Let’s continue with the conversation about learning to be kinder to ourselves, shall we?
Here’s where we left off in the first installation of this series:
- I’m not always nice to myself. In fact, sometimes I’m downright terrible when it comes to the way I talk to — and about — Anna Keller.
- It’s easier for most of us to be kind to others than it is for us to be kind to ourselves.
- What I’m striving for has a name: “self-compassion.”
All of this introspection makes me feel really vulnerable, but I’ve been striving to incorporate more vulnerability into my life lately. It’s uncomfortable and not intuitive and makes me feel so very exposed, but I know it will lead to stronger, more open relationships and more happiness and fulfillment overall. I, too, want to join the tribe of the wholehearted, and so I know vulnerability is a necessary step in getting there.
The wholehearted? Let me explain.
I have Brené Brown, a sociologist, storyteller, writer, and speaker who I admire deeply, to thank for my goal of vulnerability.
Brown has a fascinating story that spearheaded what’s become her area of focus. When doing research several years ago, she discovered this separation of the population into two groups: a group she dubbed the “wholehearted” and, well, the rest of us. These wholehearted people experienced suffering — disease, death, job loss, divorce, etc. — just like everyone else, but they were markedly happier.
Brown wanted to learn more about this group — and how to become a part of it — and so she dug in further and found that vulnerability was at its core.
Brown defines the wholehearted this way: “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 to 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 worthy of love and belonging.'”
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to be able to reach a place where this is my mindset most days. Feeling worthy, cutting myself some slack, being vulnerable — all things I’m not the best at (yet).
I’ve listened to and read a good bit of Brown’s work (on topics like shame and vulnerability and perfectionism), but somehow had missed (or maybe just didn’t recognize, until I went back the other day to review what she’d said about vulnerability) her inclusion of self-compassion in her storytelling. In fact, she lists “cultivating self-compassion” as one of the necessary steps to take in becoming one of the wholehearted. More specifically, it’s deeply tied to perfectionism, which is a barrier to vulnerability. (Worlds colliding here, Brené.)
She writes: “To overcome perfectionism we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion.”
This was all coming together in a far too predictable way. Of course this ladders up to perfectionism — something I most definitely struggle with, and always have. It’s not comfortable or easy for me to not be perceived as having things figured out, not appearing put together at all times, or to not be good at things. Perfectionism can be defined by some as a positive quality — as a trait that makes for attention to detail and striving to be our best selves and all that good stuff. But, Brown argues, perfectionism is actually all negative and no positive:
“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.”
Yikes. No, thank you.
Okay, let’s review:
- Striving for self-compassion is a good thing.
- Perfectionism is hurting us far more than it’s helping us, and it’s time for me to strive to be less of a perfectionist.
- Self-compassion is an antidote for perfectionism. (See above bullet point, Anna!)
- Gaining self-compassion and combatting perfectionism both require vulnerability to achieve.
I feel like we’re seeing some themes here.
I’ll leave you with this self-compassion quote from Brown. Meanwhile, I’m going to start doing some research ways to up self-compassion levels. Until then, friends!