We often try to take on life’s biggest challenges by ourselves.
We try to tough it out alone, keep things under the radar, and sweep our shit under the rug before anyone notices that it’s come up.
It makes sense, if you think about it. We don’t often shout our issues (especially the really tough, often shameful ones) from the rooftops. We hope that all the bad stuff will go away quickly. So when tough times come around, we hope they’re just here for a short visit and that we can quickly shoo them out of the house before they start making creases in the sofa.
Dealing with difficult emotions and situations can really suck, so it’s understandable that we wouldn’t want to drag others into the mess inside our head, right?
I get that. It looks really scary in there from the outside.
Here’s the thing, sweet soul: Sometimes we can deal with our ‘things’ alone. But it is almost never easier this way.
We need friends, family members, coaches, therapists, social media acquaintances, what-have-you. We need our people. We need a tribe of trusting individuals (or just one individual) that we can turn to in our dark hours. More importantly, we actually have to do the reaching out when we hit our rock bottom -- but ideally, before we get there.
We can only keep ourselves afloat by ourselves for so long. Eventually, we’re gonna need to bite the bullet and admit that this is too damn hard to do alone. It’s called life, babe. And we’re all struggling in it. Not always at the same time, not always in the same capacity. But trust me when I say that everyone is going to hit (at least) a few serious lows in their lifetime - but sometimes we get to choose how to get out of it.
I spent years trying to get a handle on my ‘eating thing’ by myself. This was mostly due to shame. I was so ashamed that I felt out of control around food. I felt worthless because I couldn’t do something as simple as eating without having an internal panic attack. The shame I felt after my almost nightly binges was unimaginable. I thought no one else on the earth was as crazy as I was around food. Why couldn’t I just have the body I wanted and eat normally like everyone else? Why was I craving sugar so much when I was trying so hard to be healthy?
Why was I the only one feeling so crappy?
Sure, I knew logically that other people had issues, too. But there was for sure no way that other people couldn’t be left alone in a room with a brownie without freaking the f*&# out.
Enter: community & connection.
When I first decided to start working with a coach who dealt specifically with women who struggle with binge eating/emotional eating, I also joined a Facebook group that she facilitates for her clients. I was floored by what other women were saying in the group conversation.
These women also beeline for the refrigerator when they get home from a hard day.
These women also sneak ‘junk’ food into their bedroom and then hide the wrappers.
These women also think about what, when, and how much they’ll eat for lunch...while they’re eating breakfast.
I’m not alone.
My issues are normal.
Other people deal with this too.
It was revolutionary. I became totally hooked on finding other online communities like this. I started following other intuitive eating and body positive coaches. I read articles constantly. I took online courses. I got a new book from the library every week. I ate up all of the information that I could about binge eating, body image, vulnerability, self-compassion... and I watched my inner and outer world change.
Guess what started to happen?
My shame started to die.
That’s right, talking about our ‘issues’ kills shame. (Thanks, Brené Brown, I read that in one of your many groundbreaking books that changed me during this time).
When I was having a really bad body day and wanting nothing more than to throw my face into a bowl of cookie dough batter, I’d write in the Facebook group and describe the struggle I was having. I’d receive messages of kindness, compassion, and understanding. I’d hear “I’ve been there” over and over and over again; these women who have found themselves in my exact situation and then dug themselves out, these are the women who saved me and helped me feel less alone during one of the loneliest periods of my life.
Finding these communities online was one first major step, but months later I knew that I wanted to ‘come out’ to my family about what I had been dealing with for the past 4 years.
It wasn’t easy. It took some mental planning, a vulnerability hangover, and a whole lot of bravery, but their response was (fortunately) exactly what I needed it to be.
Here’s what I’ve learned from all of this:
Not everyone we know deserves to be a part of the inner workings of our brains. Not everyone deserves to know about our shame stories (thanks again, Brené Brown). Once we find the tribe of people that do, they are invaluable. And as soon as our shame comes up, talking about it with someone else is the fastest way to kill it. Assuming that no one understands, that we need to figure it out alone, or that we are in any way flawed for having our problem in the first place….is the surest way to keep us stuck in our destructive cycles of shame, self-doubt, and isolation.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Have you been keeping your food and body image struggles secret because of shame? Fear that no one ‘gets it’? What keeps you from reaching out?