I’m having an unintentional Brené Brown day and I thought I’d share the wealth. As soon as I fired up my computer, YouTube popped up with her latest video and when I checked my Instagram there she was promoting her Gifts of Imperfection art-journaling e-course (the Festivus snail needs to get me this). I seemingly can’t escape her today! That’s not a bad thing though. If you haven’t heard of the wonderful Brené Brown, I’d suggest starting here and then head on over to here. In a nutshell, she’s a social worker, vulnerability researcher, writer and speaker. More than anything though, she’s unapologetically imperfect and endearingly human.
Ironically, I’ve been looking for a good segue into sharing what I had written when I was working on my conflict resolution e-course. Since I didn’t want to make people pay for the course, I figured I would just share my education and experience on the subject on this here blog. But where does one start when it comes to addressing conflict? This is a difficult topic. Well, with me it all starts and ends with being genuine. A good example of this is what I’ve been sort of waking up to lately. I’ve been feeling rather disillusioned by the people and belief systems that I once put on a pedestal. I’ve put them all under a microscope and let me tell you, I realize that I’ve been sold a meaningless bill of goods/bag-o-garbage and little else. For the last few years, I’ve really delved into the self-help genre and am now coming out this advice coma with the certainty that no one can help me but myself. I have all the answers and what I don’t know, life will teach me so I’ll just have to settle for being an attentive student. The most toxic idea I’ve been sold, thus far, is the idea that my perfect life is out there waiting for me and that a few wise and well-paid strangers can show me the way. Yeah…this is total cock and ballz.
Hollywood and sports run a similar ruse. For us crafters, my friend Kathy aptly named it the Etsy Effect. You read on Etsy how these featured artists quit their day jobs and now they’re living the dream. And week after week, feature after gloriously edited feature, you begin to believe in the dream too. They fail to mention how the artists are just scraping by. How they’re completely run ragged and their health is failing because of it. How they think about re-joining the workforce every second of every day. How they never get to see their families and they are on the cusp of divorce. Or how they have a partner who is working their ass off so they can sit home and make stinky candles. None of this is mentioned. It’s all glitz, glamor, and livin’ the supposed high life.
The self-help genre is very much like this too. Take advice from me because I know the secrets to perfection! Look at how fab my life is! Just pay for my book/e-course and you can unlock all of my secrets to living your best life. (Once you’ve paid, they go on to tell you that perfection doesn’t exist and that you really are enough…umm…so what did you just pay for?) Let me tell you, this is all balderdash! And you fall for this because you are tired: tired of being you; tired of being human; tired of being less than what you think you should be; and more than anything, tired of being less than what these people have you convinced you can be. We never feel like we’re enough. We’re always seeking more and wanting what someone else SEEMS to have. But what is this elusive thing that others claim to have yet we can only strive for? What is this “perfection”? Well, it’s subjective isn’t it? It doesn’t really exist as a static concept and honestly, I don’t want to invest my time in something that doesn’t have any tangible meaning. Do you? So let me challenge you to put your idols under that microscope. Are they being themselves? Do they share their faults in equal measure? Do they share with you their bad days or insecurities? Are they willing to be seen as anything less than perfect? Are they willing to show you how their operation is working behind the fairytale curtain? If not, it’s disingenuous.
For me, Brené Brown is a good example of someone who is genuine. In particular, she resonates with me because she’s willing to speak on behalf of her research–despite her extreme discomfort–and in doing so, she let’s you see her insecurities. When you listen to her, you realize that this person is just like the rest of us. She makes jokes at her own expense, she gets emotional, she shares embarrassing personal stories, etc… She’s a regular human being and yet she’s putting herself out there because her message is too important to not share. She rises above her own doubts and fears out of a genuine desire to help. Basically, she’s fully embraced her subject of inquiry–vulnerability–and she advocates on behalf of it.
Soapbox alert! I truly wish more researchers would follow her lead because not too many people become passionate about science from hearing someone spout off a bunch of numbers and point at graphs. Come on, we just lost Nelson Mandela for goodness sakes! Our heroes are now gone and we’re in desperate need of a few passionate people to step up and take the lead on the seemingly insurmountable environmental, social, economic and political injustices happening today. Science, in some form or another, has at least a partial solution to all of these problems and scientists can be at the forefront of these movements for change, yet no one is stepping forward because we’ve been taught to be unbiased, objective robots who are slaves to the scientific method. But that’s not who we are; it’s not human nature; and luckily people like Brené Brown didn’t get the memo. And before you quantitative researches out there start rolling your eyes and telling me it’s not the same because she’s a “soft scientist” (aka a qualitative researcher) let me just inform you that that excuse is just one of convenience and laziness. Sorry.
So, yes, being genuine is the perfect place for me to start. When you’re not being yourself, your ability to communicate suffers. People are perceptive, intuitive creatures. They’ll catch on and realize that perhaps they shouldn’t trust you. You have to keep in mind that people desperately want connection, respect, and trust. If you disconnect with yourself, you disconnect with others. Communication and conflict resolution is about striving to meet others half way. When you disconnect, you’re not meeting anyone anywhere because you basically haven’t even shown up. For better or worse, you’re basically telling the world that you have no respect for it. Equally important is the idea that if you’re finding faults within yourself, you’re probably finding faults in others. It’s not your job to find fault in anything. No one died and made you the judge and jury. You have to let go of this false sense of control and incessant striving by realizing that you’re imperfect, we’re all imperfect, and that’s as good as it’s ever going to get. Accept it, be done with it, and just let it go.
This is crazy but this is actually what I do: Visualize being stranded in choppy seas, ala Titanic without the freezing water. Before your boat sank, you spent hours packing each and every dark secret, insecurity, bad mistake, unpleasant memory, mean boyfriend, etc… into a suitcase and you have a choice of either holding on to it and having it potentially drag you under the water when the next wave hits OR letting go of the handle and watching it drift off to sea leaving you free to swim to shore. This is how I visualize all my baggage–the stuff I can’t do a darn thing about–and it’s actually helped me to let go of it. I find solace in making the choice to let it go and watching it slowly drift away. It is a choice after all, and one that you have control of.
Being yourself, is perhaps the most difficult, time-consuming task in the entire conflict resolution course and that’s why I wanted to address it first. Before you can figure out the motivations of others and fully embrace the diverse characters this world has wandering around, you have to take a compassionate, forgiving, and accepting look inward. This is not about fostering a self-love that promotes feelings of entitlement or feelings of being better than anyone else. And it’s certainly not about becoming so self-obsessed that you cut yourself off from the rest of the world. Many of the answers you’re looking for are not inside you, they’re in shared life experiences. It’s about nurturing a love of being a quirky human being and taking comfort and finding strength in the knowledge that you aren’t alone in any of it. You’re unique little quirks and incongruities are truly the endearing ties that bind. They make people laugh. People may puzzle over why you are the way you are, like it’s some huge mystery. They may find a kindred spirit in you and now they don’t feel so darn alone anymore. These so-called weaknesses are actually individual strengths that can be used to bring out the best in others. They can make you more approachable, put people at ease, or in the very least help to create common ground.
Take comfort in knowing that if you’re criticized for being you, it’s only because of the insecurities and jealousies of others. Each individual has walked a very different path and with very different tools. You are capable of rising above the petty judgements and acting–instead of reacting–with compassion. Then you’ll realize that you are so much more than enough. You are genuinely, perfectly, imperfect and the world needs all of you in it. Being your most genuine self is sometimes uncomfortable but the benefits outweigh the risks. Word!