SHAME. Here’s how to let it go

I never thought I’d say this, but I recently had a breakthrough during meditation: I realized that much of my unnecessary stress stems from simply adding a shameful tone to my thoughts.  Have you ever experienced this?

It happens when I set goals for myself and don’t reach them, no matter how small or insignificant. Like if I said I would do homework and ended up 2 hours into a Netflix streak or when I said I wouldn’t that day (whether it was most of the bar or even just a couple squares of dark chocolate!).  Usually what follows the realization of failing to meet this goal is an automatic response of self-inflicted shame.  And it wasn’t until I was mediating early this week that I realized shame was even present at all.  How hurtful and unnecessary this tone was to show up so uninvited!

But this shame is self-inflicted.  Buddhist teachings call this the “second arrow”, or the pang we hit ourselves with after an actual event. (The first arrow being the event of not reaching a goal, the second being the shamefulness targeted at the self.) The way to turn off the shame is by bringing it to the light!

Imagine it: when you start sinking into a darker place in your mind (literally!), the shame can sneak around easily without you being able to see what it truly looks like or where it is. You may have that uneasy feeling of its presence and you start to doubt yourself or freak out.  But BAM! Once you turn on the light, you see exactly what that shame looks like, why it’s here, and how it is trying to get to you. It looks so silly and insignificant when you can see it clearly.

Personally, my shame comes trying to steal that self confidence and self appreciation that is locked away. It wants me to feel bad for going to bed 30 minutes later than I had planned for. (Because THEN it will have shown me!) But really, how silly does that sound? Would you tell your best friend that she should be ashamed of herself for shutting her eyes a number of blinks later than she had aimed for? Of course not! That’d be silly. You love your friend and admire that she set a goal and went after it, no matter the outcome.

IMG_6287You would appreciate and applaud your friend for making strides toward her goals and listening to herself, no matter how far she got.  And this is how you should treat yourself too.

Since I started identifying my shameful thoughts and putting a spotlight on their true shape, they have stopped showing up as often.  So Now I want to turn it back to you.

How to Combat Shame
1.  Give yourself a minute or two to just sit and think of times you have felt shameful or uneasy about something. And let yourself sit with it.  This is where the personal growth can happen.

2.  Put a name to the shame. Identify where and when the shameful feeling comes up. Why might the shame be there? Where do you experience it in your body? Once you can spot times it might show up and why you don’t need to believe it, you can dismiss it more easily when it wants to visit again.

3.  Recognize that you don’t have to listen to that shame or second arrow, because it isn’t you and it isn’t true.

4.  Appreciate yourself.  Appreciate that you want the best for yourself and thank yourself for everything that you do anyway, no matter how small.

Bonus! Physically feel the freedom that comes with letting go of that voice’s hold on you.  How does it physically manifest itself? Maybe energy runs from your feet to your core or your shoulders are able to relax more and drop that tension you might not have noticed before. If you still have trouble letting go of shame’s grasp, still imagine how you would feel without it.  Next time you see shame trying to creep up, try to remember this physical response of letting it go.

Remember, you are always worthy of love.

What to do when Life knocks you down

Two weeks ago, I walked (on crutches) down the sidewalk crying over the phone to my mom. Why? Because I felt beat down by life and I couldn’t do anything other than run home (or in my case, *crutch* home) to my mom, crying. If you’ve experienced this low before, you know what I am talking about.

About a month ago, I tore my ACL. And despite knowing how disappointing and difficult it is, not to mention how painful, to have an injury, I still have found myself facing more moments in the past month than in the past year or two where I feel like I just don’t have the energy to pick myself back up again. I’ve been feeling a lot of moments where all I want to do is to cry to my mom or and just have my friends take care of me and not have to think about my situation. I was having trouble adjusting to life not being physically able to do the things I enjoy the most: walking or biking to class, playing volleyball, doing yoga, cooking, even holding the door for somebody else. That on top of the fear of wondering how serious this injury was and how long it would be before I will be “back to normal”.

Without having to say, it seems unreasonable to think that we would go through life without having these moments. In fact, that sort of is what life is: a compilation of highs and lows and the moments in between. So why is it that it is still so hard to pick yourself up when you are feeling down? And why is it that we don’t talk about it more?

First of all, it is OKAY to feel this way! Simply recognizing that it is okay not to be happy 100% of the time is half the struggle. You were born with a spectrum of emotions to feel, so why live life without at least being able to feel all of them. As cliche as it might sound, without the lows, the highs wouldn’t be quite as tall. *So give yourself permission to feel your emotions.*

“What you resist, persists”- C. G. Jung

Sit with your emotions. I found this quote through Marie Forleo, and it is one of my favorites.  By giving into the unpleasant, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar emotion, we allow ourselves to get over it faster.  If we avoided them, we might cause more harm than the original feeling on its own.  When we sit with the emotion, it is like tearing off a band aid.  It hurts a lot for a little bit, but afterward, you can focus on making it better. 

Ask yourself what you can learn from this experience. Ultimately, our emotions are here to help guide us through life.  It is easy to see that we tend to do the things that make us happy more than than those that don’t.  At the same time, we tend to avoid the situations, people, or things that bring us down.  The uncomfortable and unfamiliar emotions are just the same, it just takes a but more guts and perseverance to sit with them and question them.  So what can we learn from this experience? In my case, it made me realize that I have been ignoring my intuition.  And my body finally said “LISTEN TO ME!” too loud and clear for me to look away.  I learned that I need to slow down, and by being a bit more physically disabled for the time, I am forced to make decisions on what and who are absolutely necessary for me to make an effort for.  I realize that by running around being so busy, I have been neglecting people in my life who mean the most.  Almost like forgetting to water the flowers in the living room because all I see are the ones by the door on my way to the next meeting/class/event I have to go to.

When you are ready, ask yourself what will bring you back up. Who and what brings you joy? Who is somebody you can go to who makes you feel safe and excited for life?   I, personally, had to sit there and brainstorm things that bring me joy that don’t take that much movement.   I asked for support from people around me. I learned that I have a community around me who cares for me, but who I may not reach out to as often as I want to.  I remembered how much I like to sing, and how I haven’t been doing much of that lately.  Will you reach out to an old friend? Will you make an effort to do something nice for yourself? Will you accept help from those people who always offer, but you never take them up on it? Whatever it is, when you identify it, you are able to reach out and get a helping hand.

Before you know it, you will look up and realize that you haven’t felt that uncomfortable emotion in a long time, and you didn’t even notice it had left.  Life will knock you down sometimes, and that is okay! The key is to let it guide you so you can get back to feeling the way you want to feel and living the life you want to live.

Buona Notte Bella,

Skipping a Step to Happiness

“You go to school so you can get a job.  You already have a job, so it’s like skipping a step!”

Fiona Montgomery, A Cinderella Story


Sometimes when I start getting jealous of girls who are skinny or have the “perfect” body, I try to question why I feel that way.  I don’t know if anyone else feels this strange paradox of being jealous of another person’s body even though you are happy with your own.  For instance, if randomly and out of context somebody asked me if I were happy with my body, my answer would be a confidant yes.  So why do I get jealous when I see skinny girls?

The question WHY is always a great starting place for conflicting thoughts like these.  But the key is to ask why as many times as it takes to get to the root of the cause.  This is an example of how that conversation goes in my head….

Why are you jealous of skinny girls? Because they look good, and I want to look like that.

Why do you want to look like that? (And does that mean that other body types are not beautiful too?!) Because they seem happy and confident, like they probably don’t worry about what they eat or question if guys find them attractive. [First of all, those aren’t true, but sometimes it seems like those are the case when someone looks fit] If they are fit, they probably are disciplined in going to the gym and eating healthy.

Why do you think they are happy and confident and carefree?  They look like they feel comfortable in their bodies and expressing…maybe the just have the mental room to think about what gives them joy in life and don’t rain on it because of worrying about or shaming their bodies.  I guess what I really want is to be feel happy and confident.

Why do you want to be happy and confident?  Because I would have the mental space to think about my future career rather than to worry about what people think of my body.  I would stop to enjoy the little things instead of always feeling insecure. I wouldn’t be depriving myself (of food or people or experiences), that’s for sure.  I would be doing a great job on an assignment or at work, taking the time to enjoy that laugh with friends over a drink, or giggling with joy after something serendipitous occurs.

What is stopping you from doing all of those things now?  Why would taking up 2 inches less in space (or whatever goals you think you should be striving for…) Allow you to do all of those things that make you happy when you are perfectly capable of doing them now? That thinking just puts life into a tiny box that you are free to leave at any time.

The next logical thing is to let go of that uncomfortable jealously and start doing activities that give you joy and make you feel confident.

To recap: How To “Skip A Step”:

  1. Identify your uncomfortable feeling.  Be it jealousy, sadness, discontent, frustration, or a lack of confidence, you have figure out where you are starting to move toward your goal.
  2. Ask yourself what it is you truly want.  Keep asking yourself why, why, why to get to the bottom of the feeling you are truly craving.  Like above, I was feeling jealous of girls who are skinnier than me, or who may be closer to society’s unattainable standard of beauty, when I what I am truly craving is the space
  3. Do the things that give you that underlying feeling.  So if you are searching for more joy, do the things you know make you happy.  Maybe it means singing in the shower; maybe it means inviting your friends over for a wine and movie night; maybe it means scheduling a date with yourself to daydream about where you want to travel in the next year…

Basically, whatever you say having a perfect body will allow you to do or feel, skip the perfect body and just do that thing anyway.  Because your body is perfect as it is now.