Self-Compassion with Brené Brown

I have always loved Brené Brown. She is the epitome of what I aim to be in this world. A maverick with a golden heart for others.

Though she has authored numerous books (Gifts of ImperfectionDaring GreatlyI Thought It Was Just Me, Women & Shame,  ConnectionsDaring Greatly in 30 Minutes, and Rising Strong), I have [sadly] only read the first two. However, as a fan of TED Talks, hers is probably one of the best of the hundreds I have watched.

I’ve been reading her blog, and (of course) follow her on all social media sites. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered her amazing website COURAGEworks.

With classes that coordinate with her books – this website quickly earned a place on my browser bookmarks bar.

$60 later, I had signed up for the 4 part class on Self-Compassion that Brené was doing with Kristin Neff (like herself, a researcher in the field of self-compassion which pairs so wonderfully with Brené’s background in vulnerability and shame) to teach us to step back from our everyday lives and truly evaluate how we act, what we say, who we involve ourselves with, and why we are doing what we are doing.

I really want to share some of the bulk of what I have learned from this course, so I have decided to do so in a 4 part blog series; one for each lesson. However, due to copyright reasons, I can’t give out videos or worksheets from the course. So, if you would like to take part in the full course – you can sign up here! (Completely encourage it – I bought the class and started it a month later once I had time to devote to it. It’s amazing how flexible the online learning is to bring into your already crazy lives!)

In addition to this 4 part blog series, I will be alternating with a longer series on The Law of Attraction – a book that I have been drenching in highlighter for the last few months, and think can be really amazing when sort of ‘paired’ with Brené. With the same idea/goal of self improvement, life fulfilment, and purpose ; the two teachings contradict each other, but I think both have brilliant take aways. As always, I never believe you should wholeheartedly 100% sign on to one belief or teaching. These two views on self-conduct in our lives are a great base [and non-religious] way to address why we are here, why we do what we do, and how we can be the best version of ourselves; ultimately achieving the human goal: happiness.

SO- without further ado,

Self-Compassion with Brené Brown: Part 1

The course incorporates knowledge from Brené’s book, Daring Greatly, and Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind To Yourself.

Brené harkened back to a speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”The powerful quote resonated with Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, who gave the blockbuster TEDTalks “Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability” and “Brené Brown: Listening to Shame.” In the introduction to her book — which arrives on shelves today — Brown riffs on Roosevelt’s words, which she says perfectly encapsulate her research into why we find being vulnerable such a hard thing to do.

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

Brené is my inspiration in life for reasons other than why most college girls idolize that girl on Pinterest with the perfect hair, thigh gap, and glowing skin in a $200 top; but because of 2 things she constantly reminds me of that shape my life – who I am.

  1. Perfectionism is just like shooting yourself in the foot before trying to run a race
  2. Living a life halfhearted may as well have not been lived.

“You have to know that I’m trying to be Wholehearted, but I still cuss too much, flip people off under the steering wheel, and have both Lawrence Welk and Metallica on my iPod.”

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”

“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.”

For even more insights from Brown, read this Q&A with the TED Blog, in which she answers the question, “What’s the greatest lesson you have learned in your own life?”

We often say meaner, harsher things to ourselves than we would ever say to anyone else, even to those people in our lives who we don’t like very much. Although the golden rule says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – DO NOT talk to others like we talk to ourselves! Otherwise, we may find ourselves in big trouble. It’s good to think about how we treat ourselves when things get tough, especially when we fail, make a mistake, or feel inadequate. Are we being an inner ally or our own worst critic?

What did you say to yourself to acknowledge this moment of suffering?
What did you say to remind yourself that suffering is a part of life everyone faces?
What are the key areas of self-compassion you’d like to work on?
“Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in the bones.”-Brené Brown

What other people think of you doesn’t matter.

“Dare to set boundaries in your life, even when it  means disappointing others.”

Setting boundaries is vital in order to remain the authority of my life. One of the most important boundaries to set- and arguably the hardest, is whose negative opinion of you holds value. There are few, and those that do are the people in your life who love you for both your strengths and struggles will be honest when you need a reality check.

Happiness is right in front of you

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect.”

Perfectionism is the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis. Healthy striving in your life is different from perfectionism, and knowing the difference is critical in order for you to lay down your shield and pick up your life. What does this difference look like? Simple. Healthy striving is focused on yourself: ‘How can I improve?’ Perfectionism is focused on others: ‘What will they think?’

People judge you because they judge themselves.

“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing.”  

Try thinking of people who meet this qualification, and write their names on a piece of paper. Put this paper in your wallet, and when you begin to catch yourself focusing on what someone thinks of you – look to check if their name is on that list.

Treat yourself like you treat the people you love- You are worth love & belonging. 

“When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.”

Why is it so easy for us to be kind, caring, compassionate, and understanding when we have a friend, family member, or loved one struggling, but when we are facing adversity we approach the issue with the mindset of “the meaner I am to myself, the more improved I will become.” Being kind to yourself, loving yourself, will only set you up for an advantage in your own life. Self-compassion is the biggest leg-up you can have.

Being vulnerable is risky but not as risky as giving up 

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow — that’s vulnerability.”

It’s so much easier to say that avoiding vulnerable situations keeps you out of heartbreak; which may be true. However, avoiding vulnerable situations keeps you from improving as a person in ways that adversity would shape you into the person you are meant to become. The light is not restricted by the dark; it is defined by it.

When you numb the pain, you are numbing all your emotions-even the good ones. 

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” 

As easy as it is to down a few beers, smoke a few bowls, avoid a few interactions with people, avoid life in general – through whatever means you use. It may be drugs. It may be isolation. It may be food, exercise; whatever you are using to numb your pain…it’s numbing the good emotions in addition to the bad ones. My advice? Realize that feeling is the first step to living.

Until you face your life, and yourself – you cannot live. Madison (1)


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