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stretched-out-skinny me

Arctic air descended from on-high and the trail is as hard as concrete: boot and critter prints, seemingly immortalized on the frozen trail. No mud today!

On the high ground, I pull out my camera to capture proof that I am superhuman, committing to my daily trek despite polar temperatures. I peek through the lens and happen to see my silhouette – long and skinny, all stretched out in this early morning light. The not-as-thin-as-I-remember, stretched-out-skinny me suddenly nudges me into feeling a tad self-conscious. I recognize that overindulging and under-exercising this winter have added up – I’ve been wearing baggy clothes and avoiding the scale.

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Immediately, the mental banter switches on, you need to slim it down, girl! I let the banter run for a while, but finally check myself, are you shaming yourself again? I respond with a coy, uh, yeah. I recognize my current go-to of shame is minimal in comparison, but it’s still here. I’m a work in progress, but I also realize that I am not the only one who excels at self-shame. We feel we are not thin enough, rich enough, pretty enough, clever enough, etc. We feel we are not enough. While this banter may seem benign, over the years, this negative self-talk actually sets up neural pathways in our brains so that shame becomes our “go-to” – we believe in the shame and let it dictate our lives.

red bike trail therapy
red bike trail therapy

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While positively reframing negative self-talk is helpful (i.e. I am enough), it likely won’t resolve underlying, deep-set core issues. We can know on a cerebral level, that we are enough, but a positive reframe alone will not remove buried wounds, related emotions, and associated shame. The initial wound (i.e. rejection) provokes the responding emotion (i.e. hurt), and the responding emotion provokes the self-shaming (i.e. I am not enough). Self-defense mechanisms such as putting up walls or sweeping it under the carpet, bury the initial wound. Almost certainly, this buried wound impacts the way we react and respond to life. Meanwhile, the accompanying shame isolates, separates, and divides. We are afraid to admit to the shame and we fear we are the only one that feels the shame, putting us in a very lonely corner. How can we overcome this shame-cycle?

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First, we need to recognize that there are a lot of us who feel shame. It’s widespread – we are in good company. Once we admit to and recognize the shame-talk, we can dig around and consider it, where it came from, and to what it's related. We need to get a little curious about it, to accept it, and to own it. Once owned, we can move forward to find a way to process and heal. This process might require help from a mental health practitioner or the backing of a support group. However, shame is something that can be resolved. Once resolved, it can certainly make for a life that is more agreeable, gratifying, and meaningful.

Meanwhile, I head back home on the trail, grateful once again for the clarity that the daily treks provide. I am now a little more awake to my self-shaming and its root causes. I recognize that despite the initial wound, the responding emotion, and even the couple of extra winter pounds, that I am enough.

red bike trail therapy

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