How to change your past and free yourself from shame
Hi, everybody. Welcome back. Now. One issue has been coming up with my clients and I wanted to do an episode on it because I think that it’s something that so many people really struggle with. If you are thinking about changing your eating habits, a lot of people will start that work. In fact, a lot of people that I work with will begin that work and they will be get stuck.
In one place and the place where they’ll get stuck is feeling that they are unable to forgive themselves for all the weight they’ve gained. So you might be able to relate to this. And this issue is really close to my heart because I will tell you that this was a monumental struggle for me. It really was overeating.
Let me escape. Right. It let me be a little numb. It gave me respite from my perfect to do perfect, you know, mentality that I had in my day to day life. But sometimes I took things too far. Right. Sometimes I wanted to binge on mass quantities of food and I would wake up the next day. And I wasn’t just dealing with the swelling and the bloat and the inflammation, which was bad enough, but I was dealing with the embarrassment and shame of what I ate.
And when I first started doing this work myself, Um, I started paying attention to my thoughts, right. And my feelings and my urges. And I felt so much more in control. Right. I felt so much more in control around food, but I also just started to feel better. I was feeling happier. I was feeling more at ease, but there was one thing that I couldn’t.
I couldn’t shake that little nagging in the back of my mind about some of the things that I had done that I thought I just couldn’t forgive myself for. So the question I have for you is. Can you relate to this? Is there something in your past, something that you did when you were overeating and binging, that you also feel like you cannot shake the embarrassment or you just don’t believe it’s possible to forgive yourself for what you did?
Maybe you even feel like you are in a different place right now, right? You are not that same person, but you can’t get rid of the ghosts of your past. Sorry. And it may be something that you ate. Right. Um, you know, for me, it’s like retrieving food from the trash. I did that. Or picking fights you just so you could justify over reading.
Right. Um, or hiding food from your family, right? Whatever it is. I know that for people, myself included, who wanted to change how they ate and change this habit, this can be such a sticking point. So that’s what today’s episode is all about. And it’s how to change your past. And I know that this is something that you think is impossible, but I’m going to show you how to.
Okay. So here’s what most people say when they’re confronted with the idea that they can change how they think about their past or think differently about something that they believe causes them a lot of shame or embarrassment or regret. Right? The first thing that you might say to yourself is. Well, what I did was inexcusable or I hurt myself and peop people around me.
So, and I can’t take that. So the only way to feel better is to go back in time and undo what I did and that’s not possible. So here I am, I am just stuck. I am stuck because my actions were inexcusable. People might also say, and you might think this, you know, well, if I try to change how I think about what I did, I will be letting myself off the hook.
Have you ever felt like that? I know I have. So if I try to change how I think or my perception about what I did, then I will somehow be cutting myself some slack that I don’t deserve. And it is sort of like we tell ourselves that we have to pay penance for our actions and that the shame and the guilt that we feel is payback for what we did or.
If we just feel bad enough, if we feel enough shame and enough guilt and enough regret, then we won’t repeat our mistakes. But I wanna pose this to you. Has that worked, has feeling shame and guilt and regret and embarrassment kept you in. I really believed for a very long time that those should be things that would keep me in line.
And then I didn’t understand when I would repeat the same mistake or I would wake up the next day, once again, having done something that I regretted and I just thought, well, I’m not learning my lesson appropriately. I just don’t have enough shame or enough guilt or enough embarrassment to really feel bad about what I’m doing.
Now here’s the problem with these two responses. One is that you cannot go back and undo what you did. So we can’t build a time machine. We cannot step back in time and or hit, rewind and undo the past. So getting caught in that framework of if only I could take it back, it’s not going to do you much good.
You are not going to be able to change whatever happened in the past and what you will end up doing is. Spin. And you will spin around in this idea of if only I could, if only that hadn’t happened, if only if it was, if only if it was possible to, but it’s not. So that’s the first problem. The second is when you feel a lot of negative emotions, It affects how you act.
So our actions are always generated by how we feel right by our emotions. And shame does not generate positive actions. And this is a problem because if you wanna change your overeating, if you wanna start doing something differently or unwinding a habit that you have, that you feel like it’s no longer serving you, that is not going to be generat.
Those actions are not going to come from a place of shame. I want you to think about this when you feel the emotion of shame in your body, and it is an intense emotion, right? When you feel that way, how do you act? I want you to really think about this and answer this for yourself. When you feel shame, when shame is coercing through your body, what do you do?
And I will tell you that for me, the answer was, I. Or I tried to cover up how I felt, and I bet a lot of you can relate. Shame keeps us in the dark, right. It keeps us from getting support or love. It keeps us from changing. And now here’s the thing. If you are already in a place where you use food and drink to change how you feel and let’s admit it.
So many of us do that because food and alcohol are such a quick and easy way to change how you feel. Guess what if you don’t like the way you’re feeling, because you feel a lot of shame, you are probably going to end up eating and drinking more. Right. And this is why this is such a negative cycle. It’s such a negative cycle because we really want to change.
We really want to do things differently. We really want to act differently. We really want to feel like this habit is something that we have under control. And then. We think about some of the things that happened when we were binging or drinking and we beat ourselves up, we create all the shame. And when we create all the shame we end up hiding, we end up not reaching out, not asking for help or support or looking for answers, or we tell ourselves, I just can’t take this feeling.
Shame is only ever created by what is going on in your mind. This is the most important thing to understand your past. No matter what is in your past does not create how you feel about it today in this very moment. Right. If you feel ashamed or guilty or regretful about something that happened in your past, it’s because you’re having a thought right now that’s producing the emotions of shame or guilt or regret.
Now I know that that is a big shift and how a lot of us think, but it’s so true. No matter what happened your past is not that powerful. Okay, whatever you did, it is not that powerful to make you feel a certain way today. How you are feeling right now about something you did in your past and something you’re telling yourself.
You know, some questions that you can start asking yourself to figure out how can I start thinking about my past differently. This is gonna be really challenging work. Okay. And so I would encourage you to not just try to do this in your head, but. You might want to later, you know, get a notebook, write these questions and your answers down so that you can really dig into it.
Because for many people, what they will say is it’s impossible to change how I think about my past. And it’s not, I promise it’s not, I’ve done it myself. Okay. And I help people do this all the time and you can do it too, but it will be challenging work, especially if you believe what you’ve done is unfor unforgivable and inexcusable and never should have happened.
And that you cannot live. So, okay. So there are five questions that we’re going to go through.
- Firstly, I want you to ask yourself is what is the main thought that you have about the worst thing that you’ve ever done while overeating or wanting to overeat? Now pay attention to this because I’m not asking you about the worst thing you’ve ever done while overeating, I’m asking you, what is the main thought that you have about it? So it might be something like, I wish this hadn’t happened. This is unforgivable. I’m a bad person. I’m a screw up. I’m never going to be able to live this down. Um, I hurt myself and other people, whatever it is, write it down. What is the main thought that you have about the worst thing that you’ve ever done while you were overeating?
- Answer this, what feeling does that thought create for you? Now, again, this is a shift in how a lot of us are used to thinking about it. We think that our past and what we did creates how we feel, but I want you to take a look at the thought that you wrote down and ask yourself.When I think that thought I wish it hadn’t happened. This is unforgivable. I’m a bad person, whatever it is, when you think that. What feeling is created for you? It could be a range of, it could be any range of feelings, right? It could be shame or embarrassment or guilt, rejection, hopelessness, anger, whatever it is. I want you to write down that feeling.
- I want you to ask yourself whatever the feeling is you identified. Is this feeling useful now? Do not get caught in saying, okay. Yeah, but I deserve it. I deserve to feel this way. I want you to ask your, what I want you to ask yourself is, is the feeling useful?
- Is it helping you take action to change or to get closer to what you want in life or to become the person you want to be, or to achieve your goals or to take action on your overeating? Is this feeling useful or is it doing the. What do you do when you feel ashamed or embarrassed or guilty or rejected or hopeless or angry?
- What do you do? What are the, what are your actions or inactions? Do you try to hide? Are you in denial? Do you make excuses? What is it? So ask yourself, is this feeling useful? Is it getting you closer to what you want and the actions that you want to take? Question number four. If you could feel any way about, if you could feel any way you wanted to, about what happened, how would you feel now?
Again, this is challenging work. And when I do this work with a lot of people, they will say, well, it’s impossible to feel any other way, any other way. Right. It’s impossible to feel anything other than shame or regret, but. I want you to try to open your mind. I want you to consider that another feeling could potentially be possible and ask yourself, how would you want to feel about what happened now?
Maybe acceptance or forgiveness or peace or understanding, you know, whatever it is, what can you start thinking that would generate something different? Now I want you to go back and remember in that question, one, what you wrote down was the main thought about something you did while you were overeating that is causing you to feel the negative emotion that you have right now.
So now what we’re trying to do is brainstorm some different thoughts that you can try testing out. Okay. I want you to try to brainstorm at least five different thoughts about this thing that happened in your past and test them out. Thoughts that you think might feel slightly better and also feel believable.
About things that I had done when I was overeating, they were pretty entrenched and they didn’t want to release their grip or shake free with ease. No, it was a process that I had to work on, but I will tell you that there are thoughts out there that will help you to start changing how you feel about your past.
And you may be surprised where you encounter them. Okay. You might encounter them in books or podcasts, or you Mount might encounter them in movies or articles. Um, you know, Be on the lookout, you know, even like quotes on social media, but be on the lookout because I will tell you one of the very best thoughts that I ever encountered was actually from a book.
I read it and I remember thinking, oh, this is a different way that I can start to think about my past. And I took it and I reframed it and reworked it. So it felt a little bit more true to me, true to the situation that I was in. But for so long, I carried this thought with me and practiced thinking the thought and the thought is.
You have not always been the best version of yourself, but that makes you like everyone else. If you guys, I can’t tell you how much freedom that thought gave me because I was walking around for so long feeling. Like there were things on my past that I could not shake that there was. That I was always going to feel terrible about that.
I was always going to have to really negative feelings about, because I believed that what created, how I felt was the things that I had done. Right. I wasn’t attuned to the fact yet that what created, how I felt was actually the way I was thinking about it. And what I was saying to myself was you’re a terrible person for having done these.
And through this coaching work, I have learned how to change my thinking and ultimately changed my past. All right. So just as a recap for today, your past cannot cause you shame only your thoughts about your past will cause a feeling. And when you feel shame or any negative emotion that is not going to serve you, if you want to change.
Profound work that you can do because so many of the people that I work with, they really wanna change their overeating. They really wanna get to get a hold of this habit and they are carrying their past as like. Like heavy baggage, you know, it’s just like something that they are dragging behind them and it’s holding them down and they tell themselves, no, this is a good thing.