Working Towards Wholeheartedness

“Our job is to look [at our kids] and say, ‘Ya know what, you’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that and we’ll end the problems we see today.” ~  Dr. Brene Brown, Vulnerability Researcher 

The Power of Vulnerability

Be Your Imperfect Self

I was blown away when I heard this talk by Brene Brown, Vulnerability Researcher, because I saw myself in her: Wanting to quantify emotion rather than reveal to others who I really was for fear that I wasn’t good enough. Until recently,  I had not yet realized the power of allowing myself to be excruciatingly seen, no matter the consequence. Vulnerability is not weakness, but rather courage. What?! This flew in the face of my long-lived logic and understanding of how to get things done and earn respect.  I had not yet made this connection and had, therefore, put aside connecting with others in favor of trudging through the murky waters of self-doubt. I did not feel worthy of love and belonging, but yet I had a profound, almost urgent, desire for relationship and connection. The tipping point emerged when I finally realized that all this time I had chosen to live my life climbing the ladder towards acceptance when all I really had to do was accept the fact that I didn’t need to climb the ladder at all. My only job is to be my imperfect self.

You are Worthy of Love & Belonging

Brene Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability revealed there are really only two types of people: (1) those who are wholehearted individuals, and (2) those who are not. The only factor that separated the two groups was that the wholehearted people believed they were worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. A simple belief that I, that you, that your kids are worthy of love and belonging. Connection is ultimately why we’re here. At the heart of school, family, community, religion, marriage, and parenting is the deep-seeded need and desire for authentic connection with others. At the core of teaching should be helping children develop a deep sense of worthiness so they can connect and live a loving, open, vulnerable life.

Open Your Eyes to Joy

I can tell you from personal experience that the moment I consciously chose to live a vulnerable life was the moment I saw the world with fresh eyes: an excitement like none other, a revelation of the beauty that is around us, a moment of joy, which becomes stronger each time I practice vulnerability. I chose to willingly embrace this change so that I can learn to believe that I am worthy of love and belonging. The hope is that one day I won’t have to consciously choose to practice it but rather just inherently know my own self-worth. This lesson was so overwhelmingly on-point that, like Dr. Brene Brown, I, too, had a mini-breakdown full of regret and emotional contemplation, which were vague and foreign concepts for someone like myself who justified her lack of belonging and pushed her feelings so far down that being guarded became the norm. It rocked me to my core so much that I knew without a doubt — if I wanted a real life with real love I had to embrace real change.

Live By Example for Your Kids

After I turned the proverbial corner, I saw greater hope and understood the reason to live vulnerably: to live by example. As a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, mentor, teacher, and friend the children in your life look up to you. They want guidance, acceptance, and help. They expect you to show them what to do and how to do it successfully. The problem that we face within our families and our culture in general is that we don’t know how to live vulnerably in a society that numbs itself from authentic connection. It is time to break that cycle. It is time to open ourselves up to courage, connection, and compassion. It is time to: “Stop screaming, and start listening… Stop trying to make uncertainty, certain… Stop controlling and predicting.. Say ‘I love you’ first, even when there are no guarantees…”  Wouldn’t it be a very different world if we approached each family argument, poor grade, and lost friendship from this starting point?

Wholeheartedness, here I come.

Another Powerful Study by Dr. Brene Brown: Listening to Shame

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

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