I had an Oprah aha! moment. Completely and fully an aha! moment. Like Tom Cruise jumping one the couch aha! moment. It happened at a conference this past week where Brené Brown was one of the keynote speakers. I had read one of her books. I liked the book and found her research intriguing, but this was different. It was like she was inside of my brain. As she was speaking she kept saying things that were straight out of my thought book. It was a lightbulb moment after lightbulb moment, which I am now calling a collective aha! moment.
Brené Brown researches shame, vulnerability, and courage and has translated all this data into words that I can understand and made so much sense to me that my mind was blown. Brené Brown shared this little piece of wisdom, “I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.” I can look at my life and realize that I am so afraid sometimes to put myself out there or let myself be in situations that could be painful that I miss out on true moments of joy and belonging that are also possible. Boom! Brené spoke on how you can’t be courageous without being vulnerable. Which to most people courageous is seen as a good thing and being vulnerable is viewed as bad, when they actually go hand in hand. In Brené’s words, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” When you put yourself out there you are also extremely vulnerable, but that is where the great things happen. I think back to moments in my life that really stand out as amazing and when I felt immense joy and those same moments are also times when I really put myself out there in a vulnerable way.
I think in our society we strive for perfection. I have recognized feelings of sadness or shame in myself in situations when I don’t feel like things are “perfect” enough. Another piece of Brené Brown wisdom for you, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.” I am pretty certain there is no such thing as perfection and hearing Brené’s research on the topic is powerful. “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” This is a quote from Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. “You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” Here is when I had an aha! moment about this, if I feel like I have to be someone different than my authentic self amongst certain people then those are not MY PEOPLE! Life changing right? I need to stop forcing it or trying to make it work by changing who I am to “fit in”. Here is another thing I learned from Brené and her research, we don’t have to feel belonging with hundreds of people. Just finding a few GREAT friends fill that need inside of us! You don’t have to feel like you fit in and belong with everything and everyone. That is not how we work. We are still good humans, practice civility, and are kind to all persons, but we don’t need a tribe the size of Texas to feel joy. Boom again!
This conference was a group of moms who are influencers, marketers, writers, and content creators. Brené Brown was asking how many of us have ever watched our child sleep and thought about how we couldn’t love anything more and then in the same thought was thrown into having something horrible and awful happen to them like dying in a car crash. Thoughts like that bring me to tears when they pop into my head. You know, the thoughts that are so awful they make your stomach hurt? Guess what, you are not alone. Almost every single mother in that room raised their hand. Brené said that 95% of people have those same thoughts. She called is a “dress rehearsal” for tragic events, like we are trying to prepare ourselves just incase it ever happens. She then asked us how many have actually had a phone call of something tragic happen and about half of us raised our hands. She went on to say that the “dress rehearsing” for this scenario didn’t actually help at all right? I can honestly say there is nothing that can prepare us for receiving awful, tragic, gut wrenching news. It was validating to know that I am not alone in these thoughts. Instead of delving into those horrible thoughts while watching my beautiful daughter sleep I need to reach for joy. The joy she brings me with her funny stories or beautiful cuddles, but knowing I am not alone in having those thoughts is so helpful to acknowledge that feeling and move on. It is ok to feel vulnerable, but you acknowledge the fear and pain and move on.
Here is another big lesson I learned. “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” This is a quote from Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. The arena (of life) is filled with people. It is the people down on the floor doing the hard work, like a gladiator, that are really putting themselves out there. They are getting sweaty and dirty and experiencing the pain. The people who are just watching and being critics don’t count. They are not putting themselves out there. Brené used the term “the cheap seats” and I love this. In the social media driven world we live in today it is so easy to sit behind the computer and be the critic. Unless you are putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, working hard, and getting dirty your opinion does not matter to me. You do not get to criticize me from the cheap seats. Another Brené truth bomb, “If you have constructive criticism you want to give me, I want it. But if you’re in the cheap seats, not putting yourself on the line, and just talking about how I can do it better, I’m not interested in your feedback.” I have the problem where I want everyone to like me and do not want to upset anyone, but you know what? If I am my authentic self, a good person, and doing meaningful things then I am not going to be upset if someone out in the cheap seats makes fun of me, judges me, criticizes me, or is trolling me. I am going to be down in that arena doing great things and leaning in. Just like Brené says, “If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” Mind blown with this realization. I choose to put myself out there in a very public way with this blog and on social media and I am proud of the work I do. I get emails and messages from people who thank me for inspiring them to step out of their comfort zone in a large way. THIS is why I do this. I love helping others and this is my way to reach a larger community. I love answering questions about balancing being active and motherhood, inspiring people to cook a better recipe, encouraging them to take the first step towards their goal of a half marathon, and give something good to people who are looking for a safe space. I share about my battle with anxiety to be my authentic self and hopefully that in turn helps someone know they are not alone. I shared my BRCA gene testing journey, my medical woes, and my surgery struggles to help others who are going through the same thing. To the people who criticize for writing a sponsored post that pays the bills to host this site you read regularly, you are in the cheap seats.
What about our kids? How about this Brené thought when it comes to parenting, “Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.” Let’s just stop for a second and absorb that, DARE GREATLY! The one thing our younger generations need more than anything is to be hopeful and to dare greatly. I have faced critics about the level of dance I allow my daughter to partake in and auditioning for teams and scholarships because of the level of commitment it takes and risk of failure and disappointment. My husband and I have had meaningful conversations about this and we both agree that it is our daughter’s passion and learning to deal with failure, getting back up and trying again is one of the best things we can instill in her. It pushes her out of her comfort zone and into that arena where she is daring greatly! It has the possibility of bringing her pain, but it also has the ability to bring her immense joy.
I could go on and on, but I will write more about this on a different day. In the meanwhile, I love the life I have and the people I have in it. If we have different views, that is ok because quite frankly if we all thought the same that would be boring, but I will be kind, gentle, and civil to everyone despite our differences. You do you and I will do me. I will be my authentic self and speak up to hard issues, lean into hard situations, and I will put myself out there in meaningful ways. I will teach my daughter compassion, civility, that failure is ok, and that “perfect” doesn’t exist. Most of all, I will seek joy while understanding that pain can come with it too. I won’t be afraid of stepping into the arena and will not take criticism from the people in the cheap seats. ✌?