Shame and A New Bra Size
Shame is the Problem, not the Scale
“I’m traumatized!” That was my answer to “how was your day?”
I had had a bra fitting. I went in thinking I was a 36C and walked out a 34DD! I couldn’t believe it! DD! Me? Couldn’t be! Those letters conjured pictures in my head that had no relationship to my body! How could that be true!! I didn’t know who I was anymore, let alone how I could have been so wrong about myself!
A few days later I walked into a less expensive store to buy my “right size” bras now that I knew better- and guess what? The 34DDs I tried on didn’t fit! They weren’t right for me! My old size in the new store fit just fine!
Why? Because it’s all subjective and variable! The fancy, expensive 34DD I bought at The Fitting felt great on my body, but so did the 36C I bought at the new store. I had freaked out for no reason. My body hadn’t changed, just a few letters on a tag. And, after all, who was ever going to know what it said on the tag but me (and now you, um, you’re welcome?) but I had this big emotional experience about those letters and numbers!
This is as true with a scale as it is with my bra. The number is meaningless.
The number on the scale doesn’t tell you anything. It doesn’t tell you how healthy you are, or how actively you can play with your kids. It doesn’t tell you how joyful your life is, or how beautiful you feel in your favorite outfit. No one will ever know the number on the scale but you- so why oh why does it carry any weight?
At some point, some number became THE number, the desirable number, the “right” number. Maybe it was a time you felt good in your skin, maybe it was a number published about someone who’s look you admire, maybe it’s a number attached to the (scientifically useless, but more on that another time…) BMI calculator you found on a website.
I’m here to tell you- there is no right number. There can’t be! The variables that go into the making of that number are infinite so it tells you nothing.
The amount of water you’re holding on any given day, the volume of fat to lean muscle, bone density, the amount of salt you’ve eaten, the food retained in your gut, the amount of quality sleep you’ve gotten, these things all affect that number but have different effects on your outside appearance and the way you feel.
So why do we feel shame (or pride!) about the number on the scale?
Brene´ Brown, who has researched shame and vulnerability for decades, (check out her Ted Talks here) says “shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” It’s absolutely possible for the desire to change the way we feel or the way we look to come from a positive and loving place, but shame shuts down our belief in the ability to change.
Choosing the right metric against which to weigh our progress is as important as the work itself.
Take a moment. Really think about it. What is your number? What does that number mean to you? If you were at that “ideal” number what would that mean? How would you feel about yourself? What could you do that you can’t do now? What is important about getting to that number?
The experience of that goal is the real point, so what would happen if the scale was tossed into the garbage and instead you measured yourself again that new metric, that new goal?
What if the goal was something you could work toward with joy instead of shame, what if it was something you could do for yourself instead of against yourself?
Throw away your scale.
It cannot tell you anything about yourself. All it can tell you is how much gravity is pulling on you today.