#327 Breast Cancer and the Shame Cycle - How Beating Yourself Up Impacts Your Healthils and Fatty Acids After Breast Cancer

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In today’s episode, we’re talking about a topic that touches many of us but often stays hidden in the shadows: shame.  

Shame is this tricky little beast that can sneak up on us, especially when we're navigating the challenging waters of breast cancer recovery.  

It’s more than just a fleeting feeling; it can actually have some serious effects on both our mental and physical health.  

It can crank up our stress and anxiety levels, making us feel like we’re constantly walking on eggshells. Worse, it can lead us down the path to depression, chip away at our self-esteem, and even make us want to hide away from the world.  

On the physical side of things, shame can mess with our brains, leaving us feeling foggy or forgetful. It can put a damper on our immune system, and take a toll on our hearts, our guts, and even how well we sleep at night. 

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome shame and its sneaky effects.  

Check out today’s episode and see if the insight I share can help you identify and break out of the shame cycle so you can love yourself more and treat yourself better. 

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Read the full transcript below:

Laura Lummer 0:00
You're listening to better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm a breast cancer thriver. In this podcast, I will give you the skills and the insights and the tools to move past the emotional and physical trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. If you're looking for a way to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer, you've come to the right place. Let's get started.

Laura Lummer 0:33
Hey, friends, welcome to episode 327 have better than before breast cancer. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. Thrilled as always to be here. Super happy today. One, it's sunny in Southern California. And I know for those of you who don't live here think it's always sunny. But it isn't. When there's been a lot of cold rain. I think I've complained about all the podcasts before so but it's a beautiful sunny day, I can't wait to get outside and play today and this weekend. But also this past week. My second son, my second oldest son, Brandon has been in town and we got to spend a lot of time with him. He was here for a full week, we got to see him pretty much every day. And he's busy. He's a tattoo artist, a very talented tattoo artist, I gotta say. And that's not just because I'm his mom, like he's really talented. And he was actually out here doing a guest spot and working on a client in California where he lives in Colorado. So it's lovely, two things, one that he gave me advance notice. So I can be intentional about planning my time for this week and blocking off a lot of time to be available for him. Because he also has a very busy schedule. And everybody wants to see him his clients want tattoos, and everybody wants to hang out with him because he's a cool guy. And he was very intentional about carving out a lot of time for family. So it's been a great week, I'm getting to hang out, you know, it's hard when you have like, I have a big family. But we've all been local, my whole life. Like all my siblings, my parents, no one has ever moved away until one of my nephews moved to Colorado. And then my son Brandon moved to Colorado and my son Connor moved to Colorado. And it's wonderful that they're, you know, making those choices for themselves and that they've got great lives and they're doing great things and, and they they just are happy, you know, they're pursuing the things that they love. And yet, I miss them, you know, and so it's a real treat to get to have them here for so long. So anyway, very happy. It's been a great week. And I think it's important to talk about being intentional about being happy. And looking at the things that we do. They're kind of unintentional, programmed, conditioned ways of thinking and being that block us from having space in our lives to accept an invite abundance and joy. And also just this unnecessary suffering, we kind of invite unnecessary suffering into our lives by not being aware of condition thoughts that create that suffering for us. And I think there's a lot behind that, you know, I think I've talked about on the show before, but one thing about where we're at right now in life in the world is such a luxury. It's especially here in the United States, I know a lot of countries are suffering, and people don't have this luxury that we have, in that we are so comfortable in our lives, in first world countries, that we actually have the time and the access, to work on self improvement, to focus on ourselves, that we have these conditioned thoughts that I just referred to that creates suffering. Because so many generations before us had to stuff those emotions, they didn't have the luxury of being able to allow emotions, explore emotions, my God, I think about talking with my grandma about this, and she would have looked at me like I'd grown a second head, like what are you talking about? When things get tough, you put on your big girl panties, and you move forward, right? Because they had to, they had to do that to survive. And I think that the few people who were really aware of or talked about or maybe even taught their children or their friends about allowing themselves to feel in learning how to process emotion, I mean, that was few and far between. So it's really a great blessing and privilege and luxury for those of us now in this day and age, to have access to emotional and mental support and care and to have the ability to block time to work on ourselves and support ourselves. So this brings it full circle to the fact that we can see that certain ways of thinking have been taught to us, because the people who loved us believed it was necessary to teach us this way to take care of ourselves and to survive. But now we can look at those ways of thinking and realize, whoa, that causes a lot of pain. We know a lot more about how spirit and mental and emotional ways of being are connected to physical health. And now we can explore that. And today, let me rewind, and I'll kind of take you along my own story to help you understand why I'm talking about this today. When I was first diagnosed in 2011, my belief systems were rooted in fitness, right health and fitness. I was a certified personal trainer, I was a certified yoga teacher, corrective exercise specialist, clinical ru VEDA specialist. So everything was about food and movement. And now your VEDA was really where I started to move into realizing that while there was a lot more, right lifestyle meant more than food and exercise. But when I was coming out of breast cancer treatment, and surgeries, and chemo and all that, at the end of 2012, I still believed that what I needed was the right diet, the right exercise, to get better to heal to move forward. And after lots of frustration, I realized there's so much more, right. And I was doing research and digging into everything I can think of, to help my body feel better, while at the same time as firing my body and pissed off at it because it wasn't responding the way I was taught. It was supposed to respond in the health and fitness world, right. And then not only was I taught that, and frustrated, because my body wasn't working the way it was supposed to work, right, quote, unquote, supposed to work. But I also felt a tremendous shame, a shame about the way I looked, because I didn't believe that the way I looked reflected, who I believed myself to be, I didn't feel like the way I looked physically that I was perceived was how I wanted to be perceived. And because when I sought help in the medical system, or even through other trainers who had other specializations, and I would reach out, and I'd say it's not working, I was in a lot of shame, because people would imply or state outrightly that I wasn't doing what I said I was doing, right? Because it was the health and fitness world. So if you are doing all the things you say you're doing, then you would look different than you look. And it was hurtful, right? Because it meant a lot to me that I was working so hard. And it was an embarrassment, right. It was embarrassing that people thought it was lying about it right sneaking ding dongs. And that was not happening. And so I started to realize that hold K, there was food, there was exercise, there was the microbiome, there were hormones, there was all the things that chemotherapy, steroids, anesthesia, all those things had done to my body stress, let's not leave that out. The physical stress of surgeries of cancer, the emotional mental stress of the diagnosis of breast cancer, the all the thoughts that come with it, what's going to happen in my life, how's this impacting my kids, my husband, my family, my friends, my work, my finances? Come on. It's so much bigger than food, and exercise and hormones. And yet they're a big important part. But it's even bigger than this. And as I went through my own experience, and then developed a coaching business and started coaching other breast cancer survivors, and I started to see that same shame and embarrassment in my clients regarding how they felt they were being perceived, not only because of many times the physical changes that others could see, and that I'm not talking about just their breasts, right, their hair change. And that doesn't just mean bald, like in hair growing back there, your hair grows back differently, right? hair grows back a different color, some people their hair grew back, gray or white and then there's the fear of coloring their hair and what am I supposed to do and should I just be grateful to have hair and And isn't this toxic should not be using hair color? And I people think their hairline was different. Their skin changed, and I don't just mean people think it is it does, right? We physically change as we recover from breast cancer treatments. And because we don't look the way that we think we should look the way we used to look. It's very difficult for many of us to be in The moment with ourselves, embrace and accept ourselves, and learn to love who we are now for way more than just what we look like. And that's when everything really started to evolve. And I started going back to the studies in our Veda and I started to explore a lot more about self compassion and self love. And I started to realize, holy cow, this is the root of everything. Because if you don't love yourself, then you can't get the right thoughts to feed yourself well, because you don't know how to nourish yourself. You don't know how to move yourself out of pain and frustration, and uncomfortable feelings and give yourself love in other ways. Other than buffering was food buffering with alcohol buffering with shopping, when I say buffering, I mean looking for something that makes you feel momentarily better. And when we get to that place of self love, I know it sounds weird, it sounds weird to even hear those words come out of my mouth, because I am not the person who I would have ever thought would be saying this. Even back in the beginning of my journey, or even let's think about before breast cancer, if I would have heard this, I would have thought like who is this hippie chick, right? What the heck are you talking about? And maybe you're thinking that too. But I'm telling you with 100% certainty.

Laura Lummer 11:25
The for me, and for the clients I see who make the biggest transformations in their lives, who relieve themselves of so much suffering. It starts with the shift in their mindset, when they start to understand what it means to love yourself, to develop healthy boundaries for yourself. And then to honor healthy boundaries for yourself. That starts to change everything. When they work on that. Everything starts to evolve, the way they feed themselves, the interactions with other people, the people, they decide to be around and spend time with the way they decide to spend the time in their lives and to be intentional in their lives, everything starts to shift. And there's one very big block that I see come up a lot to being able to connect to and practice self compassion, and self love. And that is a word I just used a few minutes ago, shame. Thoughts we have of where we're supposed to be what we're supposed to do, what we're supposed to look like how we're supposed to be thought of, and how those thoughts lead to shame. And shame is a block to just about everything good for you, everything that will serve you in healing. So I started thinking about this because especially and and I'm not even gonna say just in the last couple of weeks, I see this thread of shame. And I've seen it for years and coaching people. I've been coaching women since 2017. And I don't think I really clearly identified it. But now it's so clear to me that as soon as I meet someone, as soon as we start a consultation or a first coaching session or something, I hear the shame, I see the shame it, it is so glaringly obvious to me. But it's coded in other things. It's coated in, coated and as encoded, covered up by other stories and excuses. And I think oftentimes that the people that I'm talking with don't even realize that they're in shame, that they don't feel good about themselves, because they feel like they should be something or someone other than who they are. They feel like they have to hide their authentic, true self, or have trouble embracing that, right now, this is like in this moment, whoever you are, whatever you're feeling, whatever you need to express, this is you. But we judge it. And when we judge it, we go into shame, and we reject that piece of ourselves. So I started looking into shame. I started reading things about shame. And I, I came across this definition. And I read this definition and I thought, Whoa, this is really powerful. And I wanted to interpret it in my own way and put it in my own words. And then I went kept going back and reading it and I thought you know what? I'm going to it said so perfectly. That I'm just going to read this on the podcast. This definition of shame came from an AI software from Chet GPT I asked Chet GPT give me a definition of shame, and it did a really good job. Let me read this to you. Shame is a complex emotional state characterized by feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and unworthiness that arise from the perception of having done something wrong or inappropriate. Unlike guilt which is typically related to specific action and involves remorse for something one has done. Shame involves a more pervasive sense of inadequacy, or failure that affects one's sense of self. That's a deep right. It is an intensely painful experience as it reflects on one's identity, invoking a feeling of being flawed, or not living up to expectations, either one's own, or those perceived from others. And let me tell you, before I go on to harness this definition, I'd say close to 100% of the time, the most shame is in people's thoughts of how they are being perceived by others, then it rolls into how they perceive themselves because of their shame around the thoughts they have about perceiving by others what a twisted crazy craziness, right that the human brain puts us through so much suffering over. But what I think is really powerful about that is that this is core stuff, right? This is reflecting on your own identity. And I'm going to go into that in a sec. So the rest of this definition says, shame often involves a fear of disconnection from others stemming from the belief that if one's actions or true self are fully known, they will be judged unworthy of acceptance or belonging. This can lead to efforts to hide or cover up behaviors, withdrawal from social situations, or the adoption of behaviors aimed at compensating for perceived inadequacies. The experience of shame can be triggered by various factors, including societal norms and values, personal expectations, interactions with others, it can have significant implications for mental health, leading to issues like low self esteem, anxiety, depression, and social isolation. Addressing and processing feelings of shame, in a healthy manner, often requires introspection, empathy from others, and sometimes professional help to move from a place of self criticism to one of self growth and acceptance.

Laura Lummer 17:32
I did, it's kind of like a mic drop, Should I just leave the podcast right now, and let you go back and listen, that definition. And it just absorb that really give it some thought. There are some extremely powerful points in that definition. One that I just emphasized is that we look at our own authentic self, our identity. And we shame ourselves by saying that if we're truly known, we won't be loved, we won't be worthy. And as a result of that, what I see are people adopting behaviors, to mold themselves into what they think other people want them to be. And because that's not a reflection of their authentic self, now they're dealing with two kinds of pain. One is, I'm suppressing who I really am. And I'm trying to make other people happy. So they'll accept and love me, and I think that will make me feel worthy. It won't, it never will. Because that's an internal thing. worthiness is going to come from inside of you, your belief in yourself, your confidence in yourself, your ability to love yourself. And the other pain and suffering is people won't do what you think they're going to do. People won't respond to you molding yourself to be who you think they want you to be in the way you think. You want them to respond. I don't even think I can say that again in that way. But what I mean is we have no power over other people's emotions or perceptions. So anytime we step into, I want people to think of me this way. We've stepped out of self love. We've stepped out of I am good enough exactly as I am. I love me. I may be silly, I may be spontaneous. I may not be spontaneous. I may be very slow in processing things. I may not be a social butterfly. I may be an insanely extroverted social butterfly. I may be whatever I am. But thinking that I can't let myself be that in that I have to hide that. Mute that or I'm not good enough. If I don't behave like someone else. Those who is that you're stepping out of self love. And when you do that, you cannot care for yourself in the ways necessary to care for yourself, to support your optimal metabolic health, to support the processes that your body needs to go through, in order to be able to heal itself. You won't do it, you can't do it because it's pain. It's very, very painful to reject and hide parts of yourself. And one of the things that I hear most and another powerful point about that definition is we have a fear of disconnection. We want connection so bad. And it's just a part of being a human. We desire it, we need it, we want it. And it fulfills us. It's like the story I just shared with you about my son, spending time with my son and my sisters, my nieces and nephews and my brother in law's look through this last week. Like, it's so fulfilling. You know, there'll be times even when I'm when I'm with them, I'm like, really sleepy, like, I think I need to go home and go to bed. But I'm also just loving the energy of being with them and connecting with them so much, I think, yeah, 10 more minutes, right? I want to be there, I want to be in it, we want to be connected. But when we hold ourselves back, when we are not even willing to embrace and love ourself, when we look at any part of ourself, and shame ourselves and say, that's not good enough, that's weak, that's unworthy. We're not even connected to us. We're not loving us. And so I hear this all the time, I want connection. And I want to be loved for who I am. And while I hear those words, I see and hear, but I hold myself back. But I don't express myself. But I don't let people see the real me. And my friends, you can't be connected and accepted for who you are. When you don't let people see who you are, when you live in fear of them, seeing the real you when you live in fear of your own self, knowing the real you. And one thing that's really powerful that I've come to learn to understand, and all of these years of coaching is that so many women literally don't even know their real selves, because they haven't gone through the process of allowing themselves to be real. And so parts of ourselves are buried so deep that we don't even know them. And I will say to you that I believe with 100% certainty that one of the most vital parts of supporting your body's ability to heal and the healing process is allowing yourself to know yourself is to look at where you say, I'm not good enough, this isn't okay, I don't want people to see this part of me, and move into shaming yourself to see that and become aware of it. And then do the work that needs to be done to move through it to process that shame. So you're able to let go of it and move forward. And that brings up the next question, a powerful question always here. How the hell do I do that? How do I do internal work? How do I process painful emotions? How do I let go of things like unworthiness and shame. And the way that you do that? I'm going to tell you, if you go back and listen to over 300 episodes of this podcast, you're going to hear me say this probably hundreds of times, and I'm going to tell you for 101. And it sounds so simple. But if you try it, this is the process in order to move through, to be able to move through negative feelings, feelings and thoughts that bring up shame. You need to understand something, your thoughts create your emotions, right? And I'm going to give you an example straight out of the self coaching model straight out of the way that I work with clients and that my clients self coach themselves. You have a circumstance. I have a loud laugh, let's say or my laugh is louder than most people. Okay. Your thought about that might be my laugh is obnoxious. And your feeling might be embarrassed and ashamed of my life. And your actions might be I try to subdue myself. I don't let myself go all in, feel the humor field left or be in the laughter because you're an embarrassment. Now, let's say your laugh is louder than most My thought about your laugh might be, I freaking love the way she laughs with no restraint. Just let it all out. I love it. And it makes me make me feel joyous to hear it. So the laugh the circumstance is not the problem. Your story about the circumstance is the problem that brings up the emotions that create the actions of suppressing yourself. The work you do to move through that is to look at your thoughts. I know it sounds simple, but simple doesn't mean it isn't powerful. So whatever that thought is, that when it comes to you in the thought is I'm not good enough. And it brings up feelings of unworthiness. I can't let people see that part of me. Look at that thought and ask yourself why you're telling yourself that Where did that come from? Is it true? Does it serve you? Does it help you be authentically you? And if you want real connection with people? How do you allow yourself to be seen? How do you learn to love those parts of yourself? Accept them first? Why would you condemn, criticize, or even ostracize parts of yourself, like literally box them off in your body, in your mind somewhere and say, I don't even want to know that part of me.

Laura Lummer 26:30
Whether it's too much or too dark, or too joyous, or whatever it is, I think something really important is see yourself and this comes up a lot. I even talked about this before, where we're apologizing for everything, right? We can take up the space that's in our lives for us. We don't have to shrink back from it. We don't have to be ashamed of being who we are. Like, I know I talk a lot. I know my come from a loud family. I tend to be a little loud. I know that. And that is me. Right? That's who I am. This is me. This is me on the podcast. This is who you get, right? I try to control the F bombs on the podcast because I Heart Radio won't let my episodes be aired if I drop them. But hey, I dropped them when they come. And I feel they're important for emphasis on a point. But I've learned through the course of my life, one to really know who I am and to to see if there's parts of who I am. That I think I really don't like that. Not I don't like me, right. But I don't like the way that makes me feel. For instance, I've discussed this before, that I realized that my hard wiring was that I would go straight to anger and defensiveness in certain situations. And I thought, you know, I don't like that response, that automatic response. That's not who I feel is authentically me. I feel like maybe that response is something I was even unconsciously or subconsciously conditioned for. Right that somehow as a child, I felt that that response protected me or kept me safe. But there was this wee thread underneath it of I don't think that's really who I am. You know, I want to be more open minded. I want to be more even keeled because that feels better to me. And so now I'm going to work on that part. Right? So we can work on parts of ourselves without disliking ourself. But noticing that a behavior doesn't serve you in the way you want to be served. And we can do that with curiosity, right by saying, why do i Why do I respond that way? Not, Oh, I'm so horrible for responding that way, right? But why do I do that? Where's that coming from? I don't like with the way that feels. And I want to do some work on that. And then we grow. Right? And we move in to more self acceptance, we move into growth, just like that definition said, self acceptance and self growth. It doesn't come from criticism, and it doesn't come from suppression. It doesn't come from me saying every time I feel angry, I'm just going to block it out. I'm not going to let that anger come up. No, I'm going to notice that anger. I'm going to hold space for that anger by saying, Why am I so angry right now? What are my thoughts about what just happened? Where's those thoughts coming from most of the time, they're coming from past experiences or the desire to protect any kind of emotion that causes us to pull back or to be I think, a more aggressive and there's a big difference between assertive and aggressive right, but acting in an aggressiveness to kind of shield people away. Anytime we're doing that. I think it really comes from a conditioned thought that led to a conditioned behavior. And when we can look at that without shame and learn to accept all parts of ourselves, then we can work on those parts. And we can even communicate them. Sometimes people say to me, you know, I don't know what to do with that. I don't want other people to see it. And I think what a beautiful thing to let other people see it. This is connection. Right? This is how we overcome shame, by connection and vulnerability, by being able to say, you know, what person who I love, I'm going to share this with you. Sometimes when these things happen, I feel a lot of anger. And I know it's my story, and I want to work on it. But I want you to know that these things come up, like I want you to know me, right? I want you to know, these parts of me. And maybe you can help me, you know, maybe we can, you can support me. And when I need space, because I'm processing it, if you could allow me that space, and know that it isn't about you, but it's a part of me that I'm working on. Right. This is how we overcome shame by looking at it, by looking at all parts of ourselves, fully accepting them, stepping into them, taking that piece of them in us and being very curious about it. And then allowing it to be seen, allowing it to be talked about by herself, and by someone who we trust. And who is safe for us, right? I'm not saying you know, put it out in the world for everybody. And if you are in this raw state of just getting to know yourself, right? This tentative, it's like a dating of yourself, dating as in courting, as in getting to know yourself, and think about when you get to know someone else, you're dating someone. And you're like, Oh, these things are so wonderful, these things are so great. And then you see a little flare of something, right? Mm hmm. I really like that person, choose with their mouth open something, when we get to know ourselves, we might see things come up and say, Yeah, I have a lot of good qualities. But that quality there, that's not so great. The beautiful thing about that, and the big difference is in noticing that in yourself and noticing it in someone else is you can work on it in yourself. You can work on it through love and a place of self compassion. Whereas when you notice a behavior in someone else, you have no power over whether or not someone else is going to change. So how you do this process, how you step into self acceptance, self love and self growth so that you can love yourself enough to make the lifestyle changes that you believe are needed for you or necessary for you. It's got to start here. And it's got to start with the desire and the willingness to see yourself for who you are. And learn to love yourself. Learn to love all those parts, learn to allow them to be seen maybe little bits at a time. And as the definition said, reach out for help. You know, I tell my clients this all the time, we cannot fix the problem with the same organ that created the problem. We can't get well in the same terrain that we got sick in, we've got to make changes to grow. And sometimes it's hard to do that. Because it's always so much easier to see things in others than it is to see them in ourselves. I don't know why that is. And it doesn't matter why that is. It just is the case. I am a coach. I'm a life coach. I'm a health coach, I get coaching, I get lots of coaching. I've spent 10s of 1000s of dollars on training and coaching over the years. And it's worth every single penny. I've spent money for myself, my children, my spouse, on therapy, on coaching, it's so important because we need sometimes that person outside of us to guide us gently into allowing ourselves to see what we're thinking, and what those thoughts are creating in our lives. And help us move towards choosing things that are more loving and more supportive. So don't feel like you have to do this on your own. Think again about the fact that we are creatures that seek connection. Connection is healing connection and supportive connection helps us grow. So why do we have this thought that you should be able to fix everything by yourself? I don't know. I don't know where that comes from. You have to do the work for yourself. Right? No one else can fix things for you. No one else can change things for you. People can give you some guidance and advice. People can give you expert opinions. People can give you insights, but you've got to take them and process them yourself. That's maybe where I think that the thought error comes in. I should be able to do this myself. The work is yours. You have to be accountable for the work, but the guidance and support that is an important thing to seek out. So you don't have to do all things on your own. You shouldn't just how come I can't make myself feel better. How come I don't know What to do? Why can't I make a decision and think that I shouldn't have to get help or input? You know, it isn't that way. So if you think that, maybe reframe that a little bit with the idea, oh, the it's on me peace means I've got to be intentional about doing the work. But doing the work also means realize, when you can't move past something, and get the support, you need to do it, whether it's a dear friend, a family member, a therapist, a coach, a whatever, it doesn't matter, a support group, anything, what feels right to you. And sometimes it's exploring a lot, right? It's going from one thing to the next. I know I've been through multiple coaches and multiple programs, because they've served me in the time that I needed, and then I grew and went, Okay, now I need something else, right? So it's okay to move things and switch things and just be open to whatever it takes to learn to fully accept yourself, to be learn to move past shame. And get that big as block out of your mind, out of your life. So that you can learn to really and truly love yourself. That is the foundation of everything, of everything you need to do, to do the things that bring healing to your life and your body. And I mean, on every conceivable level. All right.

Laura Lummer 36:31
I'm here. If you want help, you can come and work with me. You'll find all the details on my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com I offer my better than before breast cancer life coaching membership, which is full of wonderful things, private coaching, group coaching, years worth of video coaching and journaling and downloadable guides and all the things you could possibly need and also private coaching lessons. So reach out and get the support you need, whether it's me or anybody else, it doesn't matter what's important is that you take care of you in the best way possible. All right. We'll talk to you again very soon. Until then be good to yourself.



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