Brené Brown on Connection and Worthiness

I’m back at work after a week’s holiday. Wow, taking a break is so essential for one’s well-being!

Last week, while I was on holiday, I caught up with some reading and spent time on the internet searching for topics to write about. Carly’s Couch is not just a space for me to write about what’s currently happening in my life.  I want this to feel like a space in which your contributions are as important and relevant as mine, where you feel like you can share your ideas and comment on other’s in a safe and meaningful way.

One of the ways in which I encourage you to participate in a conversation is by sharing other author’s ideas. I also plan to share videos and other bits and pieces I find on the internet.  So today I thought I would introduce you to a video that I recently watched, a Ted Talk. If you want to follow my media posts then use this link.

I know this is not a new video and that some of you might already know about Brené Brown and her work on shame and vulnerability, but I revisited it myself last week and so thought it was worth sharing.

It’s been a tough year for me, for many reasons. And the ideas of vulnerability and connection that Brown speaks of have been more relevant to me this year than any other, both personally and professionally.

In this video, she starts by talking about connection as a fundamental human experience. It is that which we all long for and crave. In this way, the facts are clear. We all know the value of human connection, of feeling seen and being heard, of having someone else look at us in a way that says, “I see you, and I hear you, and I want to know more”.

For the lucky ones, our first experiences of connection started when we were infants. We had caregivers who looked at us with acceptance and delighted in us. These early experiences of connection helped us to feel WORTHY. This concept of worthiness is a big one as it separates out those people who live “wholeheartedly” as Brown describes it from those who don’t.

Living “wholeheartedly” is about going into situations and relationships with courage, compassion, and the ability to connect. It’s about risking being vulnerable and about showing yourself – your whole self – in the intimacy of the moment. But unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle and those who do not feel worthy, do not risk vulnerability and therefore also miss out on experiencing intimacy and connection.

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What I also love about what she says in this video, is that we are numbing ourselves. I felt such a sense of sadness when she described how medicated, obese and addicted we are compared to previous generations. I would add to that. I believe that our use of technology is also “numbing” and also keeps us from experiencing our vulnerability.

But I want you to know that I understand WHY we numb ourselves. It’s scary. It hurts. To truly be open, to live “wholeheartedly” is also to open ourselves up to rejection, to loss, to grief, to pain. When we are brave enough to feel that we are enough, we have only gone half the way.

Now I can tell you that getting to the point where you feel you’re enough is incredibly difficult and can take years of self-love practices and/or therapy. Although we start our lives with this innate belief, through our experiences with parents, siblings, peers, and lovers we can sometimes lose touch with our sense of worthiness. Like Brown says in the video, when you ask people about love they tell you about heartbreak, when you ask people about connection they tell you about disconnection and loss, and when you ask people about belonging they tell you about their excruciating experiences of exclusion. This is because life is a struggle and relationships cannot be ‘controlled and predicted’. You will get hurt. You will feel loss. You will feel unwanted.

And this is the thing I have confronted this year. We can be bold and brave and risk our vulnerability but we cannot account for and control what the other will do in response to us. Even the most beautiful, “wholehearted” souls out there get trampled on and rejected. The ‘other’ – whether it is your therapist, your client, your lover, your friend, your parent, your sibling, or even your child – has their own mind and is dealing with their own fears. A moment in which the courage to be you enables you to expose yourself and hand yourself over to be loved and accepted may be the exact moment in which the other loses their footing, loses hope in themselves, gets overwhelmed by fear or shame or a sense of unworthiness. And you will be left there standing on the precipice, the winds of rejection rattling in your ears, the loud whir of loneliness all around you.

That is what we all face when we risk our vulnerability in relationships. That is always a possibility either now or later.

And so today, instead of urging you to explore your vulnerability, instead of tugging on your skirts and encouraging you to be brave, to face your fears, I am rather going to acknowledge how tough it is.

I see your fears. I know these as my own. It is damn scary. To risk being yourself, to risk being brave and to offer yourself whole and imperfect is probably one of the scariest things you will ever do. But what is the danger? The danger is loneliness, rejection, sadness, despair. Worse yet, the danger may be shame or guilt or regret. But the alternative is worse. Living a life that is safe from this kind of danger is a life in which you may never experience connection, love, acceptance, worthiness. And so here you are. You have a choice. It’s not easy but it’s simple. And to those who are already out there on the battlefields, risking their feelings and sharing their selves, I applaud you. I am in awe of your bravery, in awe of your courage, of your compassion, of your willingness to connect with all that that entails, with all the risks you have to take.

I know you’re worthy!

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