As we tackle the last of the Ten Guideposts for Wholehearted Living it seems appropriate that we are also heading into the ‘holiday season’. For many this brings a mixed bag of emotions from joy to longing to excitement to frustration depending on what experiences and memories the holiday season triggers for you.
The Tenth and final guidepost in The Gifts of Imperfection is “Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and Always in Control”. The timing seems appropriate given that this is the time of year that we can take the opportunity to have fun, enjoy family time, play, sing, dance and be a little goofy!
As Dr Brown identified through her research, “Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of that one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone.”
What she is saying is that when we embrace laughter, song, and dance we give ourselves permission to celebrate and heal together. Shame cannot survive being talked about and it certainly can’t survive being shared or celebrated.
While Brené is suggesting the benefits of laughter, song and dance she also acknowledges that doing any of these things publicly carries too great a risk – that kind of vulnerability is too difficult for many of us. We are too worried about what others will think which is where the ‘being cool and always in control’ comes in. We believe that operating in this way is much safer and will draw less attention to ourselves. As Brené says “these behaviours are there to make sure that self-expression takes a back seat to self-protection and self-consciousness”. Brené says that being ‘in control’ isn’t always about the desire to manipulate situations, but often it’s about the need to manage perception. We want to be able to control what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.” But choosing to be cool over being free Brené says that we are betraying ourselves and those we care about. “When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others”.
Take note of how many times the word ‘cool’ comes into your vocabulary each day – especially if you are talking to your child! I have noticed this and caught myself on a number of occasions when I was about to tell my son that what he was doing ‘was not cool’ – I was allowing my own fears of what people would think to infect him and this is not fair to him or me.
And so we come to the end of the guideposts. As Brené says, meaningful change is a process and adopting these guideposts for wholehearted living is not always easy but like with parenting, compassionate commitment is what is required. We will fall and we will get back up again always knowing that ‘we are enough’.
As Brené says, “wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging”
Embracing wholehearted living is not easy. As Brené herself admits “choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You are going to piss off, and terrify lots of people – including yourself.”
I hope you have enjoyed the series – please grab a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection to read more about the guideposts and the work of Dr Brené Brown.
With wholehearted wishes