Coaching programs like to use wheels and circles and talk about balance in life, balance between physical, mental, emotional, spiritual health, family, friendships, etc. I call balderdash.
This idea of “balance” is never my experience. Ever. Life events and demands apply pressure to my skull. There are things I do, things I believe about my Self that handle that pressure. Arches are about the second niftiest thing that the Romans ever did, enabling long spans for bridges and buildings and changing architecture forever. Take a few minutes and browse this nice discussion of arches with pretty pictures. For real fun, play with the physics of arches with this interactive tool from PBS. When you come back, respond to the questions.
For me, how does the idea of an arch differ from the idea of creating “balance”?
If I were an arch capable of supporting tremendous loads, organized with purpose, what part of my life would be each part of the arch?
Worth, vulnerability, and identity are at the base and buttresses of my metaphorical arch. Most of the people who come through my class are stumped when I ask “Where does your worth come from?”. They try to justify their existence on the planet with things they do or achieve and it is difficult to rest in the unearnable humanity we all get.
How does the idea of worth tie into vulnerability and identity?
Moving along, here is Brene Brown from 2010. What I draw from this talk is connection is why we are here. So, what’s the problem? The fear of not having that connection, not belonging drives us to do some weird things. That fear is shame.
“I’m not ____________________ enough.”
Even as we crave it, we do things to cut off connection. She found there are two kinds of people in the world, those who struggle for love and belonging and those who don’t. What is the difference between them? Not fashion sense, choice of home accessories, piles of consumer electronics, sexual escapades, educational achievements. Not anything you can strive for. It is a choice they make. People who don’t struggle for love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. “That’s it.”, she says. You must choose to believe. There is no way I can convince you that you are _______________ enough. You, like Dorothy, must click your heels three times and say “I am worthy of love and belonging.” When you believe it, a bad hair day can’t render you unlovable. When you don’t have to be perfect to be acceptable, you are free to be imperfect, be compassionate with yourself, let go of who you think you should be to become who you are, and embrace vulnerability.
However, most of us are uncomfortable with vulnerability. We want to earn our place on the planet, to prove our worth. The problem with trying to buy relationship/connection is that people, including ourselves, never stay bought and you always run out of currency. So what do we do to protect ourselves from this uncomfortable feeling?
We numb. We retreat into addictions of all types, certainty, perfectionism, blame, and ignoring the fallout of our choices on other people. That is no way to live.
Respond to these prompts in your journal.
- My favorite way to earn my worth is __________________________________.
- When I am uncomfortable, I turn to ________________________________ to make the feeling go away or to feel something good.
Brown’s second iconic TED talk was delivered two years after the first. She talks about changes in her life, changes in her work, and more about shame and risk.
Vulnerability is emotional risk. No one ever died from saying ”I love you”. Why then is it so hard? Brown calls it an “accurate measurement of courage” and notes vulnerability is the “birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”
We are a judgey sort. We judge ourselves, we judge others. We are too tall, too short, too fuzzy, too rough. So are they, the endless stream of people who are not Me. So we have to talk about the difference between discernment and judgement, acceptance and endorsement. I find the distinctions similar to the distinction between shame and guilt, so back to Dr. Brown.
Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad”
Empathy kills shame. Empathy creates connection. Secrecy, silence, and judgement grow shame.
Discernment observes. Judgement scores and grades. Acceptance acknowledges. Endorsement promotes.
In my relationships I must discern who people are and accept them as they are. They owe me no changes, they do not exist to serve my needs. I get to decide my proximity to their behavior, whether I will engage in it, support it, or endorse it. They are who they are, doing the best they can with what they have. All behaviors serve some purpose. Every mal-adaptive, short-sighted, dysfunctional, wacky idiosyncrasy does something for the person who exhibits it. Feel how judgmental that is? Usually that’s how we talk about ourselves. The collection of judgments about how people are supposed to be is on display in our self-image, how we think about our Self.
How do you see yourself?
People identify with their feelings. “I am sad.” Feelings are transitory, they are not me. “I am a runner.” Then you would be a human doing instead of a human being. The activities I engage in are not me. If I could no longer run, would I still be me? Those things that are me that lead me to the activity of running, they will still be there even if the body can no longer run.
Who are you?
They are separate questions.
I’m going to embed this one because it is one of my favorites. We will come back to this again later.
- What do you struggle against when you try to accept yourself for who you are, as you are?
- How do you think about yourself?
- How does the endless loop of judgement running through your head affect how you treat yourself and others?
- What would you think if I said you are not that stream of thought? You do not have to be imprisoned by it, ruled by it, judge it, or endorse it.
- How do you respond when you let yourself down? Is there room for you to forgive yourself? Remember this, Shame:: I am bad, Guilt:: I did something bad.
- What feelings do you resist?
- Will you allow yourself to feel your feelings?
- What are you afraid might happen if you do feel those feelings?
- How is this process related to that numbing that Brene Brown talks about?