I’ve been reading, “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown – in part because of the course work which follows this called “CourageWorks”. I’m terribly behind the pace of the reading and exercises, (I hope it stays open through the Summer!) I don’t know what I was thinking by signing up for this while my work schedule for this Spring is a bit – crushing. But I’m glad I did.
This past week I practised what I am learning. I got up in front of small, but important group of people and I put myself out there. I didn’t pick up a shield to deflect and defend my position, as I normally do. I let myself hear everything which was said, the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, to a roomful of highly competitive men, who are armed for battle, I felt pretty slaughtered by the end.
Even though this was an emotionally charged process for me, what I discovered was, it was not for them. This was business as normal. They could not see the difference in me, and certainly, none of them could hold space for what I was going through. Empathy is not something practiced in these kind of situations. In a corporate setting, anything other than “the brutal truth” has no place. At least that is how it played out last week, with this group.
Now that I’ve dared greatly for the first time, I’ll do it again. I have to live this way now. But I will do one thing critically different. I will have one or two of the people who are best at hearing my story, on stand-by. These are the people who can hold space for what you are feeling and going through and not judge. They don’t tell you that you should feel differently. They understand that you are down in a dark hole and it is pretty crappy down there. They crawl down into that hole with you and hold your hand. They don’t try to fix you up, or tell you to take any kind of action. They in fact, listen and show a great degree of empathy.
The whole process of daring greatly, of leaning into the pain of vulnerability, reminds me of the “Velveteen Rabbit”. The description below, which talks about “becoming REAL”, just seems so right for this kind of situation. For I want to become more real. It is this gritty, raw, exposed feeling (which is frightening for some people to see), which is the opposite of true joy. I’m no longer going to try to be one person, all armoured up and ready for battle, at work and a more vulnerable person at home in my personal life. It has been like Jekyll and Hyde, trying to be 2 people. I can’t do it anymore and I won’t.
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit