A year and a half ago, while going thru a short “therapeutic reboot” in my life, I read Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. A second time. Funny how a different chronological age (45 vs almost 50) and a different set of life circumstances (teens underfoot vs empty nester-hood) could make the exact same book I had read 5 years before seem so new and fresh and relevant! I needed a good reminder about the effects of storytelling on my life. No, not Winnie the Pooh or Twas the Night Before Christmas storytelling. I’m referring to the stories we tell about ourselves, to others and to ourselves. I was a bit chunky most of my childhood, which resulted in a brief stint with the overuse of laxatives and regurgitation in my Freshman year of college. Actually, it wasn’t the chunky part that landed me in counseling that year; it was the story that I kept telling myself. You know, the one where I tell myself that anything and everything that does not go well in my life is “because I’m fat.” Not making cheerleader, getting a bad grade, not getting asked to a dance by the boy I was crushing on…all, I was sure, a result of being overweight and someone dissing me because of it. Ha! Even writing that sentence today, 4 months into my 50th year, makes me smile thru the old, familiar knot I feel in my stomach. As I got older, I took on an “I’ll show you” attitude and, after much hard work and “getting back up on that horse,” I would accomplish the task at hand—always the 2nd time around. Yay me?!?! But was I still telling the same story and was my story truthful?
This topic of “the stories we tell ourselves and others” bubbled to the surface this past week, when my friend Karon included me as her guest at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s annual Appetite for Advocacy luncheon featuring none other than Brené Brown. The keynote was, honestly, one of the best I had ever heard as she so brilliantly wove in and out of her messaging from The Gifts of Imperfection and the stories we tell with an expanded message of “getting into the arena” from her new book, Daring Greatly. I could have listened to her for hours. In just a few short words, she had me:
“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.”
― Brené Brown
As I listened, I was mesmerized by the message I was hearing not only as Darlene, the almost 50 year old searching for her “what’s next,” but also as Darlene, mother of Austin and Alexa. Was I in the arena, vulnerable yet fearless? And equally important, was I encouraging my children to get into their arena without insecurities and fears of failure? Was I willing to let them succeed wildly or fail miserably in their respective arenas so that they, themselves, could explore what daring greatly truly meant for them?
As I drove home from the sold out luncheon, radio silenced, I felt gratitude for that message on a day that I needed it most. I did feel the vulnerability of jumping with full force outside of my comfort zone. I am ready to admit that in any given moment of any given day EVERY DAY, I feel strength, I feel fear that I won’t succeed, I feel defeated and I feel empowered. Yes, every day. I would also suggest that this combination of vulnerability is most decidedly my personal recipe for success and, more importantly, for joy.
SHE-friends, have you stepped into your arena? What does that feel like for you? If you are in there, just like any arena, you have fans and you have critics. A little nugget of wisdom from this girl who has been in the arena a LOT the last few days…don’t listen to the fans; don’t listen to the critics. What is the story you are telling YOURSELF? If you are not yet in the arena, but just outside the gate, what is it that is holding you back?
To my children, if they happen to read this blog: what is your arena? GET IN THERE! It might be hard sometimes, you might be afraid to fail or not get what you want the first time around, but YOU’VE GOT THIS. No, I’m not going into the arena with you, but I’m waiting just outside the gate with a hug and unconditional love. And, yes, when you stand proudly in that arena squashing your self-doubt and replacing it with smiles and joy, I will be just outside the gate, giving myself a little pat on the back for pushing you to get in the arena without me. I am so, so proud of you both.
As for me? Well, this week I have brought in 3 new wonderful clients to my banking portfolio by daring to ask for their business, I have double-promoted to Director in my India Hicks business by taking a giant leap into the world of direct sales and I have put an offer down on a new house (I have never bought a house before!) when I wasn’t even in the market for one. My arena is big, I have not had a lot of sleep this week, my heart is filled with gratitude to all of those that have helped me along the way, I look forward to the next challenge, I will undoubtedly worry about something at least 5 times today and, SHE-friends, I am happy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! What’s yours?
Note from the SHE files: Your story is meant to be told. So get in that arena and SHARE!