A Break From Authenticity

Last night I picked up my copy of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. This book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for almost three years.  My mandate to begin “Living Authentically” started shortly after I read Brené’s earlier published book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Since moving, starting residency, and having another baby, my goal to read Daring Greatly kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list.  Within the midst of my current existential life crisis, I decided it was time to pick up the book and stare Wholeheartedness right in the face.

I didn’t even get through the prologue before realizing that I no longer live, or even embody, the qualities of wholeheartedness and authenticity.  Maybe I used to, but in the struggle to keep up and keep going, I’ve let these important aspects of my life fall to the side.

Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection

~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

The one thing I know for sure is that right now, I have no clarity of my purpose.  I am filled with fear and disconnection from my life and my purpose.  I feel confused and I lack direction because my viewpoint on life is clouded by outside expectations, judgement, and comparison.  My internal dialogue is lost and disguised by everything that defines fear and vulnerability.  These definitions were very well delineated by Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection and I know that reading that book changed my life.  I blogged about that change on the old blog and I will find that post to re-post here in the coming days.

Ironically, The introduction to Daring Greatly literally reminded me of these imperfections and what needs to be shed from my life:
1. Letting go of what people think
2. Letting go of perfectionism
3. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Letting go of the need for certainty
6. Letting go of comparison
7. Letting go of exhaustion of a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
10. Letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Each of these ten imperfections, every single one of them, comprise the mental roadblocks that I am struggling with right now.  These imperfections are preventing me from committing to the decisions I am faced with in my life today.  I need to lean-in to my fears and rediscover my vulnerabilities.  I need to embrace them and re-discover my own authenticity

 

Vulnerability Struggle

Today I am leaving for a conference and I have a 4 hour plane ride.  I am bringing Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly with me, as it is the one book of her’s that I have yet to finish reading.

I have found this path of living authentically and with vulnerability has become increasingly challenging.  Lately, I feel like it has been getting me more into “trouble” than benefitting me in any way.  As I’ve opened myself up to vulnerability and allowed myself to appear more “human” and “real” in my everyday life, I have really just opened myself up to more criticism.  I really feel like the world (at least my world) is not ready for this style of living.

I know that the biggest challenge I have with this way of living is that I am currently in limbo between a “real life job” as a physician and the “dependence and judgment” of being a student.  I have chosen this lifestyle for myself for the next 4ish years (I am already 1.5 years into it).  I have allowed myself to be open and honest in certain forums and settings about the struggles I have as a parent, as a hard working mom, and as a physician.  Unfortunately, that has mostly led me to receive comments or criticism about “not appearing happy,” or “being to open.”  I find this makes me feel bad about myself and the decisions I have made.

I feel like instead of standing out as an authentic person, I am struggling to defend myself against criticism. I am hoping that revisiting the origin of my authenticity movement will give me renewed strength and perserverence. Or perhaps it might even guide me back in the gout direction, if it turns out that maybe I have strayed from the right course. 

Cynicism is The Opposite of Vulnerability

“I always think that cynics are really romantics who have been crushed sometime in their lives and have put up this cynical mask to protect themselves.”
~Jeff Bridges

Again I’ve decided to post last year’s post in it’s unedited form.  There is nothing more accurate and true that this post about vulnerability, in my opinion.

From The Old Blog, November 15, 2014:

This quotation makes me think of one thing: Vulnerability.
Actually, more appropriately, it makes me think of a lack of vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I believe that this quotation is more accurate than most of us want to believe.  Why, after all, are we cynical in the first place?  For me, cynicism is my coping mechanism: Why be serious and face reality when I can be cynical and detach?  Cynicism is also useful for connecting with other like-minded people.  In fact, I am pretty sure Husband and I bond quite a bit over our cynical nature (who doesn’t love a little late night snuggling while watching The Colbert Report???).

If we are all hiding behind cynicism, what are we not revealing to everyone else?  Are we afraid of reality? Are we afraid of being hurt?  Or have we all been hurt  just enough times to make us not want it to happen again.  I don’t really know the answers to these questions.  Regardless, it all comes back to a fear of being vulnerable.

As much as I love being cynical most of the time, I strongly believe that if everyone (not just me) was 1/2 as cynical and 2x as vulnerable, we would connect with each other in a much more authentic and meaningful way.  Cynicism is easy, it is funny, it is relatable, and it is common.  Vulnerability is the exact opposite:  it is hard, scary, uncomfortable, and very individual.  We are all vulnerable for different reasons, yet we all have one thing in common: Vulnerability itself.

As Brené Brown would say, “lean into the discomfort.”  We shouldn’t be so reliant on cynicism.  On the surface it might feel like we are connecting in a comical way, but every time we are cynical, we run the risk of isolating the people we are with.  There is no easy solution to this.  I wish I could say that I would stop being so cynical all the time.  However, I don’t think I am quite ready for it all at once.
Maybe it needs to start with one person – then hopefully it will spread.

I’m Not Always Okay, And I’m Okay With That

“I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and that’s okay.”

~Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Reflecting on last year’s post thta accompanied this quotation, I realized that it still completely stands true: In our world, we have to get better with being “okay to not be okay.”  I struggled with the a lot recently, especially as I went through many internal difficulties but had no choice but to push through on the outside and act like everything was just fine.  In the past 12 months, I’ve lost an important friendship, come to terms with the idea that people aren’t always who or what we think they are, I had to say goodbye to my longtime and cherished blog, I decided to have a baby, and then I’ve made it through a horrible ill first-trimester.  Not all of that was okay… and that’s okay.  It really is.
(I’ve also realized that in the last little while I have drifted away from Brenè Brown and I need to get back into her books and philosophy)

From The Old Blog, November 3, 2014:

Do you ever notice how everyone is always “okay?”  I find it a little sickening, and irritating, and unhealthy that no one ever admits to being not okay.  Sometimes you can tell that people are struggling or having difficulty with something; yet when you ask them about it, they insist that they are okay.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we do this to other people?  I feel that by pretending that we are always coping well with our lives and not facing any challenges, we are perpetuating the idea that it is abnormal to struggle with life’s challenges.  We all struggle with life sometimes.  Some people have more struggles and some people have less.  Regardless, when we constantly feel that the people around us are coping well all the time, it only makes us feel bad about ourselves for not coping well.  And you know what’s worse?  When we feel like we are the only people struggling, we become isolated and we don’t reach out for help.  Similarly, when we know people are struggling and they don’t reach out to us for help (even when we offer), we feel isolated from them in just the same way.

I tried working on this for a while – while I was reading Brené Brown’s books on Shame and Vulnerability.  As Dr. Brown alludes to in her books, we don’t admit to being “not okay” because it feels shameful and we are afraid of being vulnerable.  I tried overcoming my own shame and allowing myself to be vulnerable.  However, there is an overwhelming majority of people who are not ready for this.  We have all been hiding our shame and vulnerability for such a long time that when someone reveals it, we are unsure of how to deal with it – so we push it away like we do with everything else that makes us uncomfortable.  Brené Brown is ahead of her time – and trying out her advice can sometimes make life a little more isolating.

You have to pick the right people  with which to be vulnerable.  There aren’t many people I will open up to and admit that I’m not okay.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any of them here with me now.  I need to go back and revisit the world of Shame and Vulnerability, I think.  In the meantime, I just hope that more people will read Brené Brown’s books and realize that there is a whole world of human connection that is waiting for us if we would all just admit that sometimes we are “not okay.”