Last year, my BFF Maggie introduced me to Brene Brown. Maggie had seen Brene on Oprah’s show Super Soul Sunday and highly recommended I watch the episode. The following week, I played the episode on my DVR and within the first five minutes I was hooked. I instantly became her number one fan. She was talking about my favorite word: Courage. As I watched, I would pause the show and jot down notes. I had never done that before while watching any other person on TV. But that tells you just how much what Brene Brown was talking about resonated with me.
Shortly after Brene appeared on Super Soul Sunday, they announced that Brene and Oprah were teaming up together to do an e-course based on Brene’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection”. (Read here to learn more about it. I won’t get into what the book is about because that would turn into a whole other separate blog post.) At first I wasn’t interested in doing the class because I thought “Why am I going to spend money on an online class for six weeks when I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom alone? How am I going to carve out time alone to do a class???” Two of my close friends were doing the e-course. They told me that the only class requirements were to get art supplies like watercolors, paint brushes, markers, etc. That was when I knew for sure I wasn’t interested. I am a crafty person and I love being creative but I can’t draw and I can’t paint so there was no way I was going to take this course and make myself miserable feeling like a failure who can’t complete the assignments with A+ quality work!
The day the class launched, one of my friends texted me a photo of the art assignment she had completed. I loved it so much that I got a bit weepy and emotional. We texted back and forth about it and then she said that she wanted me to do it so badly that she was going to send me her user-name and password for the class just in case I changed my mind. I was so moved by her thoughtfulness and desire to share the experience with me.
The next day, I went to Michael’s, bought my art supplies, and decided to give the class a shot and see what it was about. Well, needless to say, I LOVED it. In fact, I didn’t want it to end. It was eye-opening and life-changing for me. I got so much out of it. I learned so much – about myself especially. Anyway, the six-week course covered the first half of the book. They kicked off the second half of the e-course in April and my friends and I did the course once again.
One of the chapters of the book is about cultivating meaningful work. I jotted notes while watching the class video: Meaningful work doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job. Brene’s definition of meaningful work is making time for doing what brings meaning to your life; what brings perspective. Meaningful work is different for everyone. What is meaningful work to me, may not be for someone else.
In order to find what meaningful work means to you, her instructions were to think of your superpower. Your superpower is something you’re really good at that has maybe even gotten you into trouble (especially as a kid). It is that quality that shows up in every area of your life and is deeply intrinsic to you. She said “It is something you can’t help, but it is also something that can be a very powerful force for meaning in your life. It is that quality that allows you to uniquely contribute and be creative in the world.”
She then went on to talk about how every superpower also has its kryptonite. She said that she had realized in doing her research on the subject that “the best things about me and the hardest things about me are not that far apart.” She said that the kryptonite is the part of your superpower that doesn’t always serve you well.
Our assignment was to do an art journal page for our superpower and list how it shows up for us and then do another page for our kryptonite. I thought about it. Hmm…what is my superpower? What is something that I got in trouble for in school? Talking! It was the only thing I ever got in trouble for. Hmm…what else? I made a list of what she called "gifts"…Expressive, Compassionate, Sensitive, Observant, Analytical. But I quickly realized that the only one of these gifts/qualities that had kryptonite for me was the first one. I happily did my art journal pages!“My Superpower is: EXPRESSIVE”
"I can convey my thoughts and feelings easily.”
“I can openly show emotions.”
“I can communicate clearly.”
“I can help others put their feelings into words.”
On my kryptonite page I wrote:
“I can get too wordy/say too much.”
“I can make others uncomfortable.”
“I can get my feelings hurt.”
“I can have a vulnerability hangover.” (Brene Brown’s term which I love!)
“I can withdraw/shut-down.”
Then, I had to list three things that signify meaningful work. Just as the work is different for each person, so is the definition of meaningful. I wrote that meaningful work to me is “spiritual, soulful, and inspiring.”
The very fascinating piece to all of this is that I did this chapter in the book and this assignment just three days after I started my blog!
So here I am, nearly two months after starting my blog and it occurred to me today that I am experiencing every single item on my kryptonite page. I have slowed down on writing/posting because I feel like I am saying too much; revealing too many details. Therefore, I feel that readers may be uncomfortable with what I’m sharing. When I imagine my readers feeling uncomfortable and/or judging me for over-sharing, I get my feelings hurt which causes me to then have a vulnerability hangover and then once that happens, I withdraw and shut-down. See how that works?
After my mom died, I dealt with a lot of crap that I won’t get into now. I was labeled as a drama queen by family members. I acquired a reputation for stirring up trouble and for always having something to say about the issue at hand. I became known in my family as someone who was looking for a pity party because I would speak up and tell it like it was; show my emotions. I didn’t hold back on sharing the problems I was experiencing with whomever in my family. In other words, I was expressive! This was viewed as a bad thing in my family and that was how I got the reputation of “Jackie just being Jackie. Always wanting others to feel sorry for her.” I’m not sure what my motives were back then. I’m sure I did want pity and attention for all the shit that was happening in my life. But more than anything, I wanted validation. I wanted to be taken care of and nurtured. I wanted them to say “It sounds like you’re going through some really hard times. I’m so sorry. That sucks balls. Whose ass can I kick for you?”
After writing the three posts about my mom’s final days and my return home from Argentina, I questioned if it was truly necessary for me to reveal the intimate details of just how much I cried and exactly how I handled myself and the ways in which I fell apart at home alone. (i.e. Vulnerability hangover) Trust me, I really contemplated for days just how much I would reveal of what I went through. In the end, I decided to share quite a bit because I realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary with my grief. I didn’t do anything shameful. It was my reality. It was my truth. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing!
Before publishing the posts, I also tried to find the value in what I was writing. My hope was that I would shed some light on the intimate details of grief – the behind the scenes stuff that the outside world doesn’t get to see. I thought maybe a reader will know someone who has recently lost a loved one and these posts will make them think about what that person may be going through privately. I thought maybe these posts will build compassion in others. I also thought that maybe my posts would inspire readers to reconcile with friends or family because we never know when our time is up. I hoped that a young person who has lost a parent will read it and they won’t feel so alone. Maybe someone dealing with loss will have hope that they too can survive the grief, like I did. So with all those reasons (and more) in mind, I went ahead and shared a lot of the gory details.
In the last couple of days though, I’ve began worrying that my motives are being questioned by my readers. The old tapes of my youth are playing in my head and I’m wondering if I am being judged as attention-seeking and pity-seeking. I worry that I am being labeled as saying too much, airing my dirty laundry, over-sharing and that readers are asking “Why did she have to share that she punched a window or that she threw herself on her mother’s coffin? Why was it necessary for her to tell how she cried into her mother’s clothes? Does she want us to feel sorry for her?” Then I answer in my head: “NO! I don’t want pity! I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me! That isn’t my reason for sharing those details!” Today when I remembered the Expressive Superpower & Kryptonite assignment, it all clicked for me. My motives are pure in my desire to “cultivate meaningful work” and for it to be “spiritual, soulful, and inspiring.”
So, with that being said…please know, dear reader, that I am coming from a place of love and goodwill with the stories that I’m sharing. My intentions are clean and not self-serving. I am sharing with a purpose and most importantly, with courage. I pulled out my book “The Gifts of Imperfection” today and I want to share one of my favorite parts: “In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’…We’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage…Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.”
So I am joining forces with my trusty sidekick Courage; I am putting on my cape and I am going to own my Expressive Superpower. Expressive Superpower Activate! Hang on tight…it’s gonna be an inspiring ride.