So many feels when I read this quote by Brene Brown. Have you heard of her? If not, you are missing out you guys. She talks a lot about shame and how it affects our lives, how it binds us, how it holds us back from living our happiest and most authentic lives. In the past, if I were to describe my "problems" prior to learning more about shame, I would have said something to the tune of, "I got 99 problems and shame ain't one." Turns out shame is often the basis of all of them. Shame is the root of insecurity, guilt, negative self-talk, self doubt, feelings of being undeserving, and not feeling good enough.
If you are anything like me, you find comfort in the things you can control. You love the idea that if you do everything right, you will reap the benefits, whatever those might be. And although that might work for a while, and work quite well for many things in life...eventually you will come across a situation in which you simply cannot control. It won't matter how organized you are, how careful you have been, how well groomed, polite, educated, or moral you are... and it will test you. It will be something that makes you "not like the others." Something that you will not want to share with the world because it is something you feel like most people can't relate to. You feel like you might be judged for it, criticized for it, or misunderstood...
It might even be something that you feel like you brought on yourself. A slip in moral judgment. A sticky situation. A health problem. Depression. Anxiety. Family dynamics. A past.
If you can just get organized enough, volunteer enough, wear the right outfits, make the right friends, go to church, kill it at work, kill it in the gym and just. literally. control. every. damn. thing. possible... then you will "fit" in. You will "be like everyone else."You will succeed. You will not have to address your imperfections. Nobody will even notice them. Everyone will be so busy being distracted by your perfections that no one will notice your weaknesses, your differences, your past, your imperfectness, your current health issues, the constant battle going on inside your head... Am I striking a nerve here?
The problem with shame is that you will always. And mark my words when I say this...always...feel like an outsider in your own life as long as you struggle with shame.
Did this quote just make the tiny hairs (or long dark ones- I'm not judging) on your arms stand up? I love that last part about how "our sense of belonging," meaning how well you feel like you fit in, "can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance." You guys that is a life #truth. Like this is as good as #gospel if you ask me. Can I get an Amen??
So your feelings of belonging will be directly correlated to your own self acceptance. Bam. Drop the mic. Amiright?
If you are telling yourself over and over and over that you are not good enough, thin enough, organized enough, successful enough, mom-so-harding enough, stylish enough, or whatever-enough... then no matter how much you try to control. No matter how perfect you make yourself appear. In your mind, you will never. belong.
And finally, to the good news. Those of us who find the courage, and believe me it takes courage, to be authentic, to expose your shortcomings, your weaknesses, your mistakes, your differences... You will stumble upon a sense of belonging that is far greater than any perfectionist will ever achieve no matter how hard they try.
I've never really felt like I belonged growing up. I had a bunch of "friends" in high school, was nominated to the homecoming court every year, was very social, was invited to all the parties, wore the right clothes, got into the "right" college. But I often wondered why I felt like I didn't belong. I wondered if we all felt like that and I supposed we did. I heard people talk about getting older and how you reach a level of self acceptance once you are in your 30s. But then in my 30s I still felt a glaring level of not belonging or fitting in.
Everyone was getting married, having babies, buying homes, and doing all the things people do in their 30s. However I was different. I couldn't have a baby. And it quickly became the greatest sense of shame I have ever experienced. I went to extremes to hide it. I got busy getting my masters degree, achieving at work as a math teacher, became the math department head of the middle school, working on my fitness, stayed organized, kept the cleanest house you've ever seen... I was so good at everything y'all. But I felt like I didn't belong anywhere. I couldn't be vulnerable with others. Even those I considered to be my friends. What would they think if they knew I wasn't who I appeared to be? If they knew how I cried every night about my infertility, how I dreaded baby showers, how I avoided talking about having kids or my future plans, how I wished I hadn't moved into a stupid neighborhood with so many kids.
And then a thing happened. My sister was carrying my baby. For the first time, I had to come out of the closet in which I'd been hiding all these years. I had to be completely real and raw about something that made me completely imperfect and flawed. I considered getting off Facebook, I de-friended half of my Facebook friends because I was afraid they might judge me. I was so damn afraid of being judged. And then to my complete and utter shock and surprise people embraced my flaws, my struggle, my imperfectness. For the first time in my life, I felt like people accepted me for my authentic, imperfect, messy self. And you guys, it felt great.
Then came my autoimmune arthritis, I went through months of struggling with the simplest of tasks due to my pain. But once again, I didn't talk a lot about it to others because it made me so "different." I withdrew from many social situations because I knew I couldn't stand for long periods of time to talk at parties, I couldn't go for long walks, or run around at the park chasing our kids together. And I didn't want to explain that to people. I was afraid they would reject me. Judge me. I was afraid I wouldn't belong anymore.
Once I was finally diagnosed and treated with incredible medications, I started feeling a little more courageous again and I once again came out of the closet of shame and told people about my arthritis. And once again, people accepted me with open arms. They loved me even though I was different and imperfect.
It's made me realize that Taylor Swift has it right in her song ME, "I'm the only one of me. Baby that's the fun of me." and "Your'e the only one of you, and baby that's the fun of you." Our imperfections are what make us real. They are what make us relatable. They are what makes us lovable. They are what make us fun. And until you accept yourself exactly as you are, imperfections and all, you will never achieve that sense of truly "belonging."
So cheers to our imperfect selves. May we all work harder on self-acceptance than we do achieving perfection in this life.
And Finally, because I saw it on Pinterest and literally laughed out loud...