Being ourselves sometimes means having to find the courage to stand alone ~ Brené Brown
My soul sister is a hiker. I mean a real hiker. In the Pacific Northwest, we all say that we like to hike. We are surrounded by mountains and it would be sacrilegious to say you don’t like to hike or be outdoors in the wilderness. It would be an absurdity to see a dating profile that doesn’t mention hiking in the “I like to” section. I enjoy hiking. And can say that I’ve successfully completed most of the popular and some of the not-so-popular trails in the region. But my soul sister is a hiker. She recently completed 6 days on a trail. Solo. When she reached the summit, the actual and metaphorical one, she was overcome by emotion. I was overcome by emotion when she shared this moment live with me. And I was inspired. Awestruck by her determination, her resilience and her bravery. This summit was more than just a hike, it served as a defining moment; a culmination of training and healing and learning to stand in her truth, even if that meant standing alone. She made the choice to feed her soul and be truly herself. This did not come without a cost and without loss. Although this is her story to tell, her perseverance and unending belief in authenticity and kindness, even if they are sometimes a struggle, have motivated me to be brave enough to be myself, and to find out who that truly is.
Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way ~ Brené Brown
Recently we both read Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. Brené and her research on vulnerability, shame and belonging have been instrumental in shaping my ideals and values around connection and authenticity. And this book felt to me like a culmination of all of those values. The byline reads: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. For much of my life, the need to belong has been a pervasive and influential aspect of my daily life. I feel strongly that I have been on a quest, and it has been as successful as the Quest for the Holy Grail. Until now. Belonging completely to myself is the essence of true belonging. Feeling grounded in who I am as a person, and owning that, can be a scary, unsteady place to be. There is risk involved; risk of loss, loss of people, social connections, understanding. However, living a life of intention, integrity and authenticity far outweigh the risk of potentially standing all alone. My quest for belonging has seen many different iterations of me. I have been the ultimate chameleon, shifting and shaping and changing to fit the crowd or the prevailing wind at the time. I would allow myself to get blown to a place where I did not want to be. The mentality of “go with the flow” works, if the flow is heading where it feels good for me…but if it’s not, then I’m a salmon swimming upstream. It’s exhausting and not very efficient.
Throughout her discussion on Braving the Wilderness, that scary place of being authentic and vulnerable, Brené talks about trust. I have found the definition of trust to be both concrete and nebulous. What is trust? And does everyone define it differently?
The dictionary has many definitions of trust, the most common:
1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2. confident expectation of something; hope.
3. confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit.
However, Charles Feltman in his book The Thin Book of Trust describes trust as:
Trust is defined as choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions…Whatever you choose to make vulnerable to the other’s actions, you do so because you believe their actions will support it or, at the very least, will not harm it.
This definition rings true for me. Trust is putting a belief in someone, a blind faith, that they will accept you, your thoughts and feelings, without judgement. They may not agree with you, but they won’t judge you for your beliefs or actions. And the kicker is, you have no control over this. In the end, it’s not personal, but rather about that person’s perspective and value system. This is a truly vulnerable place to be, extending that much trust. Every dating book, guide and model speaks of the importance of trust in any and every type of relationship. Increasing trust increases your connection and your security in that relationship. I believe this to be true with the relationship I have with myself. Increasing trust in my self-relationship will deepen my connection to my core values, who I truly am at my core, and increase my security in being me. In turn, this increased trust in myself will (hopefully) extend outwards and permeate my relationships with others.
BRAVING as outlined in Brené’s book has provided a framework to ground me in building trust in myself and cultivating the courage to stand in my truth. As with the Four Agreements, the concept is simple, but yet difficult to implement. The difficulty lies in my need to appease people, to not stir up drama or cause bad feelings. Often at the expense of myself and my feelings, desires and needs. I need to be brave, trust myself and be willing to stand alone.
Boundaries – know what I will or won’t accept. What values are important to me and can’t be compromised. A willingness to say no. Essentially, allowing positivity and good vibes in and keeping the “bad” stuff out, including people, experiences and not taking on others’ emotional states. Not only is this difficult to define, but enforcing boundaries is scary.
Reliability – do what I say I’m going to do. Period. If I can’t do it, say no.
Accountability – own my mistakes, apologize and make amends. Owning up to mistakes takes courage and vulnerability, but nothing builds and deepens trust more. It’s also about owning our behaviour, not making excuses for it and accepting when it harms another.
Vault – I won’t share information or experiences that are not mine to share. This means to me avoiding gossip and honouring the trust others place in me by holding their vulnerabilities safe. It also means that I don’t need to share all of my experiences with others and can hold pieces of me for me, in my vault.
Integrity – say what you mean, mean what you say and don’t be mean about it. Ensuring my actions and my words match and match my values. I will practice my values in my actions, every day, every time. I love how Brené says, “choosing courage over comfort.”
Non-judgment – the ability to ask for what I need without fear of judgment from others or from myself. I judge myself harsher and more frequently than anyone else. It’s so easy to be hard on myself and so hard to go easy on myself. I want to practice maintaining and holding a safe space for the people in my life to share without fear of judgment.
Generosity – this is all about being generous in thought, giving the benefit of the doubt. When interpreting a thought, feeling, word or action of my own or of someone else, my assumption is the best of intentions, not the worst.
As I attempt to embody these qualities for myself and others, I have fear of standing alone; of the idea that by living my values with intention I may need to be out on that mountain on my own. But I fully believe, that by living my values, extending kindness to myself first and to others, enforcing my boundaries and living with authenticity, integrity and courage, the wilderness won’t be so scary; especially when I trust myself enough to know that’s where I belong.
Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness – an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand ~ Brené Brown