Learning to embrace and accept myself has been a terrifying, yet extraordinary experience, it has been a journey, one that still continues to this day. Now I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s the Gifts of Imperfection and she writes, “this book is an invitation to join a wholehearted revolution. A small, quiet, grassroots movement that starts with each of us saying, ‘My story matters because I matter.’ Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance,” (Indigo.ca)
But about halfway through a compelling question came to mind,
Wouldn’t we first have to know who we are in order to be our authentic selves, in order to live our lives wholeheartedly?
Let’s take a look at what I learned from this phenomenal book and author.
Our Story Matters Because We Matter
One of the first things about Brene Brown’s work that stood out to me was the stories we tell ourselves and coming to separate who we think we are and who we actually are. It’s been so, so hard for me to open up about my story, about my experiences, about my life because in some ways I’m a little bit behind, I’m not anywhere near where some of my peers are in their lives. But this ever so simple saying that “my story matters because I matter,” its life changing. It offered me a new perspective that I hadn’t thought of before.
And the funny thing is, I love stories. Stories are my life. I’ve been writing stories for years and years now. And yet it never occurred to me to try to define my own. Until now. The more I learn about myself, the more I can come to understand myself, the more freedom I feel. Vulnerability is a struggle for I’d say most people, myself included. I hid from vulnerability, I avoided it at all costs, I didn’t want to face the truth, let alone my truth.
But Brene also writes this,
Being imperfect, authentic, and vulnerably is a function of being human – not a privilege afforded to those who can get away with it.
Once I realized I wasn’t alone in this journey and all these ups and downs, I learned to face vulnerability and begin practicing self-love in order to bring my full self forward.
Shame, Fear, and the Lies We Tell Ourselves
Of course, when reading a book about vulnerability some tough stuff is bound to come up. And this book is no different.
I’ll start with this quote,
When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we are supposed to be, we stand outside of our story.
This one hit me hard, ok. Like you can insert the meme that says, “I’m in this picture and I don’t like it,” here because when I was in the middle of my depression, when I’d sunk to the bottom of it all, I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. I had no idea who I was, or who I was supposed to be. And that feeling, that complete and utter sense of…loss that hits you like a tidal wave when you realize this for the first time, it’s enough to knock you down another notch.
And I don’t know if it was apathy or a so-over-it-mindset, but what helped me out of my depression was learning to accept this darkness within me and coming to admit that what I’d been through was a part of who I was and ignoring it was clearly only making it worse. I wanted to be better than I was, I was sick and tired of feeling sad, and scared, and angry all the time. And this was waaay before I’d even heard the name Brene Brown.
If the above quote hit you as hard as it hit me, then you are sooo not prepared for this next one,
Shame is the fear of being unlovable.
This one is more like a pit of darkness than a tidal wave. It’s very to the point and is just a few short words. And it goes so deep for me. What I gathered from this quote and from the rest of the book is that, when we’re afraid to own our story, to tell our truth, it’s because we’re afraid that people won’t like us if they knew the truth about who we are.
I remember rather vividly thinking and coming to believe that I was this terrible thing, that no matter what I did I’d end up hurting the people I cared about the most. I was terrified of becoming the person my depression told me I was.
Now, thankfully, I can put this all-in perspective and see how far I’ve come. I can see now that my depression is but a sliver of my life, it’s a single part of who I am, but it is not all of me.
Finding Meaning Within Our Authentic Selves
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that makes us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
Part of Brene’s research uncovered that people who live wholeheartedly practice self-compassion, they sit within their emotions instead of pushing them away. But they also play. They do things for the fun of it, with no purpose, with no meaning. As a society we get so caught up in busyness, in making money, in working as much as we can. But the thing is, we don’t have to do that. What creates meaning in our lives isn’t the work we do or how much money we make, it’s the small, ordinary things that bring us true joy. I’m talking about painting for the sake of painting, writing for the sake of writing, creating for the sake of creating – whether or not it gets shown in a gallery, or published, or sold.
When we come to understand how crucial it is for us as human beings to play, to sing, to dance – it becomes infinitely clearer that we can live a different life, we just have to commit to putting it into practice. One thing that keeps coming up throughout my journey of embracing myself is this concept of choice. That things don’t magically happen because you want them to, it has to be a conscious choice that you put effort into every single day.
Now, if we can go back to my question from the start: Wouldn’t we have to know who we are in order to live authentically?
I’ve come to learn that I have this backwards. We don’t come to know who we are first and then live authentically. It is through living authentically that we come to know who we are.
When I began on this journey, well I can’t even tell you exactly where it started, but I can tell you that it never ends. As long as we’re honest and can admit our truths and tell our stories (even the bad parts) we can live wholeheartedly. And by continually reflecting and questioning our thoughts, our fears, and who we want to be, can we figure out who we are. If I had stayed at rock bottom believing I had to figure out who I was before I took a step forward, I’d still be at rock bottom.
Our stories matter. We matter. We matter because we are here, we exist, and that is enough.