wholeheartedness and authenticity: the studies of dr. brené brown

Welcome to 2011. I hope you all had a relaxing, joyful close to the year.

I have had an intense journey the last two weeks, one that took me through the full gamut of emotions and thoughts.   I was ready to hear and feel certain concepts that are part of Universal Truth, and it was just my time to receive the gifts of information that were bestowed on me.

It started with a Facebook post concerning a TEDx  talk given by a woman named Dr. Brené Brown.  Brené is a researcher who studies the issues of shame, vulnerability, authenticity and courage.  She is also a great storyteller of the human condition, and how these very powerful emotions impact our lives and the lives of those we love.

I was so intrigued by what I heard that I went to her website and downloaded her book on the soul-crushing nature of perfectionism. In her research, Brené looks at, among others,  people who live life in full awareness of their own vulnerability, embrace their imperfection, live lives fundamentally connected with those around them, pepper their lives with constant gratitude and are resilient in the face of adversity and conflict.   She refers to these people as being wholehearted.

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené notes the results of conversations with research participants while trying to grasp the full nature of Wholeheartedness:

As I started analyzing the stories and looking for re-occurring themes, I realized that the patterns generally fell into one of two columns; for simplicity sake, I first labeled these Do and Don't.  The Do column was brimming with words like worthiness, rest, play, trust, faith, intuition, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude, and creativity.  The Don't column was dripping with words like perfection, numbing, certainty, exhaustion, self sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment, and scarcity.

This is a watershed.  Brené found that wholehearted people don't necessarily follow the rules to the bitter end.  And they don't have an externally driven directive about living correctly.  They trust their intuition.  They embrace at a profound level the parts of themselves that don't fit the mold.  In short, they love themselves.

They love themselves.  And this allows them to live authentically individual lives without having shame and self-doubt rip them apart from the inside.

Here's an example:

For as long as I have been an innkeeper on a hill in Italy, I have become concerned about some of the effects of what I do on my own health, both physical and emotional.  It can be very rewarding, having a B&B, and can also be very tiring. My weaknesses are exposed.  Guests can see if I am tired, have been crying, or my neck is sore.  There is only so much emotion-hiding a person can do when the house has continuous guests for six months.  This has always served to further deplete my energy, since it makes me start worrying about what they think and if my energy (or lack thereof) is negatively impacting their stay.  Letting go of that worry would help me to love myself more, instead of bringing me into a continuous circle of shame about a pretty normal occurrence - being tired and teary and achy. It's all part of my own fear of coming off as anything less than perfect.  I end up exhausting myself further over nothing, instead of letting my authenticity shine through, which is what the guests really want anyway.  This is a critical point for my emotional wellbeing - not to obsess about what other people are thinking.  An important step for me to the path to Wholeheartedness.

There are maybe a thousand other thoughts concerning my own story that have sprung from reading Brené's work. I don't know where this journey will lead me, but I will latch on to the words that my beautiful friend Turid Emberland wrote to me today,

2011 is a symbol for me, of creative processes, wholesome health, truth and shedding unhealthy patterns. I will not try to imagine how I want it to look like - I'll just follow it by my gut and trust. Faith.

That is a wholehearted concept if ever there was one.

I am immensely grateful to have been lead down this path of inspiration.  I hope you head over to Brené Brown's website soon for some inspiration of your own.