How to Move Through Feelings of Body Shame

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~Brené Brown

My husband’s legs are smaller than mine.

I wish I could tell you that when I first realized this (when we were dating) I wasn’t emotionally triggered. And that I didn’t care.

But, I can’t.

Instead, I can tell you that I walked right up next to him, planted my thigh next to his, and awkwardly declared, “Ha! My legs are bigger than yours!”

I can still see him looking right back at me, saying, “So? I love your legs.”

I didn’t know what to say.

I thought—even though it wasn’t true—he’d say my legs weren’t bigger.

But, he didn’t. He told the truth. And that truth was that my legs were (and are) bigger.

I said nothing to him in return, except a mumbled “thank you” and changed the conversation topic. All while my body insecurities and feelings of shame and embarrassment jumbled up inside of me.

I had some thinking to do.

What was that?

This stuff was supposed to be behind me. But here it was, staring me in the face.

So I rolled up my sleeves.

I needed to move through these feelings of body shame.

Below are the five steps I used and that you can use too to move through body insecurities when you’re emotionally triggered.

Step 1: Name your shame.

By naming your shame you’re shining light on something that feels dark. And something that you’re embarrassed about.

For example, in this experience, I named my shame with the following: “I’m feeling shameful because my legs are bigger than a man’s, and culturally, I feel it should be the opposite. I’m used to seeing images of the woman being smaller than the man.”

By naming my shame not only was I lifting up a rock to let light in, I was allowing myself to get really clear on what my feelings of shame actually are and where they stem from.

When you get triggered about your body size, name your shame. Write it out in a journal or if you need more time, allow yourself the time to digest your experience and come back to it. By recognizing that you want to name your shame, it’ll come to you when you’re ready.

Step 2: Observe (instead of judge) your experience.

Give yourself a break and stop judging yourself (or your body). Allow yourself to get curious about the experience and observe what happened. A helpful tactic to do this is pretending that you were a fly on the wall, witnessing your experience.

What would that fly say happened in your experience?

This allows you to stop beating yourself up and to get out of your head.

For example, my judgmental experience with the “leg incident” would be, “I acted like a three-year-old and got super awkward and weird and started telling my now husband how much bigger my legs are than his. I’m a loser and so over dramatic.”

My observational, “fly on the wall” experience would be, “I was feeling insecure and got triggered when I realized my legs were bigger than my husband’s legs.”

See the difference?

By making your triggering experience observational, you remove yourself from the experience. You allow yourself a different perspective. And it’s in this space that you can really move through something and learn from it, instead of stay stuck in it.

Step 3: Own your experience.

When we can own our experiences, we step back into our power. And we realize that we have more power than we think. Because we’re creating part of the experience, especially our reaction.

Take my incident. When I own my part in the experience, I see that I chose my reaction.

I can choose to feel bad about my body. Or, I can choose to be grateful for what my body allows me to do and that I have a partner who is accepting of me for me.

Whether you had a “horrible food day,” got called a mean name, or feel insecure after scrolling through social media, own those feelings. Because once you name your shame and look at your experience objectively, you’ll realize that you’re the creator of your own reality and that somewhere in here there is something more for you to learn about yourself.

I needed to learn that in relation to a man, a bigger body size doesn’t mean you’re any less feminine. And that there was still a part of me that was living based off of what society says is normal (i.e. the man should be bigger than the woman).

There is no such thing as normal. This is the same thinking that has us feeling that we need to shrink ourselves to worthiness. In reality, this just isn’t true. Our size does not equate our worth.

You see, it’s not about shrinking ourselves into happiness. It’s about caring for ourselves into health and happiness.

You can do this when you begin to own your experiences and your part in them.

Step 4: Move through (not around) your emotions.

When you get to this step, you’ve already done a ton of work. This step is simply a reminder that working through triggers and funky emotions, especially surrounding our bodies and insecurities is hard work. We’re not taught this stuff in school.

And in all honesty, it’s easier to just get angry when triggers come up and then pretend they never happened. But, what generally happens here is that the thing you need to work through will present itself again and again until you work through it.

So make time to dissect what came up. You don’t need to do it all in one swoop. But plant the seed and allow the answers to come up. They will once you allow yourself and your mind to relax. Then, you can heal the wound, move through the trigger (or the belief) holding you back, and grow. Ultimately, you’ll feel more at peace with yourself and your body.

Step 5: Choose a story that serves you.

This is by far the most fun step. And will allow your wound to become a scar. Plus, it’s simple.

Choose a new story that serves you.

For example, my old story was, “Women should always be smaller than men. Especially, the ones they’re romantically involved with.”

My new story, “The size of my physical body doesn’t determine if or how I’m loved. Especially, by the right romantic partner who sees me for who I am on a deeper level.”

You see, we humans love to make up stories. They’re how we connect with one another. But, they’re also how we heal.

So in your healing process, choose a story that serves you, heals you, and honors the direction you want to go.

It’s not always easy, but I promise it’s worth it.

About Corinne Dobbas

Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and Life Coach with a Masters in Nutrition. Corinne helps kind, caring, compassionate women develop a healthy positive relationship with food, their body, and themselves. More specifically, Corinne helps women get MORE. More life. More laughter. More friendships. More health. More happiness. More self-love. More self-acceptance. Visit her at

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  • Ushma

    My biggest reason for feeling shameful about my body is that I get body shamed no matter where I go. I am tall and lean. I have no curves what so ever and honestly I don’t mind it so much until people point it out! Almost everyone I meet comments on how small I am… And how that’s unattractive. What do you suggest I do to not let these opinions and comments affect me?

  • Pieter

    When I read the title of the post I wasn’t going to read it because I didn’t think it applied to me. However, I’m glad I did as I’ve forgotten how much undeserved shame influences our experiences and the steps indicated apply to any undeserved shame we might carry. Thanks for the reminder

    The post reminded me of a book that I found helpful in dealing with the issue of undeserved shame – ‘Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don’t Deserve by Lewis B’. Smedes

    “The difference between guilt and shame is very clear–in theory. We feel guilty for what we do. We feel shame for what we are. A person feels guilt because they did something wrong. A person feels shame because they are something wrong.”

    “Shame is heavy; grace is light…. The lightness of grace does not lift all the sandbags that drag the spirit down. It lightens life by removing one very dead weight in particular—the weight of anxiety about being an unacceptable person. It extracts the internal threat of healthy shame. It gives us courage to track down the sources of unhealthy shame, see it for the undeserved pain it is, and take steps to purge our lives of it completely. It sets loose the lightest feeling of life; being accepted; totally, unreservedly accepted. . . ” “I believe that grace has set me free to accept myself totally, and without conditions, though I do not approve of everything I accept.” – LB Smedes

  • Pieter

    When I read the title of the post I wasn’t going to read it because I didn’t think it applied to me. However, I’m glad I did as I’ve forgotten how much undeserved shame influences our experiences and the steps indicated apply to any undeserved shame we might carry.
    Thanks for the reminder

  • Corinne Dobbas

    So happy to hear that you have my post a chance and that it resonated. Yes, I think these steps help in any area of our lives which we feel shame. At least they do for me:)

  • Corinne Dobbas

    Hi Ushma! Thank you for making time to read my piece and for sharing. I think the first step here is honoring that these opinions and comments do in fact affect you and it’s OK. Allow yourself to feel those feelings. Allow yourself to shine light on them and honor them. Grant yourself permission to feel them. This step isn’t comfortable, in fact, it’s the complete opposite but it’s the only way I’ve found in my work that we can move through something. And then really question your thoughts. Thinking who would you be without the thoughts of how your body should look? What boundaries can you place in your life to help alleviate some of these comments? You may find that you need a canned response. Just so you feel more prepared. And as you feel more comfortable with these responses from others because you’ve investigated your thinking and found more of your self-worth, those comments won’t bother you as much. The more you heal a wound, the less a trigger bothers you. It’s almost as if you flip a perspective switch to have the people who go there be your teacher so you can see how far you’ve come. And the more you go along your path, the more you’ll connect to your body and yourself and overtime, the shame dissipates because you come to understand that you are the creator of your own reality. This is much easier said than done, but it’s a practice. Be kind to yourself along the way. Hope that helps xx Corinne

  • Sandy Holland

    “Who would you be without the thoughts of how your body should look?” This right here just set off a light bulb inside me. I have often asked myself if I lost everything I owned in a fire, would I still be the same person and of course, my answer is always yes. However, it had never occured to me to ask myself the question you just posted in your reply here. The funny thing is, I often forget that I am overweight until I look into a mirror or see pictures of myself. Then I immediately go to, “Well, no wonder you’re single. Look at yourself.” When the truth of this is that who I am is not really affected by my weight until I remember that I’m supposed to be affected by it. Society tells us that overweight is ugly and unworthy and I have believed that for my entire life. And that right there is why I’m single, NOT because of my weight but because my feeling of being unworthy of love at this weight overpowers the truth that I already AM worthy. I do want to lose weight for health reasons but thank you for this thoughtful article and this one sentence that really resonates. I may have to quote you on this…

  • Corinne Dobbas

    Sandy, it sounds like you just had a huge breakthrough. So happy to see your lightbulb moment go off here:) And yes, feel free to quote xxo