Don’t let your SHAME block your SUCCESS.

“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late, and never too sick to start from scratch once again.”

– Bikram Choudhury

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I was once told that I could never relate to any of my obese clients because I’ve never been obese myself; because I just couldn’t understand the shame and what life is like for them.

While it’s true that I haven’t ever been obese, I have been in positions that were unhealthy and really difficult to overcome… Ones I’ve been incredibly ashamed and embarrassed of.

When most overweight clients come to me, they have enormous amounts of shame. They’re embarrassed about letting themselves get to that point. They’re upset because they haven’t been able to get themselves out of it. They’re humiliated because of how they feel as a result of all of it. Often, that sense of shame was the reason they held off for weeks, months, or years before taking the steps they needed to get to better health.

I know what that kind of shame feels like – how awful it can be to realize that you’ve let yourself get so far into an unhealthy situation that getting yourself out can seem impossible. I know what it’s like to be embarrassed about something that I once could have prevented, but let it get so bad that it spiraled out of my control very quickly. I know what it’s like to have something exponentially increase in severity and not want to talk to anybody about it, for fear of being judged, mocked, or further shamed.

Let’s back up:

When I was 10 years old I was wrestling with my brother in our driveway when I went face-first into the family Buick and broke 3 of my front teeth. I spent 3 hours in a dentist’s chair getting them filed down, drilled into, and capped, while feeling the entire procedure. Turns out my body tends to metabolize anesthesia pretty quickly so when I started crying soon after the procedure started, they told me I was just scared and was only feeling “pressure” because they’d given what they’d thought was sufficient medication. Because they didn’t believe me, I felt the entire thing without being completely numb. I had to get the procedure done twice more afterwards because it wasn’t done well enough the first time and both of those times I was in an incredible amount of pain that the doctors just didn’t believe that the shots had worn off as quickly as they did. I was so traumatized from it that every dentist visit after that scared the shit out of me. As soon as I was 18 years old I never went back to the dentist… for 8 years.

Over those 8 years, as you can imagine, I developed many dental issues. Even though I brushed incessantly and flossed every day in attempts to make up for lack of professional cleanings, my teeth just kept getting more sensitive, more painful, and finally 3 of them of them broke. Even that didn’t drive me to the dentist because I thought the intermittent pain wasn’t worse than what I’d experienced when I was a kid. I also couldn’t face the fact that I’d have to tell the doctor that it was my own fault. I’d have to admit that I’d neglected my teeth for nearly a decade. I didn’t even want to think about it I was so humiliated. It wasn’t until the pain became unbearable that I made myself go.

When I’d finally come to my senses, I looked up a dentist that specialized in patients with dental anxiety… which is apparently a common thing. I also learned that I had 8 cavities and some that were so bad and so deep they’d caused my teeth to break, then decay. I explained my story (through tears) to the doctor and she helped me get through the first couple visits smoothly, calmly, & without judgement.  I later moved back to my hometown where my good friend Crystal, a dental hygienist, helped me get the care I needed to finally get back to a healthy state. About 10 visits/procedures and 4 years later, I finally have a healthy mouth. And I get regular cleanings…

And there’s this:

I’ve also been ashamed of my financial state. (Debt story  here, so I won’t re-tell it.) I didn’t have 100k in credit card debt or anything, but I do know how quickly debt can double, triple and ultimately ruin you financially, so that experience ties in with the other as well.

 

Bottom line:

I may not have been obese, but I have experienced a similar shame. I’d let several aspects of my life get out of my control to the detriment of my health and well-being. And I’ve experienced how that can compound quickly into a situation that seems completely hopeless.

But I’ve also experienced success. I’ve come out on the other side of those situations and here’s what I learned from them:

 

1) Doing nothing makes it worse.

When I ignored my dental pain and when I tried not to notice how much interest was compounding on my various loans and debts, things only got worse. They didn’t stay the same level of “bad.” They got worse.

It seems we fool ourselves into thinking that if we ignore something long enough it will go away… or at least stay the same. It doesn’t. It gets a lot worse. Interest charges can double your debt in just a matter of a few months, like visceral fat can start to encompass your organs, slow your metabolism, and compound far quicker than most people can deal with. So if you’re in a situation that isn’t healthy, it’s best not to ignore that ish. You may not be able to get out of it quickly, but even making a small concerted effort is enough to stop the downward spiral. So take a step. Any step in the other direction to start making your way out of that hole.

2) Success takes time. It takes way more time than you’re ok with. 

It took me 8 years of neglect for my teeth to get into the shape they were in and it took me 4 years and a lot of money to get back to a healthy mouth. It took me 4 years to have credit card debt, student loans, and car payments slowly build up and it took me a year and a half of intense financial discipline to pay it all off and get money into savings to pad myself.

We don’t get ourselves into situations overnight. We can’t expect to get out of them quickly either. But we expect instantaneous success! And when we don’t achieve it, we get discouraged, give up, and usually go back to binge-like behaviors. Being patient, making small moves toward the goal, and keeping those behaviors consistent will get you to where you want to be. Making drastic changes that you cannot keep up will only leave you shell-shocked with no results. There’s only one thing you need to tell yourself. “Just keep swimming.” Don’t stop. You’ll get there, but usually not very quickly, so stay the course.

3) Find somebody you trust to help. 

If you’ve been unsuccessful in getting yourself to your goal on your own, it’s time to enlist help. The most valuable thing you can do is let somebody help you. I know what you’re thinking: If you handle it yourself maybe nobody will know it was that bad. Maybe if you don’t say anything to anybody you’ll get better on your own? I know, because I thought that too… But if you haven’t reached your goal yet, you probably won’t any time soon. Go find somebody you can talk to, that you feel slightly comfortable with, that is experienced in your situation and can HELP.

It’s not admitting defeat, it’s taking action. It’s being proactive. I’ve talked to tons of financial advisors about making sure I’m never in money trouble again. I’ve started reading books about investing and looking up articles about retirement plans and building wealth. These sources know more about it than I do, so I have to trust that they can help. And when the time comes to make big moves, I will use the people I trust the most to guide me along the way… because I can’t do it all on my own. Not many of us can.

4) You can only have a pity-party for so long. 

We can have bad luck and we can make bad decisions, but we cannot play the victim card forever. I know people that have been complaining about being broke for a decade and have made absolutely no changes to their spending habits. If you’re still dealing with the same problems, things aren’t happening to you – you are causing them to happen. You may not even realize it, but your choices are getting you to this place.

There will come a time when you have to face the facts: What you’ve been doing is what got you to where you are. If you want to be somewhere else, you have to do something else. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means you have to try new things and follow through with habits that you previously haven’t. Find somebody that has reached the goal you want to reach. Talk to them. Ask them questions about their daily habits. Then find a way to mimic that and make it your own.

You cannot stand in the rain and complain about getting wet if you aren’t willing to move elsewhere or at least find an umbrella.

5). Get rid of the haters. Surround yourself with supporters. 

No matter what your situation, chances are you’ve dealt with some huge insecurities along the way that perhaps drove your behaviors or made them worse. There’s nothing that can take away past events and how they’ve made you feel or act. The one thing you can do is block out the negative from now on. Talk to your closest family members or friends and tell them your plans for tackling your goals. Surround and immerse yourself with the ones who support you, praise you, and offer to help. Immediately separate yourself from the ones who make fun of you, (even if they claim they’re joking) talk down to you, or condemn you in any way. These people are of no value to you on your journey. They are dead weight. Maybe they aren’t horrible people, but they will not help you in any way.

It’s really hard to cut out toxic people in your life, especially if they’ve always been there, but you cannot afford to have negativity in your life when you’re trying to overhaul it. Pick the people that offer the most support and ask them to be there for you and keep that support going. If you actually tell them that you need their help, they will help you and hold you accountable.

If you aren’t getting the social support from the closest people in your life (say your partner, best friend, or family member), you may have to have a come-to-jesus talk with them and hash some things out. I’ve had lots of clients who have said their spouse doesn’t support them and that astounds me. That’s the NUMBER 1 person who should be on your side and helping you every step of the way. Have that conversation with that person in your life, even if it’s a hard one. Social support is paramount.

6) Ask yourself WHY. 

Why are you in your current position? Why haven’t you been proactive in changing things? Have you been eating poorly because that’s how your family and coworkers eat? Have you been spending excessively because you’re trying to keep up with lifestyles of those you admire? Are you depressed? Are you insecure? Are you sad about a sudden loss? Is your job stressing you out? Are you dealing with an old pent-up frustration of some sort or recently experienced a traumatic life event? You don’t have to go on Dr. Phil or anything, but you HAVE to find the answer to these questions first. If you don’t know what’s causing the behaviors, it’s impossible to rid yourself of them for good.

Try writing in a journal. Try seeking out a counselor. Try talking with a parent or friend you’ve known your whole life that might offer some insight. Keep an open mind and be willing to really look at yourself, your behaviors and why you’ve gotten to where you are. Once you’ve made moves to figure it out, you can make moves to try not to get back there in the future.

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I’ve been incredibly ashamed and let it block my success for far longer than it should have. I’ve also put myself through each and every one of the above steps. Not just with the two issues I discussed in the beginning of this post, but with other aspects of my life as well.

The older I get, the more care I take into finding what is truly best for me. Which habits I should drop, which I should keep. Who I should surround myself with and who I should let go. Why did I let myself do this thing that led to that outcome? Only when I became truly honest with myself did I really start to make some progress. Now, it’s a little easier to catch some of those small issues before they turn into big problems.

I’m not perfect and I still make plenty of mistakes, but I now know that if I want to be successful, I cannot let the shame from my downfalls block my path.

I hope you won’t either.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Beth says:

    Thank you!!! I can’t thank you enough for the words I want to say to our girls, but I’m “mom” so what do I know? So beautifully said. I am forever grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet you and take one of your TRX cert. classes. You are such an inspiration; even to this mom approaching 50 and starting to follow her dream.

    • Ami says:

      You’re quite welcome. Glad I can help. : ) Thank you for the sweet words. They mean a lot, Beth! Good luck in your journey! : )

  2. mary beth says:

    This was very brave, and just plain awesome.
    It’s also pretty fantastic that your smile is what i remember most about you from that Columbus TRX certification class.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great and thought provoking post, lady! Thank you for sharing your insecurities [ouch, that dentist sounds horrible] and breaking down how to get to where we want to be.

  4. AMAZING post!

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