In October 2010, I watched Brené Brown’s TEDxTalk Houston (The Power of Vulnerability) and TEDxTalk Kansas City (The Price of Invulnerability), over and over again. She was giving me language and vocabulary to explain to others what I had begun to do intuitively more than 30 years prior. She called it “ordinary courage“.
I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. We were encouraged to be nice, even if it meant masking our feelings and needs. Many of us were taught that “children are to be seen and not heard.” My mother taught me this message well.
While I am naturally an extrovert, early in my life, I learned it was safer for me to be with adults and my mother as an introvert. She had also taught me not to share personal, private things with even my friends and family. It wasn’t nice to share those things.
When my math teacher bullied me, I did not tell my parents how he humiliated and shamed me in front of the class. When my Uncle Ed french kissed me when I was sixteen years old, I freaked out on him, but remained silent and did not tell anyone.
My journey toward health and wholeheartedness began one day at a neighborhood Girl Scout leader meeting. I was about 26 years old, a wife, and a mother of two…and a Brownie leader. Sitting in this meeting, listening to the other leaders talk about projects and plans for the troops, I remained silent. A million ideas were racing around in my head, but I remained silent.
Near the end of the meeting, a voice (the Holy Spirit) whispered in my ear – “children are to be seen and not heard.” I’m not talking, I responded to this internal voice. Then, 2 more times, I heard the words – “Children are to be seen and not heard.”. I was becoming agitated – internally, of course. Each time, I responded, I am NOT talking. Then, the voice said, “You are a wife and mother. You are no longer a child.” Yes, I know. Again, “you are a wife and mother, now. You are no longer a child. These are your peers.”
The meeting ended. As I drove home, the words kept playing in my head. “You are a wife and mother, now. You are no longer a child. These are your peers.” What would that mean, if I believed it were true? What if I showed up as an adult? Slowly it sank in. It meant I could talk in the meetings. What a terrifying thought!
This awakening was a transformative moment for me. It began moving me toward health and wholeness. This moment and the evolution that followed prepared me for what came next in my perfect life.
Four years later, when my first husband moved out of the house when I was 7 months pregnant with our third child; I was able to risk sharing my story and pain with a few close friends. It was scary and felt shameful to be in this position.
Another awakening occurred for me as I began sharing my story of separation and divorce. Even though, at that time I did not have language to explain what I experienced, I could feel it. As I took a risk and was vulnerable with my friends, I watched something flicker across their faces. Some friends had this look of panic and fear. (They disappeared from my life.) Other friends relaxed and dropped their masks. Those who dropped their masks ultimately became deep heart friends. We leaned on each other over the years as our hardships and joys came and went. As Brené would say, these became my “move-the-body friends.”
It took a lot of courage that first time I shared my story. It was very scary. But, every time, I got real – authentic – with others I saw and felt something shift in them – and in me. Even the first time I shared, I recognized that I had to keep moving toward authenticity. No matter how scary it was for me, it was healing me…and my friends.
Since then, it is my quest to discover my authentic self and help others do the same. A few years ago, I created my HeartWork gatherings to make it more intentional and to reach more people with the power of vulnerability..
Here’s my simple truth in all of this, as I am authentic with you – it gives you permission to be authentic with me. Soon, we become real with everyone. Authenticity is an irresistible quality.
Living a wholehearted life of ordinary courage has created a rich life for me.
This post is part of the June 2013 Synchroblog titled “Ordinary Courage.” To read more posts on this topic visit http://synchroblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/link-list-for-june-2013-synchroblog-ordinary-courage/
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