Is there something in your life over which you feel deeply embarrassed? Is there something you’ve done you want to hide from everyone? Were you a victim of mistreatment that makes you feel badly about yourself? Do you feel shame about your eating disorder?
It’s difficult to imagine having an eating disorder without feeling shame. But it shouldn’t have to be that way.
When I was anorexic, I felt ashamed not only because I was depriving my body of needed nourishment, but also because I “let this happen” as an adult. I’d studied eating disorders besides and this made me feel even more shameful. Yet it seemed that as long as I continued to get down on myself for what I was doing, the shame only fueled the eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. One time, after I talked with the Lord about some aspects of my eating disorder, shame rose up. I felt so embarrassed and uncomfortable. Then, in my mind, I heard Him say to me, “You have nothing to be ashamed of.” That statement astounded me. I’m so grateful He spoke to me so directly because I don’t know how I would have been able to let go of the shame any other way. And letting go of the self-degrading feelings was one of the steps toward breaking free of the eating disorder. Granted, letting go of the shame was only one of many steps, but it was a necessary step nonetheless.
You don’t have to continue feeling that shame. You can let go of it. We’ll take a closer look at how to do that a bit later, but first let’s look at some other common sources of shame.
Perhaps you’ve been abused. This could be physical, mental, verbal or sexual abuse. Someone violated you, degraded you or used you in some way. You don’t want others to know what happened for fear they’ll think less of you. You think very little of yourself and may even feel you deserved the abuse. Plus, these thoughts may be so ingrained that it seems impossible to overcome them. Please start by bringing all of these thoughts and feelings to the Lord. He doesn’t want to see you suffering like this. He wants you to see yourself as someone with worth and value, as someone He uniquely created with gifts and abilities, as someone who can experience His love and His healing touch. You can ask Him to help you see yourself through His eyes instead of through the eyes of shame. Also, remember that the abuse wasn’t your fault. You don’t deserve to feel ashamed. Say these statements to yourself over and over until you believe them. They are true and believing what is true will help free you of shame.
Some of you may feel ashamed because of certain behaviors you practice that you know aren’t good for you. Perhaps you’re addicted to a substance of some kind. Or maybe you lie, steal or engage in self-harm. It could even be that what you’re doing is okay in and of itself, but that you are taking it to extremes. You may clean excessively or shop beyond what is reasonable. There are so many possibilities and perhaps what causes you shame isn’t specifically mentioned here, but you have a behavior in your life you’re so embarrassed about, you’re afraid to admit it to anyone else.
The Lord understands why you’re drawn to certain substances or behaviors. You don’t have to feel ashamed before Him. When you sin, yes, confess it to Him. Then once you’re forgiven, understand you don’t have to feel ashamed. Instead, remind yourself that shame will only feed more negative behaviors and He wants better for you. He also knows what you need to do to break out of the behaviors over which you feel self-disgust. Let Him show you how to change, let Him lead you to the help you need, let Him heal you. No matter how many times you’ve done what isn’t good for you, no matter how many times you’ve tried to quit and couldn’t, no matter how many times you’ve given up, remember that He still wants to make you more like Him. Let Him do His work in you.
You may feel hesitant to share your struggles with anyone because of the shame you feel about your eating disorder or about something else that has happened. But what a tragedy it would be to suffer with this alone. Whether you’ve been a victim of abuse or other mistreatment, whether you’ve engaged in behaviors that aren’t good for you, know that you don’t have to continue carrying the burden of shame. You don’t deserve to feel badly about yourself because of what someone else did to you. You don’t need to feel embarrassed because you struggle with a bad habit or a self-destructive behavior. Let the Lord lead you to someone you can talk to about what’s troubling you. This may be a counselor, pastor, mentor, trusted friend or family member. You don’t have to struggle alone.
Shame may be difficult to overcome, but please try to bring the shame you feel about your eating disorder, or other occurrences, to the Lord. You may have to give it to Him more than once before you leave it there. That’s okay. There’s no limit on how many times you can bring it to Him. Know that He desires for you to leave these shameful and debilitating feelings with Him. He understands it may take several attempts. Don’t let shame over your eating disorder or anything else rob you of the healed heart and better life God has waiting for you.
If you feel plagued by shame, you may benefit from the Let Go of Shame lesson in the Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course.
By Laurie Glass