Being Your Own Worst Enemy

This year I have been soaking up as much as Brené Brown and her research as possible. Here is a great talk she gave at a design conference which delves deeply into fear, and to me, the call to have the courage to be 100% me and to be 100% in my life.

When I was in graduate school at Roosevelt University, a favorite class of mine was on Organizational Development. One day we were given an exercise to prioritize a list of twenty or so steps we would take to start a fire or some sort of survival task. First, we did the exercise on our own. Next, we decided the sequence as a group. After receiving the proper sequence, the professors asked for a show of hands for everyone who had more correct responses as a group rather than as an individual. Most of the class raised their hands. Truth was, the exercise was supposed to show how as a group we all perform better than as individuals. To prove their point, the instructors had everyone raise their hand who did better as an individual than in the group. I was the only one who raised her hand. The professors were shocked. I don’t think they ever had anyone do better on their own before. The reason I tell this story is not to show how smart I am, but to show the biggest challenge in my life – self-confidence and being able to speak my voice. I did better on my own, because I couldn’t voice my opinions in the group.

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

This incident is just one of many throughout my life where I can show unequivocally that I hold myself back. I discount my ideas. I bow to others. I am afraid to speak my truth. I don’t voice my needs because I don’t want to insult or hurt others. The end result is that I have not lived fully, unabashedly; I have not made the most of opportunities that came my way. As a friend said recently, “It really, really is the bald-faced truth that we are our worst, if not only, enemies.” I know I have been for decades. 

In this video, Brené touches on the importance of having clear values and, importantly, living by those values. If we do not know our values, the choices we make in our lives are not tied to our goals and what we deem important. On the other hand, if we have values but do not act upon them, we are not living fully, honestly, intentionally.

In the second half of my life, I am committed to fully living the values I have defined in the first half of my life. I am striving for vulnerability, compassion, healthy boundaries, and living without hesitation. Instead of looking back at my previous choices (which I can’t change anyway), I am instead – not focused on the future – but focused on this moment. In this moment, am I doing my best to be vulnerable? Am I living openly and honestly?  Am I being compassionate, understanding, and accepting?  Am I creating healthy boundaries to protect myself while I am supporting others? Am I living fully, without hesitation?

It ain’t easy. I ain’t consistent. And it is worth it. I am learning to make new choices – and receive new, better results. I am grateful for the path I took when I was younger. I am grateful to have the courage to look at my past and learn from it. And I am so grateful to have the courage and support to fully live by my values, to the best of my ability, today.

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