Welcome to Day 4 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I will take the top 30 quotes as determined by Goodreads. Who is Brené Brown you ask? She is a research professor at the University of Houston, author of several books on emotional health and authenticity and all-around bad-ass when it comes to shame and vulnerability research. But more importantly, she is my “if you could have dinner / evening out with anyone you don’t know who would it be…” -person. Go here to learn more about her. In each post I will try to limit myself to 1,200 words.
You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.
― Brené Brown
This reminds me of the Declaration of Independence. Y’know, the real one. That awesome document that ushered a war and released us from the bondage of British Imperialism and freed us to become the Americans we are today!! Who’s with me?!
‘Cept when I look at America now, I’m not so sure we know what we’re doing.
So let’s narrow our view back in and look at our basic selves and our core group of people and how we interact and interrelate with them all. I’d like to break down this quote, as short as it is, even further:
“You are imperfect,” — this to me is like a license for experimentation. I like to think of children, how we can’t (or shouldn’t really, for a whole host of neurological and developmental reasons) walk before we can crawl. Before we walk well, we fall down a lot. We are meant to fall down a lot, hence the next part of Brené’s quote:
“You are wired for struggle,” — which basically means: count on having a shitty time every once in a while at this stupid game of life. I see this as a good thing: if we weren’t wired for struggle and adversity then we’d also not be prepared for greatness and success. We would never know when we are successful. When we are successful we can enjoy ourselves, we can trust ourselves, we can love and be part of a tribe of …
But … oh.
That’s the essence of the next part of the quote isn’t it?: “But you are worthy of love and belonging.”
We need to give ourselves that permission to belong — did you read my Declaration of Imperfection above? You’re already a member of the human race! You’re already in! You already belong! We all just need to remember to be kinder to ourselves and firm in our love so that we accomplish what we are here to do!
So, yay! Right?
The good news is that you’re worthy of love. The bad news is that it’s likely gonna mean hell must happen first before you realize it. Are you in hell now? Are you struggling? Well, get in line.
Every day millions of people — very likely all people, even the brand-new ones, no! especially the brand-new ones — experience a crappy moment: loneliness, confusion, isolation, heartbreak, loss, desolation, fear, anxiety, regret, frustration … but on the same coin, there are all the same people (just not the babies because they don’t get it) who, thanks to perspective and reason possess the ability to turn that negative energy inside out and try all over again or … if they are willing and able: to reach out, maybe share their story and meet compassion. Even if it’s from a complete stranger and it lasts five seconds!
Case in point:
Friday after Thanksgiving, as I walked to my car from the CVS after getting alcohol wipes for my niece’s blood sugar reader, I saw an elderly disheveled man leaning against his old pick-up. He was in bad shape emotionally from what I could see. When I approached my car’s door to open it, he looked over, seemingly ashamed of his condition. His eyes averted mine, but I stood for a moment and waited for him to sense my hesitation. He looked up at me, with his own hesitation and I smiled and said, “Hello, I hope you have a good day.”
I wasn’t Mother Theresa, but I wanted to be human with him. I wanted to have an exchange, no matter how fleeting, to let him know that someone, anyone, saw him and saw his struggle.
His face brightened for just a moment, almost in an obliging way and his posture perked up. He nodded and sniffled his nose. Then he gestured his hand and said something that I will admit was completely unintelligible and he turned to close his truck’s door and moseyed toward the ABC store. That completely bummed me out, it was an imperfect experience and I felt like Leslie Knope from NBC’s “Parks & Recreation.” Hopeful and idealistic, but ultimately crushed.
I wanted the story to be different. I wanted to say that he said, “Hey, thanks. Yes, I do too. And thanks to you, it will be because you were nice to me! Here’s a check for $500,000! Go buy those shoes you love!”
No. It didn’t happen that way. It barely happened at all, but I did what I felt urged to do — to see that man. I saw him because I’ve felt like how I think he felt: down, isolated and frustrated. If we don’t tap into our own shit then we can’t see anyone else’s. I won’t suggest that it’s my mission to find that guy and take him to an AA meeting because maybe that’s all I was supposed to do that day, but I suspect if I do see him again, I will be just as kind as I was last week.
I am imperfect. My house is not always clean, my moods are unpredictable, I don’t always like to cook, I have wrinkles now at 46 that I would really rather not have, my body is nothing like it used to be yet it hasn’t let me down yet, my hair is mostly gray I fear and I loathe being a slave to that nag of a colorist (me) and stuff is happening to my skin that you don’t wanna know about. But I’m here. I can choose to make my imperfection my anvil or my buoy.
As long as we have breath in our lungs, our struggles are not over; that’s OK. Who knows what will befall us? For me: as imperfect as I am and as allowing as I am about that imperfection, that if I don’t get the hell out of my own way, I will also be responsible for most of my struggles.
How did I get off track? (I blame the old man.)
Here’s the dealio: regardless of our imperfections and our struggles, there is community for us. Love is out there for us — all of us: wrinkled and old, or young and insecure, hesitant or confident and we do belong. We are here, on this planet — we belong on it. We belong here.
We have to be willing to put ourselves out there in order to feel the struggle and know our imperfections and succeed despite them — or maybe by virtue of them!
Count on being imperfect and bask in its flexibility! Allow yourself to be kinder to yourself! Thank your wrinkles because that means you’ve expressed emotions and have felt the sun’s warmth! Thank your gray hairs for they’ve stayed in your head! Know you are not alone — and even if when you look around after reading this, and you might still feel alone, know this: that at the end of a very long day, you really do belong to yourself and that’s the best declaration of independence I can think of.