Shame and Body Image: Developing Shame Resilience - Part One

Based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown

We recently had our first Self Care Club event: a private outdoor screening of Amy Schumer’s movie I Feel Pretty. Although it’s a comedy, it addresses the important topic of body image and appearance, and of course, the primary emotion that goes with all of that: Shame. So we thought--in addition to body image education, what a perfect opportunity to start some meaningful conversations on shame and how to become resilient to shame.

Shame is highly correlated with mental illness, addiction, eating disorders, violence, and low self esteem, as well as not seeking treatment or asking for help. Dr. Brene Brown, for those of you who are not familiar with her, is a shame researcher. Based on her research, and several years of interviewing women, she has put together steps on how develop our own shame resilience, which she outlines in her first book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t).

I personally believe that building Shame Resilience is the ultimate emotional and mental Self Care, so we’re going to start doing this with our Self Care Club members.We’ve dedicated this blog post to outlining the first step toward developing shame resilience: Recognizing Shame and Understanding our Shame Triggers. AND, if you’re in our private group, we even put together a additional materials so you can start practicing this first step.

Who is ready to learn one of the most important life skills you can have? I wish they taught this in school!

What is Shame?

  • Shame is something we all experience.
  • We all know the painful wave of emotion that washes over us when we feel judged or ridiculed about the way we look, things we have done, things we say, etc.
  • The most painful shaming experiences are often how we talk to and treat ourselves.

Definition: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.

If you’re still not sure of shame’s impact on our own life, it may help to read some quotes from girls who describe their experience with shame from Brene’s book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t):  


“When I look at myself in the mirror, sometimes I’m OK. But other times I just see fat and ugly. I get totally overwhelmed--like I can barely breathe. I get sick to my stomach and disgusted. I just want to hide in the house so no one sees me.”

“I don’t tell anyone about the things I’ve gone through--I don’t want them to feel sorry for me or think differently about me. It’s easier to keep these things to myself. Just thinking about being blamed or judged for my past causes me to lose my breath.”

Shame vs Self Esteem

  • We feel shame. We think self-esteem. Our self-esteem is based on how we see ourselves. It is how and what we think of ourselves.
  • Shame is an emotion. It is how we feel when we have certain experiences.
  • When we are in shame, we don’t see the big picture; we don’t accurately think about ourselves.
  • Shame is the voice of perfectionism. It’s behind negative beliefs about ourselves (i.e. I’m not good enough).
  • Shame is what silences us and causes us to hide and withdraw.
  • Shame is what unravels our connection to others.

During certain times and situations, we all struggle with feeling that we’re not good enough, not having enough, or don’t belong enough.

Shame and Body Image

Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries work hard to make each of us believe that our bodies aren’t good enough. Mostly, so they can sell us their products and make money.

As Brené Brown, PhD discovered in her research on women and shame, nearly all women feel ashamed of their bodies at one time or another. Body image is an almost universal shame trigger. The long reach of body shame can impact who and how we love, work, communicate and build relationships.

How do we become resilient to Shame?

Through her research, Dr. Brene Brown has found that the most effective way to overcome shame and feelings of not being enough is to share our experiences. And of course, telling our stories takes courage.

Like courage, empathy and compassion are critical parts of shame resilience.

  • Practicing compassion (toward ourselves and others) allows us to hear shame.
  • Empathy, the most powerful tool of compassion, is an emotional skill that allows us to respond to others in a meaningful, caring way.
  • Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes--to understand what someone is experiencing and to reflect back that understanding.
  • When we share a difficult experience with someone, and that person responds in an open, kind, and deeply connected way---that’s empathy.
  • It’s most important to FIRST be compassionate to ourselves, and that starts with our thoughts.

You’ve started with step one, but stay tuned to learn the remaining three steps to developing Shame Resilience. And don’t forget to become a Self Care Club member in our private Facebook group, where you’ll get access to additional resources, and can join us at the end of this blog series for a live discussion on building shame resilience.

Now we would love to hear from you.  

Now that you’ve learned about Shame, how do you feel it in your body? What things trigger up shame? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you in advance for reading, commenting and sharing with love, compassion and kindness. You help make our cozy corner of the world wide web an awesome place!

Sending love, healing, and self care,


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