I love Brené Brown and her work around authenticity, vulnerability, and courage. She has such a great way of explaining things. When reading her work I often feel like I am having a chat with a close friend. Recently I have been drawn back to her books and TED talks. I don’t think I have heard her speak or read any of her work without the mention of all of these values.
It is easy right? Being all these things – authentic, vulnerable, courageous? After all, if we are real, say what we feel and do things even when we fear them, then are we not being authentic, vulnerable and courageous? Not always. I think sometimes we get mixed up between authenticity and showing people what we think they need to see; vulnerability and pretending we have it together; and courage and taking the easy road.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is necessary to play it safe. I wonder though, if we play it safe more often than not and how does this affect our relationship with ourselves and with others?
The Power of a Conversation
During a recent conversation I felt challenged on what ‘authenticity’ really means. I was not challenged by the other party to that conversation but by me. I always felt that being authentic was being open and honest. I now think it is more than that, it is also being real. The challenge was as I realised that so often, I do not bring all of me to the conversation or to the moment. Mostly this is a subconscious thing, not intentional, a way of keeping me safe.
Prior to this conversation I had been mulling over, trying to put into perspective vulnerability, authenticity, shame, judgment, and self-compassion. This had been playing on my mind for most of the day and during this recent conversation I really felt that I had to ‘show up’. I had to let the real Tina come forward. I felt like I had to talk myself into being real, staying real. I understood that this time I was making a conscious choice not to disappear and pretend my way through the conversation. I was entirely present, and it changed my perspective on the conversation. I felt connected, not alone. It felt that to be authentic, on this occasion anyway, I was making a conscious choice. After this conversation I realised I had shown up – and hung around!
Authenticity, Vulnerability, Judgement, Self-Compassion –Do They Work Together?
What does being ‘authentic’ mean? What does this have to do with ‘vulnerability’? Where does ‘shame’, ‘judgement’ and ‘self-compassion’ fit into all of this? Do they all work with or against each other?
I am not sure which comes first. Or if there needs to be a ‘first one’. Authenticity to me, seems to be an outcome of all the others. There are probably other things that contribute to authenticity; I mention vulnerability, judgement, and self-compassion believing they are key contributors to the ability to be, or not to be, authentic.
So if authenticity is real and raw; vulnerability is allowing that realness; self-compassion allows us to be who we are despite perhaps wanting to shy away from the realness; and judgement is usually what holds us back from being any of this.
Why Do We Hold Back?
Why do we hold back on the ‘real’? Perhaps we do not think others will appreciate the “real” us or, we hold judgement on how we will be perceived by others.
We might feel a sense of shame around that realness we want to show and our being so open. After all, holding back and protecting ourselves allows us to feel safe. And it is all about safety – right?? Safety from judgement, safety from shame, safety from how we feel about ourselves. Is this what is stopping us from being our most authentic? Not wanting to know how we feel about ourselves and this is painted up as not wanting to feel judged or shamed by others.
This is where I get a sense that it takes courage to be real, to be authentic.
What a complicated web of interaction, emotion and feeling that combines to create our realness. It is no wonder that connecting to others and ourselves is difficult at times and impossible at others.
I think this is where self-compassion comes in. The ability to care for oneself by showing compassion and kindness to ourselves. Knowing that these feelings of judgement and shame are showing up and being the one to say “it’s ok, I am here, be you.”
By doing that to the best of my knowledge creates a connection with myself and that allows connection with others. An authentic, real one.
That is where the magic happens.