The road to wholeness

I followed a facebook link to Brene Brown’s TED talk on “the power of vulnerability” the other day. Everyone should watch this one!

Brene is a social worker, researcher, writer, PhD, blogger and public speaker and she talks from a life approach that is very dear to my heart which is taking messy things and cleaning them up, measuring them, understanding them and making it easy for people to see, hear and understand them. And in this talk she speaks about shame, connection and wholeness.

Shame is a fascinating topic, so seldom discussed, the “I’m not good enough” feeling, which is based on excruciating vulnerability. And it’s something that I’ve been dealing with in a very deep and personal way on my journey as a creative person (and as a human being!), learning to believe that I am good enough, that my work is good enough, and that my imperfections are what make me perfect.

Here’s a summary of what Brene found in her research:

  • the world is divided into people who have a sense of worthiness (a strong sense of love and belonging) and people who struggle for it
  • those who have it are different simply in that they believe they are worthy of love and belonging


Having long been a person who fell into the second category I was very curious to see what she had to say about where the sense of worthiness comes from, or how to develop it. From my own experience I know the latter is possible, no matter what you learned at home or school or somewhere else in your life. We all have the capacity to develop it. And it turns out there are a couple of key elements that make up feeling worthy:

  • the courage to be imperfect
  • the compassion to be kind to yourself first and then to others
  • connection as result of authenticity, being willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are, without which true connection is impossible
  • fully embracing vulnerability, believing that what makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful, a place that is neither comfortable nor excruciating but simply a necessity


She goes on to talk in a very light-hearted way about her breakdown, and the need to let go of controlling and predicting in order to live in vulnerability and ultimately to be connected.  I’m talking about my own breakdown in a much more light-hearted way this year also, with gratitude and relief, it’s been a long and incredibly tough personal journey, and “stronger” in the traditional “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” sense is almost the opposite of what I’ve found on the other side of the chasm.  I’ve found a softer, gentler, more sensitive person inside me.  I’m so much more comfortable with my own vulnerability (and other people’s!), I feel it deeply, and I embrace the joy, creativity, openness and feeling with gratitude, even when it’s painful, because it’s what enables me to live wholeheartedly, and without that my life is not worth living.

ps  the picture was taken on my first south east asian travel adventure at the end of 2002. I’d owned a camera for about 6 weeks, my first SLR, a Nikon, bought on the second day of my trip in Kathmandu. Armed with a ton of film (remember those days!) I explored Nepal, Thailand and Burma and while I did a lot of editing afterwards I was quite delighted with the results, even now, 8 years later with a whole lot more experience under my belt.