My [Authentic] Voice: Unsensored and Vulnerable

I was skimming through an old journal today and came across an entry that resonated once again. It was dated May 11, 2015, opened with a prayer verse followed by notes reflecting on Brené Brown’s TEDtalk, The Power of Vulnerability. Brown has spent over a decade researching shame and vulnerability. She’s studied human behavior, emotions, and reactions. Since she gave her talk in 2010, The Power of Vulnerability has been viewed over 6 million times! So, I think it’s safe to say, she and I are not alone in our battles of shame, worthlessness, and finding comfort in being vulnerable.

May 11, 2015

When loneliness takes hold, when doubts seem stronger than faith, Move in the Lords direction and give Him the burdens of your heart. Pray. Believe. Trust

(Isaiah 40:28-31; Hew 10:19-39)

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor-, the latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good AND bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’

– Brene Brown

WholeHearted People:

  1. Have courage to be imperfect.
  2. Have compassion to be kind to themselves first, then to others
  3. Form connections as a result of authenticity (willing to let go of who they should be in order to be who they authentically are)
  4. Fully embrace vulnerability. What makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful. Willingness to say “I love you” first; willingness to do something where there are no guarantees; willingness to invest into a relationship that may not work out.

In summary: 

  • Love with our whole-hearts … even though their is no guarantee
  • Practice gratitude and joy in moments of terror/wondering [area I need to work on]
  • Believe we are enough

 


Before I go much further, I should back up and tell you why reflecting on this journal entry resinates with me at the moment.

  • Last week, I told one friend, “I feel I need a change in my life – something drastic – but I’m not sure exactly what. A move, maybe? Grad school or career change?”
  • Monday, another friend, who has jokingly become my “dating couch”, replied to a text that I should “learn from [my] experiences and apply it in a positive way going forward. But [I’m] too stubborn for that,” and
  • Tuesday, at book club (we had read Brown’s Daring Greatly) I found myself following the all-to-familiar path towards negativity disguised in a realist/self-aware facade. Then, a friend of 15+ years, calls me out saying, “I think you’re choosing to focus on the negative because it’s easy. From an outsider perspective who was there, I see a lot of positive [in that situation]. You need to let yourself recognize that – shift your focus.” (Did I mention, in addition to knowing me for 15+ years, she happens to be a social worker #FreeTherapy).

 

To some, these words may seem harsh, but the thing is … THEY’RE RIGHT! Hearing their consistent feedback – I knew I was being pushed guided towards a path of self-reflection and quest for positivity. Negativity falls so easily into the lap of my limitations. I’m the first to admit I’m my own worst enemy. I am self-critical, overly sensitive, guilt prone, and hard to please. I tend towards self-righteousness, find it hard to forgive, and carry unrealistic expectations coupled with a tendency to be detached and obsess easily. I’m not proud of these and they aren’t pretty, but I will admit these are accurate short-comings. However, I am also extremely loyal. I am dependable, determined, responsible, and motivated. I can be persuasive, insightful, confident, sociable, and well-mannered. I’m always focused on quality. I’m a problem solver and a creative thinker.

Around the same time as my journal entry, I chose to take a new personality test. I’ve taken different ones over the years, but the personality science behind ColorCode has me most accurately pegged! At 61% Blue, 20% Red, 13% Yellow, and 6% white, my results began,

Welcome to one of the most complex personalities known to man. There will never be a dull minute in your life! … you are motivated by intimacy, not to be confused with sexual intimacy. [You] need connection – the sharing of rich, deep emotions. [You] will often sacrifice a great deal (time, effort, personal convenience) to develop and maintain meaningful relationship throughout [your] life … Furthermore, one of the more interesting paradoxes you exude comes in your tremendous sense of organization and attention to detail, while being strongly driven by your emotions. You are deeply emotional as opposed to logical, but because of your tremendous analytical skills you often err in thinking of yourself as logical verse emotional. Nice try. You are, and forever will be, ruled by your heart – unless you foolishly cut off your ‘gut instincts’ because of previous life trauma from personal relationships. Even then, your logical orientation merely becomes a mask hiding the true depth of your remarkable emotional aptitude.

I think that’s enough … I won’t bore you with every detail of the full 30-page analysis. The gist is – at my core – what I want more than anything else in life – is to love and be loved. And … unless you are also a dominate blue, it’s difficult to fully understand how central this need for intimacy is to my being. It’s like breathing for me. It is crucial to my happiness. According to Brown, those who have a sense of worthiness (strong sense of love and belonging) are those who believe they are worthy and live with authentic happiness.

So, why tell you all this? Because it explains why I tend towards the negative so much. I have a serious lack of intimate relationships running as a constant in my life and when I sense the few I have slipping away, I struggle to find self-worth and focus on happiness. It also explains why I can’t simple stop thinking about finding my “Prince Charming.” I don’t give up on my dreams. I can’t won’t, sit idol and “wait for it to happen when I least expect it.” Another great Brown reference is her video on empathy. Take the 3 minutes and listen to what she has to say.

The Power of Empathy from Gobblynne on Vimeo.

While the “at least” folks mean well, often their remarks only make things worse. Empathy fuels connection, whereas sympathy drives disconnection. To empathize with someone takes courage. It requires vulnerability to find a personal connection to know the feeling the other is experiencing.

  • At least you don’t have to accommodate for anyone but yourself. You can do what you want.
  • At least you’ve had time to figure out who you are and what you want.
  • At least try – have you ever thought maybe you’re being too picky?
  • At least you can date around. I bet you never have to buy groceries.
  • And maybe the worst of them all doesn’t even begin with “at least”. Even as a woman of faith, nothing stings as much as, “the bible says being single is a gift … God must know you’re strong and can handle it … if being married is a desire of your heart, God will deliver … trust in God’s timing.”

It’s after conversations like these I wish I could just turn off my emotions. Flip the switch. Being ‘silverlined’ is belittling. Of course, I’ve thought about how much easier life would be if I could NOT care so much about these intimate relationships. I’ve tried to turn it off. I’ve tried to let go. Unfortunately, I can’t. It’s my innate personality – I was born this way and it’s what drives me and the filter through which I perceive my reality. In reflecting on this, I remember Brown’s words, “you can’t selectively numb emotions, when we turn away from the bad – fear, shame, vulnerability, disappointment, grief – you also numb the good – joy, gratitude, happiness – and we become miserable and feel meaningless leading into a dangerous cycle.” (She’s good, isn’t she!) I’ve been attempting to selectively numb my emotions and I’ve been failing. In my attempts to flip the switch on the hurt, fear, and disappointment, I’ve lost sight of my worthiness, gratitude, and happiness.

So, maybe the questions isn’t “how do I stop feeling the bad,” but rather, “how do I feel the bad and live through it?” Negative emotions are seductive and toxic. I need to stop letting them drag me down – spiraling into an unhealthy mindset. If numbing isn’t the answer, how do I move out of the dangerous cycle and into whole-hearted living? Maybe I can find solis in the same words Brown did from Theodore Roosevelt, “it’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who’s actually in the arena, who’s face is marred by dust and blood and sweat, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes up short again and again. Who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement. Who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

This post is me showing up. I’m allowing myself to be seen. This is me putting myself out there – even without the guarantee of acceptance. It’s not about ‘what would I do if I knew I wouldn’t fail?‘, it’s about ‘what is worth doing even if I fail?‘ And there you have it! Even if I fail – if I never meet my prince – one thing is guaranteed, I won’t have regrets for trying.

Until next time,

xoxo, Queen Bee #BuzzingAbout

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