You might not know the name Brené Brown, but you are probably familiar with her TED talk on vulnerability and shame. Brown is a researcher. If you are like any number of the people I have mentioned that talk to, you probably remember it well. It may have even changed the way you see the world. I know there are all kinds of criticisms of TED talks, but if you have to give one a pass… it’s probably this one.
Brown’s premise of that TED talk, and of this book, is that many of us live our lives trying to find ways to avoid shame by shutting down vulnerability. And we do this in a lot of ways, many which she talks about, but the story that resonated with me most deeply was avoiding vulnerability by chasing perfection. This is something I recognized in myself but not on those terms. I caught myself thinking, If I do this perfectly, and it fails, well at least you can’t blame me.
It has also shut down almost every creative aspect of my life and I didn’t realize it. Why don’t you write? Because writing makes me vulnerable, and what if someone says something, and I know that it wasn’t perfect, so it’s my fault that they criticized it, and then I have to face knowing that I didn’t do it well enough?
I was so caught up in doing what I was Supposed to Do (in order to avoid being blamed for not coming through in any aspect of my life) that I couldn’t even hear myself over the loudness of don’t forget to do this, you’ll regret it if you don’t do that, you’ll let everyone down if…
So to make a long, mostly puzzled story short, this book taught me four things that I am trying to work into my consciousness:
1) Life is not as good when you spend it with your guard up
2) Doing things perfectly will not save you from shame
3) Fear is the enemy of creativity. It won’t let you write. It won’t let you push boundaries. It won’t let you innovate.
4) Everyone else you care about probably feels almost exactly as bad as you do.
criticism is not the truth
it will not make you invulnerable
it will not make you reach higher
and rising to each demand
will not make you whole
it is okay to just be
to be there and alive and struggling
imagine if inside your head
each time you hear not good enough
instead your heard silence
what if instead of do better you heard
you are okay
it will all be okay