We are drawn to beauty — stunning pictures of nature, fun fashion, cozy decor, yummy food and gorgeous hair.

Yet, behind all of these filtered images that fill our Instagram feed is a story. A story of struggle, courage, celebration, hope, survival and pain. Sometimes beauty is just the break needed when darkness starts to creep in. However, we can also receive inspiration and encouragement from unfiltered stories of struggle that are messy, incomplete and hard.

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“I had no idea…” is the theme for the 2015 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Eating Disorder AssociationStories of struggle and shame are often kept secret at a serious cost to our well-being. Too many people have no idea how much pain their loved ones are in because the shame of sharing their story is keeping them quietly suffering.

Too many people have no idea how much pain their loved ones are in because the shame of sharing their story is keeping them quietly suffering.

Glennon Melton coined the term ‘brutiful’ combining the words beautiful and brutal which brilliantly describes the tender, raw stories that can easily be triggered by shame when one’s story is misunderstood or disrespected. Hearing brutiful stories reminds us that we are not alone and help fuel courage to step out from behind our filters on occasion, sharing our own unedited story of struggle with those who have earned our trust.

Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental health issues. Many struggling on the disordered eating spectrum regularly miss detection because they choose to mask the pain of story shame by numbing out in under-the-radar ways that may seem ‘productive’ or ‘healthy’ using food, exercise, perfectionism, diets, shopping, work and more.

When these behaviors turn obsessive and continue in secrecy, the fear of being ‘found out’ intensifies — only furthering the desire to numb emotions and hide any sign of struggle. The lies of shame and perfection say that if you look perfect, act perfect and make sure everyone is happy with you, then you will not be found out or become a burden. Many also believe shame’s lie that it is weak to keep struggling and need help. This is an exhausting and unsustainable way to live.

Getting clear on the parts of your story that trigger shame is an important part of developing shame resilience. Shame loves secrecy. When those triggers can be named and brought into the light, shame has less power.

“When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness — that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging — lives inside of our story.” — Brené Brown

At the heart of struggles on the disordered eating spectrum are beliefs around unworthiness. It is crucial for long term recovery to address negative core beliefs like:

  • I am weak.
  • I am disgusting.
  • I’m broken.
  • I’m permanently damaged.
  • I am inadequate.
  • I deserve bad things.

When life is viewed through the lens of shame, the ability to see true worth and value is clouded. This leaves many living on alert anticipating rejection and disdain from others and feeling undeserving of good experiences in life. In The Body Keeps Score (2014), Bessel van der Kolk, MD notes how his patients, when recounting difficult experiences in their story are, “…ashamed about what happened to them, and they blame themselves – on some level they firmly believe that these… things were done to them because they are terrible people.”

Working on healing the wounds in your story can transform something that once was seen as ugly into something that’s beautiful.

Choosing respect over story shame creates space for healing. Respect can pave the way towards love and acceptance. Working on healing the wounds in your story can transform something that once was seen as ugly into something that’s beautiful. The earlier one receives support and treatment the less likely it is that these struggles will last a lifetime. Sharing stories of struggle with the right person at the right time can be the best medicine for the soul.

It is time to change “I had no idea…” to “I see you are struggling and love you regardless. We are in this journey of healing and discovery together.”
 
Make sure to check out the National Eating Disorder Association for local events that are happening in your city this week in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Image via Lindsey Grace

2 comments

  1. How important it is to bring these conversations to the table and shed light on this issue that impacts more people than we even know. I firsthand know recovery is possible- and it is heavily reliant on the love, encouragement, and support of others. Thank you for writing this, Rebecca, and for all the work you do to transform lives and encourage healing 🙂

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