Those of us who struggle with chronic illness and autoimmune disorders can also struggle with self-nurturing, even though we know what an important role it plays in our healing journey. Despite all the best efforts of our medical team, our health coach, our family and friends, and especially ourselves, self-nurturing sometimes seems like an impossible mountain to climb.
Why is that? Shouldn’t it be the easiest thing in the world to take care of ourselves? To love and nurture ourselves? Maybe it “should” be easy (although you know I don’t like that word “should”), but the truth is it isn’t. Self-nurturing can be the hardest part of our treatment plan to follow. Here’s why.
There’s an elephant in the self-nurturing room, and its name is shame.
Brené Brown defines shame as follows: “The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” (I highly recommend you view her TED talk about listening to shame.)
When we are feeling that kind of unworthiness, it becomes very difficult to connect with and love ourselves. Self-nurturing becomes a Mt. Everest of a mountain to climb. To make matters worse, we live in a shame-based culture. We all have a shame button installed that gets pushed from time to time. But if you and I are dealing with a chronic illness or autoimmune disorder, then our shame button is probably bigger than the other guy’s and probably gets pushed more often.
“My body doesn’t work the way a ‘normal’ body works.” Shame.
“I can’t be as productive at work as I should be.” Shame.
“I’m a burden to my family and friends.” Shame.
“I feel like I’m giving into pain and fatigue.” Shame.
As you’ve no doubt already noticed, this shame-based world in which we live can tend to look at chronic disease as a personal failing. You and I have done something wrong, and that’s why we have a chronic disease. We’ve done something to deserve this. Of course this isn’t true on an intellectual basis, but tell that to your emotions.
If this is the subtle or not so subtle message we get on a regular basis from society and perhaps even from ourselves, then it’s not a very big leap to take to start believing that we are something wrong. That we are inherently flawed and unworthy.
So we become bathed in toxic shame, which not only makes it difficult to follow a treatment plan and carry out self-nurturing activities, but it also impacts us physically in a way that is less than healthy just the way any other toxin or poison affects us.
So what can we do to chase this shame elephant out of the room? If there’s one thing the shame elephant doesn’t like it’s light. When we shine light on him and talk about him, he has a way of diminishing in size. The more we focus our awareness on what he looks like, what he feels like, when he tends to show up, what lies he’s telling us, the more ineffective he becomes.
Shame is a topic that responds quite well to coaching. Sometimes the elephant leaves the room quicker when there are two of us to spot him cowering over there in the corner and to show him the door. If you think you could benefit from this kind of support-then sign up at FLI for some extra coaching time with me. In the meantime, take care of you-because you are worth it!
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To our local FLI patients: Don’t forget that our next support group is on Tuesday, March 14th at 6:30pm, at the FLI offices at: 2628 El Camino Ave., Suite C-1, Sacramento, 95821. Please RSVP: 916-550-0567, to reserve your place.
To our at-a-distance FLI patients: I wish you could ALL join us for our monthly support groups at the FLI office in Sacramento. However, I want to encourage you to be sure to book your weekly coaching session with me. You do NOT have to do this alone. If you feel you need additional support, that can be arranged for an additional fee.
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