In this segment, we read as Brene discusses pages after pages about the idea of “wholehearted living,” and its meaning in respect to embracing who you are. I love when she wrote, “Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” How many times per day do you remind yourself of that? How many times do you tell yourself that you are brave and worthy of love? Maybe the better question is how many times do we make ourselves feel inadequate? Generally speaking, I would think the first two questions are probably the more difficult questions to ask ourselves and the latter serves as a constant reminder of us just not being good enough. At least, for me, that is the question I am always finding myself having to answer. Lets be honest with ourselves here. We are wonderful, beautiful, and imperfect women, but we are also our worst critics. Instead of reminding myself of my worth, I find myself asking, “Why didn’t I wake up in time to look decent today?” or “Why didn’t I call my friend back when I told her I would?” Believe or not, simple questions like those are constant, unhealthy critiques on ourselves. As we journey through this book together, lets make a promise: a promise to be honest with ourselves, imperfections and all. But in the same token, we must be compassionate to ourselves as well, because as Brene states, “We invite compassion into our lives when we act compassionately toward ourselves and others, and we feel connected in our lives when we reach out and connect.”
Brene writes about the 3 C’s of Living: Courage, Compassion, and Connection. Of the three, which is the most difficult for you?
-In my opinion, the most important point Brene makes is the idea of practicing courage. You learn courage by couraging. Wholeheartedness requires ordinary courage. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary. What this means is that ordinary courage isn’t about saving someone’s life. Instead, it’s about asking a friend how she’s doing and really listening to her answer. It’s about speaking your mind on a topic that frightens you. It’s about remembering that sometimes you need to put yourself first. These are acts of simple courage. Tell us about a moment today in which you practiced an act of simple courage. And if you are thinking you are too scared to share your emotions, maybe that is your simple courage?
–The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become. One of the greatest barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable. Though I think the idea of practicing courage is most important, compassion- specifically holding people accountable- is my biggest opportunity. I think it’s the idea of separating people from their behaviors that makes it difficult for me. I dislike confrontation immensely, and as a result, I fail to set tolerable boundaries. Think back on the last time you had to confront someone. How did you handle it? How long did you wait before you finally confronted them? What was the outcome?
–Connection [is] the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from relationship. We need connection to thrive emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. And no, that does not mean post a comment on someone’s Facebook page. We become so immersed in technology, that I fear that the Millennial Generation, or the Entitled Generation as I like to call them, won’t remember what life was like before Facebook. You know- when playing outside as a child was the norm, not sitting in front of a television or computer screen. This is when I realized technology had gone too far: I took my niece to the zoo one day and while commuting there, she said to me, “Do you have your iPad? Can I play on it?” How does she even know what an iPad is, let alone operate one? The next time we “facebook” someone, instagram a picture, or tweet a comment, call someone instead. Tell that person what is so exciting that would encourage you to post it on social media. Remember, connection is the energy that surges between people, the key word being people.
>>To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, “I’m all in.” Are you all in?
Love, belonging, and the things that get in the way.
–We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Do you allow yourselves to be deeply seen and known? I’m sure it is really difficult to be that vulnerable, but from what I have read, it seems vulnerability is at the heart of love. What I love most when reading this chapter was when Brene wrote, “I don’t just want someone who says they love me; I want someone who practices that love for me every day.” How many people do you say, “I love you,” to, and of those people, how do practice that love for them? In the same token, how many people tell you they love you? In what ways have they practiced that love for you?
–Now, here is the difficult question: what things are getting in the way of you feeling loved, belonged, and worthy? Fear, anxiety, and stress are all key components of things that get in the way for us, with shame being the biggest factor of all. Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable. However, we must remind ourselves that to feel shame is to be human. When we experience shame, we feel disconnected and desperate for worthiness. It takes a lot of courage to remind ourselves of our worth and in doing so, we are driving shame further and further away. My favorite of the shame resilience question was, What’s the most courageous thing you could do for yourself when you feel small and hurt?
–Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. E. E. Cummings wrote, “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make everybody but yourself- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight- and never stop fighting.” I also found that men and women struggle when their opinions, feelings, beliefs conflict with our culture’s gender expectations. The most important question I can ask is, Who are you? What are you dreams and aspirations? What scares you? What makes you happy? Again, who are you?
-It is really difficult to admit this, but most women I know- including myself- are addicts of perfectionism. Just this morning, I spent several minutes looking for the perfect font to begin this blog. Afterwards, I sat there for a minute and asked myself, “Was it really that necessary?” “What did I gain from spending the time to commit to that?” No, it wasn’t necessary. Sure, I gained the ability to look at my computer screen and be pleased with what I saw, but it didn’t change my life. It didn’t make me feel loved, belonged, or worthy. If anything, it just took more time away from what was most important: writing the blog itself. To overcome perfectionism, we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion. It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection. Self-compassion has three elements, as pointed about by Dr. Kristin Neff:
–Self-kindness: Being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
–Common humanity: Common humanity recognizes that suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience- something we all go through rather than something that happens to “me” alone.
–Mindfulness: Taking a balanced approach to negative emotions as that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Mindfulness requires that we not “over-identify” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity.
When was a time when something you planned didn’t go accordingly? How did you respond to that specific situation? Did you become overwhelmed and shut-off, or did you decide that you did the best you could, and that’s enough? Knowing what you know now about self-compassion, how differently would you respond in the same situation?
-Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity. Protective factors are things we do, have, and practice that gives us the bounce, and Brene found from majority of her interviewees that spirituality was the foundation of their protective factors. According to Brene, spirituality is defined as, “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other and by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose into our lives.” Do you have a spiritual component in your life that allows you to be resilient?
I don’t know about you, but it is really difficult coming to terms with your imperfections, but I guess it’s with the unique quirks and kinks of each of us that make us who we are. Reiterating what E. E. Cummings wrote, it’s really difficult to be who you are in a world that encourages you to be anything but; however, I think the most difficult part is realizing who you are with your imperfections. When you finally have the courage to admit these imperfections, I feel, is the central idea of simple courage. What do you think? Are you willing to admit your imperfections, or have you known all along?
Here’s your challenge: State two imperfections about you aloud. Ponder on them. Was that difficult? Now, aloud, state five reasons that you are worthy of love and belonging. Now how do you feel? Do you feel loved? Try adding this into your daily life. For every one time you notice an imperfection, counter it by doubling the reasons why you are worthy of love and belonging.