Let yourself be seen

Sometimes I fear I use the word ‘authenticity’ too much. It feels as if a lot of what I am doing in the workshops, the coaching, and the writing, is encouraging people to peel back all the layers, one at a time, and see what lies at the heart of us. Minus all the beliefs, the habits, the stuff about how we should live and think and behave, that we’ve absorbed from the world around us.

Speaking for myself, I’m not sure I know yet; indeed I have a suspicion this peeling back the layers milarkey is the work of a lifetime. But I have had glimpses, and seen it in others as they sit in a workshop and, for a moment, trust themselves and those of us around them, to tell the truth. About who they are, and what they feel, and how much it sometimes hurts. And then they talk about what they really, really want and they light up with the recognition that that is also true.

Daring greatly

Which brings me to the point of this blog, which is to direct you to a film of the academic and author Brene Brown talking about her research into living your best life. (She doesn’t call it that but I think that’s what it amounts to – looking at why some people appear to have a strong sense of worthiness and love and belonging, while others spend all their lives believing they are Not Good Enough.)

Please watch it for yourself, not only because I think what Brene Brown has to say is really useful, but because she’s one of us: flawed, cagey, doubtful, resistent, and very, very funny.

And when you’ve done so you’ll want to think on what her findings mean for you. For it turns out what makes the difference in how we experience our lives is how vulnerable we allow ourselves to be. Instead of hiding who we are, burrowing in under all those layers in the belief that if they ever saw the real us the world would end, we need to do more of what those courageous people I meet through my workshops are doing, and trust ourselves with others.

have a heart

I hadn’t realised the word courage comes from the French ‘coeur’ – heart – but I love the idea that living with courage is really living wholeheartedly. Pain, pleasure, love, loss, fear, hurt, joy, peace, happiness, connection, and the rest. Allowing that life is all these things and that the alternative to courage or wholeheartedness is to be numb to all of it.

Which is where Brene ends her talk, with the warning that we can’t selectively choose to be alive to the positive parts of life but numb to the negative. “You can’t say here’s the bad stuff: here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these things.

“You can’t numb those without numbing the other emotions. When we numb these we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness…”

Something to consider on your journey to a more authentic life then: to what extent are you willing to start letting yourself be really seen? To tell the story of who you are with your whole heart?