is a storyteller, writer, drama therapist, coach, and intergalactic space goddess providing telehealth services from a spacious corner in Los Angeles.

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