Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Being Vulnerable and Owning My Story...To Be a Better Mom

I've completed Daring Greatly by Brene Brown for the second time and made a commitment to really do some self-reflection and work through some tough issues that have bothered me for years.  To start, I have challenged myself to being vulnerable and owning my story.  While reading the book this time around, I found myself thinking, "This is how I feel" so many times when she talked about shame in different environments in our lives.  Typically I would push my feelings under the rug, but I feel like I need to work through some of these uncomfortable parts of my life to not only be more comfortable with who I am, but to be a better mother.  

So, today I'm going to be vulnerable and I'm going to begin the process of owning my story. (And no, I don't plan to document it all on here!  This particular part just happens to tie in with being a mom).  Last night on Facebook I posted this status, "Tonight I am opening myself to the feelings that come with being on the "outside" looking in and feeling left out. I have always tried to bury these emotions, but to be a better mother, I feel like I have to work through them for myself and be at peace in order to help guide my kids."  

This is a part of my story that has been difficult.  There have been many periods in my life where I have struggled to figure out where I belong.  From middle school to college, I was always part of a "group," but never quite felt like I belonged.  I experienced rejection, felt misunderstood, and had my feelings hurt on many occasions. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and insecure and had a hard time understanding how people could change so quickly, but I never really talked about any of it with anyone.  Instead, I stored those feelings inside and the shame that came with them.

As an adult, those experiences and feelings have stuck with me, but I like to think I have learned from them.  It seems that when we are younger, we think that having a ton of friends is important and somehow makes us worthier.  I have realized that it isn't the quantity of friends but the quality.  I have lived in several different places since graduating from college and have developed some wonderful friendships with some fantastic women, but it took me some time to develop these relationships.  I find that those earlier life experiences have made me cautious, but it has not prevented me from meeting some wonderful people along the way.

So how does this pertain to being a mom?  With one child already in elementary school and others to follow, I know that as issues arise, I want to be able to help guide my children without my feelings of hurt and shame getting in the way.  To some it may sound silly that events that occurred years ago still affect me, but if you really look within yourself, I'm sure you can still feel the pain and hurt of certain events that occurred in your lives dating back to your school years, too.  I know that experiencing rejection, insult, and being picked on are all a part of life and growing as a person, but it doesn't make it any easier.  

Yesterday one of my kiddos had a case of hurt feelings and it broke my heart to hear him explain the problems he was having.  I listened and tried to offer encouragement.  I also made a mental note to find time to discuss it with my husband (out of earshot of my son) before he went to bed.  My husband is good at having the father/son talks at bedtime and I wanted him to be able to sit down with our son and talk while it was all still fresh.  The incident was a typical childhood experience, but we still felt it was important to talk through it with him.  

When I look back on my childhood, I feel like either I wasn't encouraged to talk about my feelings about incidents like these or I chose not to.  This is not what I want for my children.  I hope that we, as parents, will encourage our children to talk about the problems they are having and the feelings that go along with them so that they can work through these experiences, learn from them, and move on.  While it was difficult to feel this way as a child, I have a feeling it is going to be even more difficult as a parent!

In the end, we all want to feel a sense of belonging and be accepted for who we are.  One of my favorite excerpts by Brene Brown about belonging is this, "There are so many terms we use every day whose meanings are gauzy, if not downright imprecise -- which makes it hard to get your head around what's really going on in your life. For example, contrary to what most of us think: Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I've discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely -- it's showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are -- love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all.

Many us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, (Take it from me: I'm an expert fitter-inner!) But we're not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking.

The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you're enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don't have that, we shape-shift and turn into chameleons; we hustle for the worthiness we already possess."

I want to teach my kids that they are enough.  I want them to stay true to who they are and not change to try to fit in.  We will make it a priority in our home to accept each other for our strengths and our weaknesses, talk about our feelings, and create an environment where everyone knows, without a doubt, that they are important and belong.


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