Ending the Cycle of Body Shame

I am on my own self-work journey, I am learning to accept myself lovingly and not make my body a problem in any way. I’m naming this because I’ve been deep down this hole before.

Today is International Women’s Day, and I feel my hands shaking a little thinking about this pattern I see in myself, and in many women, to feel more or less valuable based on how you look.

You can have body shame about anything. It can be about your weight or your hair or your skin.

Body shame is something that often starts from the outside. You get shamed by society and you internalize it. In an attempt to protect yourself, you begin to perpetuate the shame, the blame, and the stories to have more control and to be accepted by others.

You are not born into body shame.

You learn it.

You use those lies to break yourself down from the inside out. How can you stop the cycle?

You can make choices about the types of thoughts you want to encourage in yourself and what you expose yourself to. You can choose to question your thoughts and not to spread them.

These stories are not yours. Stop telling them.

You gain power when you recognize that it’s not your fault that you have those stories, that you learned those stories.

You didn’t write the stories. You learned them.

However, now that you’ve recognized that, it’s time to say, “Who’s telling the stories now?”

You only have power when you try to control what you can control and when you stop wasting your energy on trying to control things you can’t control.

So what can you control? You can control your choices. That’s it.

You can make choices about the types of thoughts you want to encourage in yourself. You can make choices around what things you’re going to expose yourself to or focus on that are going to trigger your thoughts.

You can also control whether or not you buy into a story.

You can say, “I feel really right that I look fat in these pants,”… whatever it is you tell yourself. That’s just my thing. There are a million different forms of this. And they’re all stories.

You can control saying, is that really true? You choose to take that step of questioning those stories. Because they’re not true, they’re subjective.

When you repeat these shame-filled stories to yourself you’re encouraging them in yourself because that’s where you’re putting your focus. Repeating them and claiming those stories are right means you’re not questioning what is real and true. You’re not focused on facts.

You can counter this by asking yourself what is true. What is objectively true?

What’s true is there’s a number on a scale. Is that a problem? No. Any shame or guilt you attach to that is a story.

You don’t have to make it mean something about you.

You can make choices about how you deal with these stories and whether or not you perpetuate them in yourself or others.

There’s such an incredible opportunity to help stop this cycle where we self-perpetuate the drama that we claim we don’t want to be in, where we disempower ourselves and blame it on others. We can stop that, once we recognize that our oppressor is the story and our oppressor is ourselves when we’re the one telling the story.

You can help stop spreading this type of oppression by not bonding over body shame. At a certain point in my life, bonding over body shame was a big chunk of conversation. Now I make a very conscious effort to not perpetuate those thoughts. Because they are disempowered thoughts, they’re stories.

Rejecting these stories doesn’t happen overnight, just like internalizing them didn’t happen overnight. Becoming conscious and moving towards empowerment happens one choice at a time. The choice to believe the stories or not.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Unravel more of your stories here.

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Caneel Joyce

Transformational executive coach to founders & CEOs of fast-growth companies. Mom, wife, speaker, former professor & startupper. Caneel.com, The Allowed Podcast