Last night I listened to the lovely (and very funny), Brene Brown speak about imperfect and daring parenting. It was a packed house, and considering the topics for the evening were mainly vulnerability and shame it was really awesome to be sitting in a room filled with other moms and dads who were also curious about embracing their own imperfections as a way to be a better parent. There is something deeply connective about coming to a safe container, like the space that Brene created using humor as the jumping off point into the more tender areas, and experiencing the humanity of every person in the room. Even though we mostly all sat silent, there was solidarity in the simple fact that we were all there acknowledging our imperfections, our fear of vulnerability, and the shame we carry as a natural result of simply being alive.
I won't go into great detail because you absolutely need to read Brene's books or listen to her TED talks, or watch her conversations with Oprah - you know who she is, right? I am currently reading Daring Greatly, and just like at last night's event, I find myself nodding and feeling so deeply the truth of what she brings to the table - the proven fact, backed by her years of research, that it is our own ability to be vulnerable that directly correlates to how our children experience their own self worth. Yikes. It's a tender place for sure. It is easy to tell our kids what is good and bad, how we love them and to believe in themselves, but it's a heck of a lot harder to show them authentic self-love, courageous living, and self-acceptance through the nuance of our own imperfect lives and actions.
I grew up in a home where my parents didn't often show their vulnerability. They never fought, they never cried, they've never really shared any personal struggles or emotions that might have made them feel or seem weak - it was obviously a hard thing for them. I know part of this is because of the boundaries of the parent/child relationship, partly it's a generational thing, and it's also a product of family of origin dynamics, but as an adult I understand the weight of that unspoken (and socially inaccurate) belief that vulnerability is bad.
I always knew growing up that it wasn't possible my mom and dad didn't have overwhelming and difficult feelings. Truthfully, I've often wondered how they hold their vulnerabilities so tight and close. By comparison, my own natural propensity to fall apart spectacularly always felt like a glaring flaw and for a long time the story I believed about myself was that this meant that I was broken. Luckily I came from a very loving and caring home as well, where in many other ways the lines of communication were very open, supportive and meaningful. My parent's emotional fortitude ultimately taught me the invaluable ability to be a warrior and fiercely advocate for myself, my family, and especially now, my children. It's a skill I am incredibly grateful for. Two sides of the same coin, and yet I never felt any uncertainty about their love and concern for me. They were always there for me (and still are) in other remarkable ways.
So now I wonder (and sometimes worry) how the opposite dynamic, a mom who is often emotional and passionate about life - as I sit here writing all teary and sniffling realizing how this clearly hits a nerve, will manifest for my own kids. I hope if there is one thing I can teach them it is that by being brave with who they are and showing up in their lives whole and messy has an immeasurable payoff - that payoff is Joy - and it is worth falling down and fighting for. That being vulnerable... chasing dreams, sharing pain and struggle, trying and failing, facing criticism, connecting deeply and honestly with themselves and others is what lets in the light.
I hope that I can teach them to be warriors as well, ones who will live fiercely and joyfully with their whole-hearts. And maybe someday they'll forgive me for bring imperfect too.