I’m reluctantly reading Brené Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly.” It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for many years. Whenever I go to reach for a new book, it offers itself to me. But for some reason, I always feel annoyed about it. I have no idea why I’ve kept it so long. Well, I mean, I know now.
I’m only on page 62 and I’ve already run through a full range of feelings. From, “Oh my god, this is going to be so good for me!” To, “This stuff is so basic I don’t even know why I’m wasting my time reading it.”
In truth, I’m understanding that part of Brené’s gift is her ability to take highly researched, complex human paradoxes and make them very easy to understand. This has the benefit of creating some real opportunities for self-love and healing.
And as is the case with many of the books I read, I picked it up at just exactly the perfect time. Today’s chapter, “Understanding and combating shame.” So, we’re not talking about light reading here. In true Brené fashion, she launches into the allegorical power of the Harry Potter series and how it creates an easy space to describe and define unnamed emotions and experiences.
At this point, I’m starting to skim a little. I absolutely love the Harry Potter series, though. To this day, my children and I engage in all sorts of conversations about the nuances of the characters and their relationships and how we relate to it all. But this morning I’m looking for something new. Something that is pertinent to me right now.
Then in about two sentences further on she says, “…how can we let ourselves be seen if shame has us terrified of what people might think?” And I get that. This is a question I have been actively facing in my life for decades. I have done a lot of work in this area.
But then she starts talking about when you create a work of art or write a blog post (to put it personally), and you share it with a group of friends. “…But because of how you were raised or how you approach the world, you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached your self-worth to how your [writing] is received. In simple terms, if they love it, you’re worthy; if they don’t, you’re worthless.” I understand this very well. I’m sure this factors into some of my overthinking and short-circuiting.
A Painful Process
Meanwhile, I’m working on a book project where I am preparing to share poetry I’ve written from one of the darkest times in my life. At some point over the years, I made a single copy of most of my poems and deleted everything else off my computer. I have been in the process of typing it all back in.
This is proving to be a very painful process. But not for the reasons you might think. I have experienced tremendous healing from that part of my life. The painful part for me is in how bad I think the poetry is. It’s embarrassing. I am physically uncomfortable with the words as I’m typing them. Sometimes I can’t help myself and I start editing the hell out them. I have to hold back and remind myself to just type them as they are. The editing will come later. Knowing that there are things I need to learn and revelations I need to experience before I can truly treat those poems the way they deserve to be treated.
Learning Hard Lessons
Of course I need to learn about removing my self-worth from what I’ve written. Of course I need to learn this before I knit together a book of poetry!
And here is where Brené delivers her sucker punch to my gut: “Once you realize that your self-worth is hitched to what you’ve produced or created, it’s unlikely that you’ll share it, or if you do, you’ll strip away a layer or two of the juiciest creativity to make the revealing less risky.”
I have been stripping the sh*t out of those poor little poems. There is so much shame rising to the surface of me. Though the healing in my life has released me from the sting of so much from that time, it has also caused me to disassociate myself from that desperate, lonely, frightened, sad woman. The woman who clung to words and images as a tether between her dying heart and the difficult world. But those poems kept her afloat. Kept me afloat.
This book could not be more perfect for me right now in my process.
Pleasing, Performing, Perfecting
So, all of this processing and wrestling has been happening in me, yet I’ve still been puzzled about not being able to sit down with my daily posts. It’s fun for me to write most days and then to share and connect with an audience that resonates with what I’m saying. It is not only reassuring, but also tremendously validating.
Don’t worry, Brené addresses this too. “If you’re wondering what happens if you attach your self-worth to your art and people love it . . . you’re in even deeper trouble.” (Than you would be if you shared something that people didn’t like.) “You’re officially a prisoner of pleasing, performing, and perfecting.” And I know these guys intimately.
Pleasing, performing, and perfecting are the root traits of my personality. I have spent a lifetime exhausting my energies here. Justifying my existence, basing my self-worth on people being pleased with me and my ability to execute tasks and projects excellently.
Moving Out Of The Deep Grooves
It’s all making sense. No wonder my gears have been jamming up! I’m on the verge of learning how to trust that I am worthy of love simply because I exist. Imagine that?! And even beyond that, I am learning how to still be able to use my gift to write excellently and to connect deeply. No wonder I have been needing some extra time and space. I’m moving out of some old and deep grooves. Daring greatly, indeed!
If you find yourself in the deep grooves, or if you’re an expert at people-pleasing, or you find yourself justifying your existence by trying to get everything right, I’m learning that we’re loved as we are, so, let’s be friends~