I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown lately and her work is teaching me so much about myself. Brene is a shame researcher, which sounds kind of odd, I know, but the truth is most of us are really misinformed about what shame is. Brene describes shame as the fear of disconnection, or the fear of being perceived as flawed or unworthy. Put this way, shame feels like something we all know a thing or two about. Shame not only feels bad but it keeps us from living wholehearted lives. <- I recently made a breakthrough in this area and I want to tell you about it.
Living wholeheartedly means to engage in our lives with authenticity, cultivate courage and compassion, and embrace the imperfections of who we really are (Brene). Isn’t that the way we all want to live our lives? From this place of authenticity? How many of us really want to hide behind the masks of our imperfections? You know, the masks of perfectionism, of having to control everything, or of acting like we don’t give a crap when really we do. What if we woke up every day and navigated life with our WHOLE heart and engaged life as our REAL self without caring what others thought or said?
Approaching life from a place of wholeheartedness is the same as approaching life from a place of worthiness. Accepting and believing in yourself JUST AS YOU ARE, flaws and all. If you’re anything like me, this wholehearted approach to life feels uncomfortable and scary as hell. That’s because approaching life this way makes us feel seriously vulnerable. According to Brene, vulnerability is actually our greatest strength and not the enemy our limbic system tells us it is. It’s through vulnerability that we best foster connections (and connection is the #1 soul food), because guess what? None of us is perfect and we all want to engage with others from a place without any masks. Now for the recent breakthrough in my own life regarding vulnerability.
A dearly loved family member (FM) recently came across my blog. I hadn’t told said FM about my blog because our spirituality and life philosophy views tend to be quite different. I was scared that if he/she knew how I really felt, he/she would love me less, or worse, not love me at all. I know the latter sounds completely irrational but it’s true. Deep down, we all just want to be loved. And when that love is threatened, it makes us feel scared and (you guessed it) vulnerable. This is where our shame stems from, the belief that others will deem our authentic selves unworthy of love. Therefore, we hide our authentic selves from the world because we don’t want to risk being unloved.
When said FM started looking at my writing, my heart squeezed in fear. I felt panicked, and I desperately wanted to grab the phone and throw it in a pot of boiling water. Having read Brene’s work, I knew what these feelings were and where they were coming from. So I started engaging in some compassionate self-talk (one of her shame resilience strategies). I told myself, “You are worthy of love exactly the way you are, no matter what you believe,” and “It’s okay to have your own beliefs. You don’t have to believe what others want you to in order to be worthy.” The FM could tell I was uncomfortable and (thankfully) nothing much was said. We went on to have a lovely visit. I realized later that this was a big step for me. Feeling vulnerable about something so personal and working my way through it was progress for this people-pleaser. For years, I thought I had to be what others wanted me to be in order to be thoroughly loved. Thanks to people like Brene, and real-life experiences with dearly loved family members, I’m learning that’s not true. And yes, it’s scary to show up and be your real self. But, you know what else it is? LIBERATING J The more we are our true selves, the less there is to hide, and that kind of freedom is worth any price.
Below are some links to Brene’s books. You can also search for her on YouTube and listen to some of her talks. I promise you’ll be doing your heart and soul a favor 🙂