I feel that on a deep level we all desire is to be connected, to be accepted, to belong and be loved. I feel that sometimes we are afraid to show our true self for fear that we will be rejected, that we are not good enough. We fear judgment, failure, scarcity and closeness. We put on different coats and hats and masks and wear them out into the world. We hide who we really are behind these various disguises, not wanting to display our true self.
Brene Brown is a researcher, professor, and author who has spent a large part of her career researching vulnerability and shame. Brene believes that shame is the fear of disconnection and that shame is underpinned by excruciating vulnerability. Brene believes that what keeps us from connection is our fear that we are not worthy of love and connection. She contends that believing that you are worthy of love and belonging is the key. A sense of worthiness is the key. If we don't have a sense of being worthy then we will struggle to feel loved and that we belong.
Brene and her team interviewed thousands of people and split their results into 2 groups. The first group contained people who felt disconnected. The second group contained people who felt connected, loved and accepted, this group she calls the "whole-hearted". The group of "whole-hearted" people were all living from the essence of worthiness. In studying these "whole-hearted" people, she found that they all had 3 things in common.
1. Courage - They had the courage to tell the story of who they are with their whole heart. They have the courage to be imperfect.
2. Compassion - They have the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others. They recognized that they can't practice compassion to other people if they don't treat themselves kindly.
3. Connection - They had connection as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are. This is necessary for connection. They also fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable, also made them beautiful. An interesting point is that they don't consider being vulnerable comfortable, but they also don't consider it to be excruciating.
Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. Brene says that, "Vulnerability is not a weakness. Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage. I am enough and my imperfection doesn't change that. To be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen is courageous."
I feel that in the past I played small a lot of the time, so as not to be vulnerable. I would play small and fly just under the radar to not stand out, to not be too noticed, to not be too vulnerable. Do you find that you play it small to avoid being vulnerable?
Research has also found that we numb vulnerability. Our society is the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated in history. The thing is, you can't selectively numb emotion. You can't numb the bad stuff without numbing the good stuff too. Shame is highly correlated to addictions and to bullying.
Other ways we numb vulnerability center around control (making everything uncertain, certain), perfecting ourselves, and pretending that what we do doesn't have an effect on people.
Brene's work identified that the shame package for women is...do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat. Shame for women is this web of unattainable, competing and conflicting expectations. Shame for men is...never show any weakness. Sound familiar? It does to me.
I believe that today's social media exasperates this web. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram all display to the world this picture perfect scene of life that can be fake and not representative of real life.
Brene says that shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. She contends that empathy is the anecdote to shame. I would add that love is also the anecdote to shame, as well as compassion.
I personally can relate to the shame package for women and the numbing through perfection. Can you relate to your shame package? I would love to hear your thoughts.
What if we let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen, to love with our whole hearts knowing that there's no guarantee? What if we practiced courage and gratitude and joy in those moments of terror about being vulnerable, recognizing that to feel vulnerable is to be alive? What if we believed that we are enough? When we work from a place of I am enough, we are kinder and gentler to ourselves, and we are kinder and gentler to the people around us. Have the courage to be vulnerable, to be connected. By celebrating who you are, you will give permission to others to do the same.