My Top 11 Take Aways from “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown
(Click here to view or purchase this book on Amazon: “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown )
1.Living an authentic life takes courage. Brown quotes part of a speech from Teddy Roosevelt which beautifully illustrates this point, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Daring greatly isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about having the courage to get out there and do. And being ourselves takes risk, and battling with with both external and internal forces.
2.Connection is why we are here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering. (I agree with this to an extent. Personally, I believe we are consciousness that is here to learn, grow, and experience life in the most authentic way possible. Connection can be a beautiful part of that, and is the foundation for how we come to understand, validate, and express ourselves, but I don’t think it’s why we are here, and I don’t think that without it there is suffering. Suffering comes from attachment—generally in the forms of “clinging” and “craving” to what is, what was, or what we think should be. The Buddhist in me believes that life is more about learning to let go than it is about connection. This is not to say that connection isn’t important, it’s to say that when we let go of clinging and craving, then we can engage in the world in a deeper more present way that is based off of appreciation and contentment.) Connecting to others takes courage. And it takes courage to be ourselves, to live an authentic life, and to be vulnerable to others. And it takes skill in order to connect and be vulnerable in healthy ways. Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.
3.In order for a true connection to be present, empathy, compassion, healthy boundaries, living an authentic life, and courage to be ourselves must also be present. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. True compassion is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. (I agree. When the dynamic is unequal, it is pity at best, or misplaced guilt fueled by poor boundaries and manipulation at worst. Many targets of abuse claim that they are compassionate by wanting to help their abuser, but it’s not compassion—it’s guilt, or guilt-fueled manipulation by their abuser. We are not meant to be or stay connected to everyone we meet. This is where healthy boundaries comes into play. We can have compassion for an abusive person, but it’s important that we do so from a place of healthy boundaries, meaning, we do so from a place where we can keep ourselves safe and sane. As the Dalia Lama once said, our compassion isn’t complete if it doesn’t include ourselves.)
4.One of the biggest blocks to connection (and courage) is shame. It’s important that we understand our shame, and all the different forms it can take.
Shame, and fear of shame, are two of the biggest hindrances to vulnerability. And we need vulnerability in order to get out there and try. Mistakes are a big part of success—at work, with friendships, and other relationships. We should be asking ourselves if we are engaged and paying attention, and willing to look at ourselves honestly—what we are doing right and wrong, and how we can do better next time. The journey is all about stumbling and falling—and learning to pick ourselves up again. What we know matters, but who we are matters more.
Narcissism is shame-based. And in culture, the message is often that an ordinary life is a meaningless one. This message is often fueled by the number of likes on Facebook or Instagram. (Although not all narcissism is shame-based. Sometimes it is entitlement based, and comes from a person being spoiled rotten as a child. …And frankly, I think some narcissism is present because we live in an instant gratification, me-first, appearance-based, social media driven culture, and true connection is something that takes time and effort—and the virtue of patience is something that seems to be diminishing with each passing decade. Real connection requires vulnerability, time, and knowing themselves, and if a person can bypass becoming vulnerable or taking the time to know themselves, then they may want to jump right to the finish line. Because why bother cultivating love, when a person can have lots of sex? Why bother learning to love and validate yourself when you can post a bunch of sexy pictures on the internet and get validation and attention from a bunch of people?)
We all experience shame. Shame can be like gremlins in our mind trying to be destructive and undo any progress we’ve made. We are all afraid to talk about shame. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives. The only people without shame are those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. (Narcissists and sociopaths/psychopaths lack shame, because they get rid of it. They get rid of it by projecting their behavior onto others, or somehow justifying their actions. Because they feel justified in what they are doing, or they have disconnected from others in such a way that they truly view others as a means to an end—which is the ultimate form of dehumanization. And if a person is projecting (accusing you of being abusive or manipulative) then watch out, because you are now their enemy, and they will feel justified in mistreating you, because in their mind it is now self-defense. This is deeply twisted and disturbed behavior, and not someone who can be reasoned with.)
5.The way around shame is through understanding it, through cultivating empathy, and learning to develop “shame resiliency.” The 4 steps to get to empathy are (and they don’t always happen in this order):
- Recognize Shame and Understand it’s Triggers. Can you physically recognize when you’re in the grips of shame, feel your way through it, and figure out what messages and expectations triggered it?
- Practice Critical Awareness. Can you reality-check the messages and expectations that are driving your shame? Are they realistic? Attainable? Are they want you want to be or what you think others need or want from you?
- Reaching Out. Are you owning and sharing your story? We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting.
- Speaking Shame. Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame?
Shame is the fear of disconnection. We feel disconnected when we feel unworthy. Connection, along with love and belonging are why we are here, and it is what gives our lives purpose and meaning.
12 Shame Categories:
- Appearance and body image
- Money and work
- Motherhood and fatherhood
- Mental and physical health
- Surviving Trauma
- Being stereotyped or labeled
Some examples of shame are filing for bankruptcy, getting fired or laid off, not handling a situation as well as we would have liked, someone asking us when we are due when we aren’t pregnant. Sometimes we try and cover our shame with lies—telling people that a parent lives overseas when really they are in jail, etc.
There is a big difference between shame and guilt. Guilt=I did something bad; shame=I am bad. (I am a bad friend, I am so stupid, vs. I can’t believe I did that, or what a crappy thing to do. A good way to start getting out of shame is to be aware of the words we are using to describe things, and to shift to focusing on our behavior instead of internalizing our behavior and making ourselves bad and wrong.)
When we feel shame we blame someone or something besides ourselves. We rationalize our actions. Shame isn’t helpful, but guilt can be. (Guilt can be positive, and a great driver of our behavior, if we can hold onto the message that it is trying to tell us—which is usually “don’t do that.” However, if we experience guilt, and don’t change, then we are stuck in a cycle of feeling bad about ourselves. Guilt when coupled with accountability and the desire to do something different next time, is often what drives us to do something different. Having guilt and then not taking corrective action only serves to make us feel temporarily better about our problematic actions. If we don’t take corrective action, then guilt is nothing more than a tool we are using to justify our actions and to soothe the mental distress we have from not taking a different action, and that guilt can turn into shame, and lead to a shame spiral that can be hard to pull out of. It’s the equivalent of feeling guilty for eating too much, and then vowing we will go to the gym tomorrow—but we never end up eating less or going to the gym. In terms of narcissists and sociopaths, they often do a great job at pretending to have guilt and shame—but it’s fleeting, if it was even ever sincere to begin with. They may say and do all of the right things once they are caught—for a time, but what’s really going on is that they are getting better at hiding their problematic behavior. The only sincere apology is changed behavior.)
So what do we do about shame? We work towards developing shame resilience. (Because shame resistance isn’t possible, since we all experience it.) Shame resilience is about moving from shame to empathy—which is the real antidote. If we can share our story with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. Self-compassion is also critically important, but because shame is a social concept—it happens between people, and it also heals best between people. Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect, and experience empathy. (I don’t agree with this completely. Shame is a mindset, and while it may start off as a social concept, it can (and often does) exist when no one else is present. I do agree with self-compassion being an important part of shifting out of shame, but I don’t necessarily agree that we need to reach out, connect, and experience empathy in order to get rid of shame. If shame is a mindset, then it’s an internal battle we must overcome. This isn’t to say that it can be very validating to know we aren’t alone, and that our struggles are a struggles that are shared by many others—but at the end of the day, only we can do the work of reframing that shame into something more positive.)
Talking about shame—and even journaling about those things we feel shame about can be very healing.
There is no shortage of ways that people intentionally or unintentionally shame each other. From messages we get from our parents, to messages found within culture, to what we tell ourselves.
She shares the story of a man who felt that his wife and daughters would happily see him dead, and that he felt continually invalidated by them. Brenee said she didn’t study men, and the guy explained that men experience shame too. Her realization was that if we are going to find our way out of shame, it will be together. (I think it’s important to understand that shame isn’t a women’s issue, or a man’s issue—it’s a human issue. And based on how my former dog used to act and look after it got back from the groomer the first few times, it may be just a mammal issue, or even a living thing issue. I’m not trying to be funny or get off topic too much here, but I think shame is a very real feeling that is experienced in a much larger way than we realize.)
Women and shame. “Look perfect, do perfect, be perfect.” That we are never enough and continually judged by our mothers, coworkers, and spouses. Women are continually asked why they aren’t married yet, or why they haven’t had children—or if they’ve only had one child when they are going to have another. If they have multiple children people criticize them if they are close together in age or far apart. If they work outside the home they are criticized for not being there for their children. If they don’t work, they are asked what kind of example are they setting for their daughter. We are often expected to be perfect—but we aren’t allowed to look as if we are working for it. Everything should be effortless. We should be natural beauties, natural mothers, naturally good parents, and so on. (The reality is that everything takes effort, no one starts out at the finish line, and for us not to compare our journey to someone else’s—especially if we are only seeing scripted snippets of their journey! This is very much the case on social media. What you see on social media is a person’s edited reality, and how they want their life to be—not how it really is.)
The conflicting messages women often heard were:
- Be perfect, but don’t take time away from anything to achieve this perfection. If you’re really good, perfection should be easy.
- Don’t upset anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings, but say what’s on your mind.
- Dial sexuality up in the bedroom, but dial it way down at the PTO meeting.
- Just be yourself, but not if that means being shy or unsure.
- Don’t make people feel uncomfortable, but be honest.
- Don’t get too emotional, but don’t be too detached either.
Brown talks about all the low blows people took at her in the comment section after her TED video began to go viral. “Less research. More Botox.” “How can she talk about worthiness when she clearly needs to lose fifteen pounds.” “Mothers don’t have breakdowns. I feel sorry for her kids.” The critics didn’t go after her intellect or her arguments, but went after her appearance and her mothering. (This is called an “Ad Hominem” attack, and is a common logical fallacy that people tend to fall into. To better understand why narcissists can be so crazymaking, it can help to understand the different logical fallacies out there.)
When men described shame, this is what she heard:
- Shame is failure. At work, on the football field, in marriage, in bed, with money, with children—it doesn’t matter. Shame is failure.
- Shame is being wrong. Not doing it wrong, but being wrong.
- Shame is a sense of being defective.
- It’s degrading and shaming to be seen as anything but tough.
- Shame is weakness. You can’t show fear or be afraid—no matter what.
- Our worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed—either one of these is extremely shaming.
- The big message is don’t be a wussy.
One guy said that he felt he only had 3 choices: spend your life fighting to get out of the box and hoping it will break, give up, or try to rise above it and stay so high so you don’t really notice how unbearable it is. (Although, I think there is also a forth option which is to stay in the box and never question things. Many men and women fall into the forth option and may not even realize it. Just realizing that there is a box is a big first step for people.) This guy was a very artistic child, and his parents were neutral about it. His uncle came over and began making cruel comments about how they were raising their son to be a gay artist. After that, they stopped the art lessons, and he never drew again.
One man said that he felt that women only wanted them to pretend to be vulnerable. That they loathe weakness, and so men become really good at pretending. Another guy said that he had been laid off from his job and hadn’t told his wife. It had been six months, and he still got up every day and pretended to go to work, because he was afraid at how she would react to the news, and that she might leave him. Another man spoke about how his wife came home and told him all about her female friend’s new beautiful dream house and how she was planning on quitting work next year. He said that his immediate response was rage, and that rage came out by him picking a fight with her about her mother visiting and then quickly disappeared to another part of the house. He felt that the message was clear: Katie’s husband makes more and is better able to provide for her.
Men’s responses to shame tend to either be pissed off or shut down.
Children may experience shame if they don’t feel they belong at home. Not belonging at home can feel like:
- Not living up to your parent’s expectations
- Not being as smart as your parents
- Not being good at the same things as your parents
- Your parents being embarrassed of you
- Your parents not liking who you are
- Your parents not paying attention to your life
For children, they often feel compelled to focus on fitting in, instead of finding out where they belong. (Many adults fall into this too, however, this can be easier navigating as an adult because we have more control over our lives than a child does.)
We can’t shame-proof our children, but we can model and teach shame resilience.
Fitting in vs. belonging
Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere where you want to be, but they don’t care one way or another. Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. I get to be me if I belong. I have to be like you to fit in.
Shame resilience is a strategy for protecting connection—our connection with ourselves and with those we care about. But resilience requires thinking, and that’s where shame has a huge advantage. When shame descends, we almost always are hijacked by the limbic system. In other words, the prefrontal cortex, where we do all of our thinking and analyzing and strategizing, gives way to that fight-or-flight part of our brain.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman describes the brain as a “team of rivals.” There is an ongoing conversation among the different factions in your brain, each competing to control the single output channel of your behavior. The rational system is one that cares about the analysis of things in the outside world, while the emotional system monitors the internal state and worries whether things are good and bad. Emotions can tip the balance of decision making, which can definitely be true when it comes to shame. Our fight-or-flight strategies are effective for survival, not for reasoning or connection. (I think we also freeze, “friend,” forage, or fortress to cope with shame as well. Fight=become defensive/go on the attack emotionally or physically; Flight=engage in a wide variety of escaping behaviors such as drinking, drugs, or other things to numb out; Freeze=shut down; Friend=ingratiate ourselves trying to get approval; Forage=eat, hoard, shop, “stock up” on things to keep ourselves safe; Fortress=shut everyone else out, isolate, self-sabotage.)
When research participants were asked how they normally respond to shame, they said things like:
- “When I feel shame, I’m like a crazy person. I do and say stuff I would normally never do or say.”
- “I get desperate when I feel shame. Like I have nowhere to turn—no one to talk to.”
- “When I feel ashamed, I check out mentally and emotionally. Even with my family.”
Some of us move toward, move against, or move away from shame.
We may move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets.
Some move toward by seeking to appease and please.
Some move against by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame (like sending mean emails or trying to shame someone else).
Most of us use all of these strategies at different times and with different people for different reasons. The strategies may be different, but the break in the connection is all the same.
Things begin to change when we move from “what will people think” to “I am enough.” Setting boundaries helps to enforce that mindset. We can also develop a mantra that can pull us out of the reptile brain and back into the rational brain. Her mantra was, “If you own this story, you get to write the ending.” Carl Jung once said, “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Empathy is connection. It’s compassion free of judgment. It lets us know that we aren’t alone—especially when others reach out and share their stories of being in a similar dark hole of shame.
Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of “you’re not alone.”
6.Becoming “Wholehearted.” When we are able to understand our shame, and move through it, we can become “Wholehearted.” People that are “Wholehearted” understand shame and engage with the world from a place of worthiness.
- Cultivate Authenticity and let go of what other people think
- Cultivate Self-Compassion, and let go of perfectionism
- Cultivate Gratitude and Joy, and let go of scarcity and fear of the dark
- Cultivate intuition and trust faith, and let go of the need for certainty
- Cultivate creativity, and let go of comparison
- Cultivate play and rest, and let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
- Cultivate calm and stillness, and let go of anxiety as a lifestyle
- Cultivate meaningful work, and let go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
- Cultivate laughter, song, and dance, and let go of being cool and always in control
Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “no matter what gets done, and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night thinking, “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.”
This definition is based on these fundamental ideals:
- Love and belonging are basic needs for all men, women, and children. We are hardwired for connection—it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
- Those who feel that a deep sense of love and belonging have developed practices that enable them to hold on to the belief that they are worthy of love, belonging, and even joy. They still have difficulties like everyone else (addiction, bankruptcy, addiction, depression, etc. but those events don’t negatively impact their belief that they are worthy of love.)
- A strong belief in our worthiness doesn’t just happen—it’s cultivated when we understand the guideposts as choices and daily practices.
- The main concern of Wholehearted people is living a life defined by courage, compassion, and connection.
- The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection.
Living a Wholehearted Life Involves:
Learning how to actually feel our feelings.
Staying mindful of numbing behaviors.
Learning how to lean into the discomfort of our feelings. This means knowing our limits by paying attention to how much we can do, and how much was too much. Learning to say no and learning to say “enough.” Getting clear on what’s important and when they could let something go.
It’s not so much what you do, it’s why you are doing it. Ask yourself if your choices are comforting and nourishing to your spirit, or if they are a temporary reprieve from vulnerability and difficult emotions ultimately diminishing your spirit.
If Wholeheartedness is the goal, then above all else, we should strive to raise children who:
- Engage with the world from a place of worthiness
- Embrace their vulnerabilities and imperfections
- Feel a deep sense of love and compassion for themselves and others
- Value hard work, perseverance, and respect
- Carry a sense of authenticity and belonging with them, rather than searching for it in external places
- Have the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and creative
- Don’t fear feeling ashamed or unlovable if they are different or if they are struggling
- Move through our rapidly changing world with courage and a resilient spirit
For parents this means we are called upon to:
- Acknowledge that we can’t give our children what we don’t have and so we must let them share in our journey to grow, change, and learn
- Recognize our own armor and model for our children how to take it off, be vulnerable, show up, and let ourselves be seen and known
- Honor our children by continuing on our own journeys towards Wholeheartedness
- Parents from a place of “enough” rather than scarcity
- Mind the gap and practice the values we want to teach
- Dare greatly, possibly more than we’ve ever dared before
In order for our children to love and accept who they are, we need to love and accept who we are. We can’t use fear, shame, blame, and judgment in our own lives if we want to raise courageous children. Compassion and connection can only be learned if they are experienced.
Worthiness doesn’t have prerequistes, but shame wants us to think that it does. The whole, “I’ll be worthy when…”
- I lose weight
- If I get accepted into this school
- If my spouse isn’t cheating
- If I get promoted
- Once I’m a parent
- If he asks me out
- If no one finds out
- Once I buy a house
- Once I make a certain amount of money
…Toni Morrison once said that children see their reflection in us. Most parents look at the children through the critical lens of examination—of their teeth being brushed, their hair combed, their clothes matching and neat, etc. Imagine the look that must be on our faces. Imagine what message we would send if our faces lit up instead when we saw them. Make sure your face speaks what’s in your heart.
7.The importance of being vulnerable. In order to effectively connect with others, as well as to dare to live a “Wholehearted” life, then we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Vulnerability isn’t always a weakness, it’s necessary if we connect to each other. Vulnerability is also truth and courage. (But I think in order for vulnerability within relationships to be wise, there needs to be some degree of trust there…or if we are vulnerable flying blind, then we need to have a thick skin or at least be emotionally prepared as best we can for an attack.)
What vulnerability is and isn’t. Vulnerability is not over-sharing. It is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust—with people who have earned the right to hear and experience our authentic self.
Oversharing is not vulnerability, in fact, it often results in disconnection, distrust, and disengagement.
Oversharing often comes in two forms: Floodlighting and Smash and Grab.
Floodlighting is when we overshare to sooth our pain, test the loyalty or tolerance in a relationship, and/or quickly try to wire a new connection. (Rushing intimacy basically.) People with healthy boundaries tend to recoil and shut down, (and emotional manipulators tend to speed things up). When we overshare and try to strengthen a relationship by getting too deep too soon, it’s a lot like shining a bright light into someone’s eyes. Connection is better made one light at a time on a strand of lights. We may leave feeling even more shame and embarrassment than before if we’ve overshared and it wasn’t well-received.
When you are sharing, ask yourself:
- Why am I sharing this?
- What outcome am I hoping for?
- What emotions am I experiencing?
- Do my intentions align with my values?
- Is there an outcome, response, or lack of a response that will hurt my feelings?
- Is this sharing in the service of connection?
- Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?
The Smash and Grab
Oversharing intimate information in order to grab as much attention and energy as they can get their hands on. This is unlike floodlighting, which comes from a place of needing confirmation of our worthiness, the smash and grab feels less real, as is more based in attention seeking.
What vulnerability is: Vulnerability based on mutual trust leads to increased connection, trust, and engagement. Vulnerability without boundaries leads to disconnection, distrust, and disengagement.
The only way to tell who has your back or who you can trust is to be vulnerable (to a degree—and then see how they handle the info you open up about. If they criticize you, gossip about you, blame you, or turn it against you, then you know they aren’t safe—and not worthy of your trust or time.)
In order to let others in, we must cultivate a certain degree of trust. Building trust is often like the marble jar. When a person does something kind, thoughtful, and good we put marbles in, if they do something hurtful, we take marbles out. Although there are sometimes where they might be so awful that we dump all the marbles out at once. (In order for us to know when to take a marble out versus dump the whole container, we need to be clear on the difference between deal breaker and workable behavior.) Trust isn’t a grand gesture, it’s a growing marble collection.
8.The biggest corrosion to trust is disengagement. This is a slow and steady erosion of a relationship. When disengagement happens, we stop paying attention, caring, prioritizing, or fighting for the relationship. Disengagement triggers are worst fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable. What can make this so crazymaking is that there often isn’t one single thing like an affair or a lie that we can point to as the source of our pain. We just feel broken but may not know why. (Narcissists and sociopaths are never engaged to being with. Their emotions are shallow, fleeting, and solely based on their gratification. It’s important that we can tell when we are being disengaged as well as when our partner is too. For narcissists/sociopaths, their actions are based out of lust, not love; social status and public image, not bonding; winning at all costs, not working towards a sincere solution; self-based not team-oriented. If someone treats you in a way that shows they don’t care—believe their actions. Don’t believe words. Words are free and easy.)
Shame resilience is about finding a middle path, an option that allows us to stay engaged and to find the emotional courage we need to respond in a way that aligns with our values.
People tend to shame those that are doing worse than they are in some area. If they don’t like their body, they make fun of someone else’s appearance. (Although with abusers, it’s often what someone else is doing that is either better than them, or that they simply disagree with.)
“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. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them—we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”
9.Self-love. Self-love allows us to be vulnerable in new ways, and that’s what love is all about. (Hmm. Kinda. Self-love is knowing that we matter, that our time, energy, emotions, metal and physical health and safety matter. It’s knowing when to be vulnerable, and when not to be. Being vulnerable or continuing to be vulnerable around a dangerous or destructive person shows a lack of self-love. Trying to be vulnerable, compassionate, and caring to someone who abuses us isn’t an act of love, it’s a display of poor boundaries and shows a lack of self-love. In addition, we can’t single-handedly save the relationship. A person has to do this self-work before they are emotionally available enough to be in a healthy relationship—so trying to get a narcissist to change (or anyone for that matter) will only ever be an exercise in crazymaking.)
It’s easier to become real when we know we are loved. She gives a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit. (This is an important concept, and one that we need to discuss through the lens of abuse, because it can be really skewed otherwise.
Children develop their sense of identity in large part from the validation (or lack of validation) they get from their parents. If that validation and acceptance isn’t there, a child will most likely start turning to others for that sense of connection and validation. This is how and why kids get into gangs, and why adults get into cults and abusive relationships. If we don’t have that early sense of validation, then we are forever seeking that validation and sense of self from others—usually abusive others who don’t validate us, but instead who project all of their insecurities onto us. If we are needed to be loved in order to “become real” then, in adulthood, this is codependency at its worst. This is perhaps the greatest challenge for an abused or neglected child since we all start to become real through the validation reflected back at us from our parents. The only way to break this cycle of needing others to love us so we become real is to learn to love ourselves, and to realize that we matter and that we have value and worth as a human being simply because we are here—because we each are unique and have our own gifts to share with the world.)
10.Masks and Armor. Masks and armor protect us from feeling vulnerable. They can make us feel safer, even when they become suffocating. The irony is when we’re standing across from someone who is hidden or shielded by masks and armor, we feel frustrated and disconnected. (And when we wear masks and armor, it is our way of disconnection, although we may not realize it.) Vulnerability is the last thing we want others to see in us, but often the first thing we see in others (especially once we become more aware of the masks people wear and more emotionally in tune with ourselves. And frankly, once a person can see a mask for what it is, they look silly, and don’t hide anything—if anything they are often a big neon sign saying “this is what I’m insecure about.”)
Three forms of shielding in a person’s armor arsenal are:
Foreboding joy: the paradoxical dread that clamps down on momentary joyfulness. When everything is going well, we might feel like something bad is lurking around the corner, or we think if something is too good to be true that there must be a catch (although this is a terrible example, as the first sign of a scam or certain types of abusive people/emotional manipulators is that they seem too good to be true. The only way to tell if something is legitimate is through being discerning and taking the time to move slowly and see if their actions match their words, and how our instincts feel.)
Perfectionism: believing that doing everything perfectly means you’ll never feel shame.
Numbing: the embrace of whatever deadens the pain of discomfort and pain.
Joy, success, or Wholeheartedness doesn’t come from being perfect, it comes from cultivating the courage to be vulnerable, imperfect, and self-compassionate. Perfectionism is a hazardous detour and keeps us stuck, and unable to move forward.
Perfectionism isn’t the same thing as striving for excellence, nor is it about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. Perfectionism isn’t self-improvement, it’s about trying to earn approval (and I think it’s a fear-based move—especially if we are looking at other people’s work as a measurement of where we should be). It’s the idea that we are what we accomplish. Healthy striving is about focusing on improvement. Perfectionism is other-focused. Perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame, it is a form of shame. Perfect is often the enemy of good enough. The 20 minute walk we take is better than the 4 miles we didn’t run at the gym. The take out Chinese we share with friends is better than the elegant dinner party we never host.
11.Cultivating self-compassion. Self-compassion has three elements:
- Self-kindness: being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we fail.
- Common Humanity: suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are a shared part of the human experience.
- Mindfulness: we cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. Mindfulness is also about not getting caught up in the feelings and thoughts so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity.
When we numb the darkness, we also numb the light. Americans today are more debt-ridden, obese, medicated, and addicted than we ever have been, because for the first time in human history, numbing the darkness has been easier than it’s ever been. (What’s important here is for us to realize that we all have coping mechanisms, and that our lives start to radically change for the better once we are aware of what situations we’ve been trying to cope with, how we’ve been coping, which coping methods are healthy and which are problematic—and working towards developing healthy ones. However, getting real with ourselves about our problems and how we’ve been coping is painful—which is why we’ve been trying to avoid it to begin with. In order to get rid of the pain, we have to learn to sit with it, explore it, extract the messages it has for us, and ideally befriend it. This is perhaps best done by realizing that pain isn’t the enemy, it’s the messenger. And that messenger is using pain so it gets our attention. The more we can lean into it and get the message, then faster the pain will dissolve. …This is easier said than done, and it does take practice.)
I look forward to discussing this book with you guys, and I’ll be curious to hear what you took away from it—so please let me know! The book club discussion will be on December 28, 2017 over on my YouTube channel “Thrive After Abuse.” I hope to see ya there!
The book club book for January 2018 is “Codependency for Dummies” by Darlene Lancer.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.