I have written before about the belief "I'm not good enough." I have been fascinated by the fact that this thought seems to be in all of our heads. And, as a mother, I have also been wanting to figure out how to keep this limiting belief from forming in the minds of my beautiful little girls. Then last night I watched a Ted Talk by Dr. Brene Brown (A few of my wonderful coaching friends posted this video on Facebook) that spoke to my fascination (and desire to fix this). It's 20 minutes and well worth the time. I watched it twice to get a full understanding. Whether or not you watch it, I'll attempt to summarize Dr. Brown findings and mix it with my coaching perspective:
Dr. Brown believes that connection is what it's all about; it's why we are all here. Connection refers to meaningful, authentic relationships.
What unravels connection is shame. With shame, we believe we can't let others see pieces of ourselves, because if they do, it will cause disconnection. We keep others from seeing us because we believe we're not enough (not good enough, not thin enough, rich enough...). There's some irony here: Not opening ourselves to others (because we fear rejection and disconnection) keeps us from connecting.
On the opposite end of shame is empathy. What allows us to empathize with others is opening up and making ourselves vulnerable. We have to be vulnerable to experience connection.
Dr. Brown found that the difference between people who have a sense of worthiness, love, and belonging (people who connect) and those who don't is a belief: that they are worthy of love and belonging. Believing they are not worthy keeps people out of connection.
From the belief that they are worthy, these "wholehearted" people live like this: They have courage to be imperfect, compassion to be kind to themselves first, and connection as a result of having authenticity to let go of who they "should" be in order to be who they are. They embrace vulnerability - putting themselves out there and taking risks in relationships, asking for help, losing a job.
The thing is that we don't like to be vulnerable. It makes us uncomfortable. So what do we do? Dr. Brown uses the word "numb" - we spend, eat, consume. I often use the word "resistance." We fight, ignore, distract ourselves from uncomfortable feelings. I have been talking a lot about resistance with my coaching clients, as it seems to the root of so much psychological struggle, not to mention the toll it takes on our bodies.
But as Dr. Brown points out, when we numb ourselves to the difficult emotions, we numb ourselves to the others - joy, gratitude, happiness...Then we miss out on feeling alive. This sends us into the search for purpose and meaning, but that makes us scared and vulnerable, so then we go back to numbing. You can see the downward spiral.
This leads me to a place I didn't necessarily expect when I started this post. What I do in many coaching sessions is help clients work on those beliefs (I'm not____enough) and process/make room for those uncomfortable feelings. When we do these things, our unhelpful thoughts & feelings have less impact on us. Then we can connect and do what's important to us. I plan to teach some classes on this in the new year, but if you'd like an excellent book for getting started on coaching yourself, I recommend The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, MD.
Photo by Geoff Captain. Words written by me (I will not tell you how many times I erased and re-wrote "perfection" in order to make it perfect).