The title is a quote from qualitative researcher Dr. Brene Brown, Ph.D, a social worker whose area of interest is vulnerability and shame. At a recent writers’ workshop, somebody suggested I give a couple of Dr. Brown’s TED talks a listen, and if you want to do likewise you can find the first one here (The Power of Vulnerability), the second here (Listening to Shame). They’re short, well organized, and like all the TED talks, interesting.
So I gave ’em the old listen, and… they’ve been stuck in my mental and emotional buffer ever since. One of the concepts Dr. Brown brings up is the notion of being worthy of love. When someone is ashamed–not oops, guilty, because they owe somebody else an apology, but ashamed–they feel unworthy of love. Guilt is usually described as “I made a mistake,” and shame as “I AM a mistake.”
Painful stuff, and potentially crippling. Shame feeds that sense of unworthiness, until everything that goes wrong in your life is somehow your fault and your fate, and you barely want to stir beyond the narrow boundaries of familiar turf because all that awaits you is more humiliation and failure. Your life becomes an exercise in diminished expectations and pain management, even as you appear solvent, healthy, and in control of a nice future.
I am recently returned from two weeks in Scotland and week long writer’s workshop–I was out of the law office for THREE WEEKS, though arguably, at least half that time was spent doing author stuff. I had a terrific time, in Scotland and at the workshop. I met interesting people, saw wonderful sights, ate good food, and got a break from the tedium of my usual ruts.
And yet, I was aware of having to remind myself; It’s OK to enjoy yourself! This journey to Scotland is something you’ve planned for months, scrimped for, and looked forward to. IT’S OK TO ENJOY YOURSELF.
Same with the writer’s workshop. My inclination was to hide in my hotel room, working, working, working on my current deadline (next year’s Scottish Victorian Christmas story), but criminy, Grace Burrowes: When else was I going to be able to hang out with other writers, shoot the writer breeze, and pee and moan about my work in progress? When I got home to my cats? Geesh.
So I took baby steps–had a drink before dinner one night, instigated some laughter at dinner another night. Asked somebody to take my picture at Glencoe so I’d have a tangible reminder: I was here in this happy place of my ancestors. I’ve posted pictures of ME on Facebook–in all my chubby, grey-haired, fashion-averse glory. I also let myself pout and sulk when it was time to come home, because this too, is part of permission to be worthy of happiness.
I have a long way to go, in terms of feeling worthy of all the joy that can be mine, but I’ve made a start. I’ve already planned another trip overseas next spring, where I will hang out with readers and writer buddies, have the occasional drink, and instigate some laughter at dinner.
What is the baby step you can take in the direction of granting yourself happiness?
To one commenter, I’ll send an advanced reader copy of “The MacGregor’s Lady,” the third story in the MacGregor Scottish Victorian series.