This month, I have been on a Brené Brown kick, as I like to call it. I read several of her books, watched her TED Talks, and implemented a therapeutic group called Shame Resilience. I can tell you that even after my "Brené kick," it is still something that I am still figuring out, but I'm certainly much closer. Living our lives authentically and embracing the unknown is difficult for a lot of us, and is something we have to actively work on. We are really good at shaming ourselves when we do things wrong, but we need to get better about being self-compassionate in those moments - pushing away shame and embracing a moment of growth.
Her book "Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of who you think you're supposed to be and embrace who you are" appears to be a short book, but it is full of huge concepts - things that force us to look at ourselves. She works to normalize how many of us feel shame, explores our avoidance of vulnerability, and shares with us how we could be living quite differently if we choose to embrace discomfort instead of pushing it away. At one point she states: "Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are." Read that again - letting go of who we think we're supposed to be, and embracing who we ARE.....
Choosing authenticity means to:
- Cultivate the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
- Exercise the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle.
- Nurture the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are "enough."
All of that sounds great, but it asks us to dig deep, which is not always easy, especially when we are really good at shaming ourselves. One way she argues that we can bring about authenticity is by having self-compassion.
According to her book, self-compassion has three elements: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
- Self-kindness: Being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or beating ourselves up with self-criticism.
- Common humanity: 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 so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. We cannot ignore pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. Mindfulness requires that we not "over-identify" with thoughts or feelings, so we are not caught up and swept away be negativity,
In avoiding vulnerability and pain, we often block ourselves from opportunities. We do this out of fear of how we will feel if it doesn't work out, if we're rejected, if we get hurt in the end. These are barriers to what Brené Brown describes as living an authentic and vulnerable life, but if we learn to push away that negative self-talk, and be gentle with our imperfect selves, we may just start opening ourselves up. Her book isn't a quick fix because this is life work, however, it's a good place to start to dig deep and get really personal with yourself. I encourage you to lean into that fear, and push yourself away of needing to know.