Overcoming Shame after Stroke – On Body Betrayal and Wabi Sabi

Overcoming Shame after Stroke – On Body Betrayal and Wabi Sabi

In our previous article we discussed how shame can hinder stroke recovery, and we started the process of self-love by ending self-criticism.

Now, we’re continuing the process by addressing body betrayal and the gift of imperfection.

Forgiving Your Body

Another barrier to self-love is resentment. When we feel like we’ve been wronged by others, resentment can build.

And when we feel like we’ve been wronged by our body, self-resentment can build – and it’s the worst kind of all.

When negative feelings are directed at yourself, it’s a losing battle. The more you hate your situation and your body for putting you there – the more ammunition you give yourself.

By giving up the ammunition, you give up the never-ending battle – and it’s a relief.

Because if you attempt to force, fight, and shame yourself back into your old life, then, although victorious, you’ll also end up defeated and shamed – right back at square one.

So let’s forgive our body and move a little closer into love.

Exercise #2: Write a Letter to Your Body

A great way to build more self-compassion is to write a compassionate letter to yourself.

Start the letter by stating that you forgive your body for causing your stroke; that you forgive it for not cooperating when you want it to; and you’re thankful for all the hard work it’s doing.

Use words and tone that you would use with a close friend who is recovering from a physical injury.

Be gentle, caring, and compassionate.

Let your body know that you feel betrayed and that you’re also going to work with it instead of against it from here on out.

Embracing Imperfection

Once you forgive your body, you can work towards forgiving your imperfections, too. This can be difficult, and a simple Japanese philosophy can help make it a little easier.

The Japanese philosophy is called “wabi-sabi” and it celebrates beauty in everything – flaws and all. Wabi-sabi suggests that we should lovingly embrace imperfection instead of rejecting it.

On a small scale, wabi-sabi can help you cherish your favorite article of clothing even though it’s faded. On a large scale, wabi-sabi can help you end the need to ‘fix’ yourself and embrace who you are right now – stroke deficits and all.

This isn’t to say that we should give up efforts to improve ourselves. Instead, wabi-sabi can help us find acceptance now without waiting for success.

What would happen if we took our list of things we’d like to fix about ourselves and, instead of resenting it, framed it and put it up on the wall for all to see?

Surely it would make us cringe, but with a wabi-sabi mindset, we can start to develop a little pride.

And slowly we can release our shame.

Exercise #3: Listen to Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a thought leader in the field of embracing imperfection. If you’re looking for more in-depth information, we highly recommend her book The Gifts of Imperfection. (*unaffiliated link)

But if you’re looking for a feel-good boost now, then listen to her TedTalk on the power of vulnerability. It will inspire self-compassion more than anything you’ve ever heard – we guarantee it!

Deepen Your Emotional Healing

If this article resonated with you, then you would love our stroke recovery book called Healing & Happiness After Stroke.

Self-love is the central theme, and it guides you through all the emotional hurdles that can prevent you from achieving the recovery you deserve. Click here to download the first 3 chapters for free.

We hope you enjoy it!

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  • Tamara Pots

    I’ve read Brene Browns book, because shame is such a biggie for me. I know I have to stop fighting, because this fight-or-flight state is stress and it keeps me stuck. And I also have to stop trying to fix myself the entire day and thinking about the future, when I’ll be “perfect” again. I KNOW this on an intellectual level, but it doesn’t feel that way yet.

    • Flint Rehab

      I definitely feel you on this one. Sometimes I don’t feel okay even though I ‘know’ what to do to make myself feel better. It makes me feel incompetent, like my emotions are more in charge of me than I am, but I like to think that we gain more control the more we practice self-compassion. And it really is a practice. As always, you’re on the right path Tamara 🙂 Hope you’re doing well!

      • Tamara Pots

        Thanks!