How many people do you know who are striving to be happy – to realize a dream, lose weight, find the perfect partner, job, or life? The how-to bookshelves are crammed, there is a 12-step program for everything, and the web is awash in promises to make us into something we think we are not.
Why such a disconnect? Questions like this are the focus of Brene Brown, Ph.D. researcher, LCSW, and author of The Gifts of Imperfection. She believes that many people embrace assumptions that are – simply put – wrong.
This article explores some of these ideas, a few of which I’ll touch on here.
Fitting in is not belonging – Do you long to fit in and “twist yourself into a pretzel” to conform to what others value or want you to be? If you’re struggling to fit in, you’re moving away from who you really are. In contrast, true belonging is based in self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is a prerequisite for the courage it takes to be yourself around others and possibly accept rejection.
Guilt isn’t bad for you – Ms. Brown believes that guilt is an important emotion to keep our behavior in alignment with our true selves and values. If you regret doing something and you have integrity, you feel guilty, you make amends, and you move on. She distinguishes guilt from shame, which is when we fail to live up to others’ expectations. In my work, the Insight gives you permission to let go of past guilt, without trying to work through it all. When you deal with past guilt, you engage with it—and remain stuck.
Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence – Rather, perfectionism equates what we do and how we perform with self-worth. Perfectionism is the struggle to avoid the shame, blame and judgment of others when we fail to perform, and our focus in perfectionism is on others, not us.
It takes courage to be vulnerable. Ms. Brown emphasizes that making choices that reflect who you are and what you believe takes courage and opens the door to vulnerability.
Are any of you struggling with fitting in, perfectionism or past shame or guilt? Try this: if you could go back ten years, what would you say to yourself?
Find out more by reading a FREE copy of my book A New Language For Life, Happy No Matter What!
All the best,