“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Brené Brown
Listen to today’s post on the go or continue reading below …
This past week, I had a 4 hour round trip drive to deliver a presentation to first year medical students. Although I do not usually travel solo, it is becoming more frequent given my current career path in physician health. In preparation for this trip to help pass the time, I purchased the audio program, The Power of Vulnerability, by Brené Brown. I only made it half way through the program on this drive but plan to listen to the other half this coming week as I make the same drive to deliver a another talk medical residents. Not only did Brené’s voice help settle my anxious mind, but also her message was so powerful that it resonated with me on so many levels.
I truly believe that everyone can benefit from Brené’s messages on vulnerability, shame, empathy and connection. Brené describes herself as a qualitative researcher, where she collects and analyzes people’s stories. As you may know, I love hearing people’s authentic stories which we are gratefully privy to as physicians. Recently, the word ‘belonging’ was ruminating in my mind, and then, coincidentally Brené spoke a lot about belonging in her program. As she so eloquently says in one of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection, “Love and belonging are essential to the human experience”.
Love & Belonging
If you haven’t already seen Brené’s TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability, I highly recommend it. She talks about people who live a ‘wholehearted life’ and that her research has looked at how those people differ from everyone else. One factor that separates the people that struggle to feel a deep sense of love and belonging, from those that feel it, is that the latter believe they are worthy and deserving right now. It is not conditional on “I am worthy if…” (fill in the blank with anything from if I get that new job to if I stay sober). After collecting countless stories, Brené pointedly states: “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men and children”.
Our Wellbeing, Love & Belonging
It is probably fairly apparent that feeling a deep sense of love and belonging in life impacts our wellbeing. Our emotional and social wellness are so acutely entwined that it can be difficult to tease out if emotional difficultites lead to relationship difficulties or the converse. Some people may find it tempting to rationalize avoiding love to not feel pain. Some people spend their whole searching for love even though they haven’t spent time loving the person that matters most – themselves.
Can you imagine your life without feeling love or a sense of belonging? What is essential to experience both of these feelings? Many words come to mind such as vulnerability, trust, respect, but most of all authenticity. Live your story, your true, authentic life. Brené clearly separates fitting in and belonging. What is the difference? Fitting in is adapting to a prescribed idea of who you should be while belonging means we are accepted for who we are – just as we should be.
Ultimately, if you love yourself, you believe you are deserving of love and belonging, and in turn, you will choose to surround yourself with people who feel the same way. To have this in my own life, I truly feel blessed.
I dedicated this message to Brené Brown because I think both her work and teachings are universal truths that transcend our society and have the ability to heal many wounds that exist.
Definitions from Brené Brown¹
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our true authentic perfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
1. Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Hazelden: USA.