I am grateful that the chapters in The Gifts of Imperfection are short. Each one overflows with concepts that ask you to reach down to your very core and dig around a bit with a sharp object. Sometimes you have to pull back and take a break. Like at the dentist...when you have to put your hand up...they let you close your mouth for a minute....you stretch your jaw....rinse maybe.
You lie back, take a breath, try to get comfortable, open up, look at the outline of the hand holding the drill backlit by that horrible light...and nod.
Not to say it is all bad. But this chapter on Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough made me uncomfortable in my skin. I squinted a lot. Really, really trying to get at what she was saying without having to feel what she is saying....which is not the purpose.
So I had to read the chapter a few times. Then I fiddled around on Facebook and Outlook to avoid starting this post.
She starts out gently enough: to experience love and belonging I need to feel I am worthy of love and belonging.
When we don't accept the parts of our lives that are in discord with how we think we are supposed to be ---we become something we are not --we live outside our authentic selves --"perfecting, pleasing, and proving" to feel worthy.
At 46 with two university educated, smart, hard working, resourceful adults in the house --who have always been employed---I believe we should have a big house with lovely things. I also think we should have a couple vacations a year (which we don't but I can hide that fact from people). Don't get me wrong though. I love your little house (ok not the dead end galley kitchen where when you open the fridge door, the person behind it is trapped until you close it. No I am not kidding.) We are on a quiet, dead end street and the neighbourhood kids all play road hockey or catch or basketball outside. In the summer I often go out and squirt them all with the hose to cool off. Countless water bottles and freezies leave our house ---sports equipment is borrowed and there is the occasional injury or more often, hurt feelings. In some ways it is picture perfect.
But if I have to have someone come to my house, I am a nervous wreck. Our neighbourhood is not nice looking. Crooked and falling fences are common along with neglected lawns and gardens, houses with gutters falling and paint peeling, and shabby driveways. I feel like we have clearly done something wrong to not be in a better place. I blame myself. I don't feel worthy. So I start to perform. I deflect compliments. I apologize for the color of everything. I poke fun at the state of the floor/oven/fridge/walls/roof/deck/gardens to avoid having someone else do it first.
Where does this come from? My parents. I saw their life and imagined that mine would be just a bit
better in terms of having things. It isn't. It's not a fair comparison --my therapist keeps reminding me --but I still go there. I sometimes (less now) still measure myself up against that yard stick and I still fall short.
"Fitting in," Brown says, "is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn't require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are."
One thing that I have learned is that it is exhausting to try to "fit in"; be who you think everyone else thinks you should be; to put that much pressure on yourself. It wears out your body, your mind, your soul. You break, you numb, you get sick, you fall apart. You hurt those closest to you, you perform for those who don't matter, you put yourself last. You can't do it all so you say to yourself that you are unworthy--of love--of happiness--of anything. You spiral.
I don't need to read that in this chapter. I don't need to do the research. I have lived that one. Twice. I am hoping to find the strength to be me. I am still a work in progress.