Overcoming Shame and a Negative Body Image

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One of the most often voiced issues by men after losing weight is that they “still feel fat.” Often, they still have a hard time looking in the mirror or taking their shirt off in public without applying a lot of self-criticism. Sometimes they still see someone that’s heavy but, just as often, they now see someone that is TOO skinny and “out of shape.” There’s a general awkward feeling in their new skin and a poor body image remains.

To make a full and healthy transition from being an overweight individual, it’s important to develop an acceptance and even appreciation of your new body. Some of the awkwardness comes from the fact that it is a new body. It’s lighter and moves more easily than before. Your muscles simply need to get used to the lighter load. The physical aspect resolves quickly but the mental picture often needs some repainting.

Losing weight doesn’t magically boost your confidence. You might be getting a lot of positive feedback and compliments but those often seem superficial. Your body image is far more than just skin deep. It comes from your self perception and, worse, is clouded by often false beliefs regarding others’ perceptions of you.

So what’s it going to take to get over this speed bump? Well, the most honest answer is simply “time.” You can do something to accelerate your mental shift, however. Start noting what situations make you feel less than awesome. Are they mainly in social gatherings or at times when you’re alone? Are they self induced from negative thoughts or do other’s comments bother you? Look it over and see if a pattern develops. If you start boiling it down, I’m guessing you’ll have words like “self conscious,” “embarrassed,” “insecure” and “unworthy.” Together, these simply result from the insidious human perception called shame.

Brené Brown is a renowned researcher on the topic of shame. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, she says

Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.

Feelings of shame negatively impact confidence, self-esteem and well-being. What’s the cure for shame? According to Brown, it’s compassion, belonging and authenticity.

To be wrapped in compassion, fill your life with people that make you feel accepted as you are. Conversely, care for others. Create a sense of belonging by taking risks and joining in with your fellow human beings. Volunteer, expand your social circle, and make yourself open. Finally, strive to be the authentic you. Are you living to your full potential and within your values? Do you truly own every aspect of what it means to be you? Are you letting external forces or your inner critic prevent you from creating the life you deserve?

Let go of what others think; you have no control over their thoughts anyway. Stop giving outsiders the power to impact your life. They haven’t earned it.

Work at changing your perceptions to realize how truly wonderful and unique you are when you’re being the authentic you. Stomp shame. Regain your confidence and self-esteem and leave that fat-suit in the dust.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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