When I was in the midst of my financial meltdown – otherwise known as August – I did what you’d expect from a woman who’s spent six months trying to improve herself. I ignored the problem, watched hours of television and drank litres of wine. I engaged in what Brene calls ‘numbing’ behaviour.
I also did something else that Brene says is very common when we’re ashamed of ourselves: I BECAME A B*TCH.
I grabbed any opportunity I could to put other people down. I’d criticise people on the telly, moan about my family, get annoyed with friends and even people on the street: Can you believe the way she looked at me? What is her problem?! etc etc.
One night I really went for it. I sat at my friend’s kitchen table drinking red wine and proceeded to criticise various people we both knew. By the time we’d got through to the red and moved on to the Amaretto, I was doing a character assassination of a woman I used to know but who I haven’t seen in nearly ten years. Why on earth she’d popped into my head, I had no idea – but at 2am it seemed very important to dissect her every flaw.
I woke up the next morning feeling awful – not just from the booze but from the conversation.
This year I’ve been making a real effort to not criticise other people. All self-help books tell you not to – even The Secret. They argue that when someone bothers us, it’s pretty much always more about us than them and that basically it’s all very bad energy. Which it is.
So it’s interesting that as soon as I hit a rough patch it was one of the first things I turned to.
Brene Brown says this is typical. She says that when men feel ashamed they either go into silence or they rage. Women, on the other hand, b*itch. It’s easier to distract yourself by poking holes at other people than look at your own stuff.
She says we criticise others, usually for doing the thing that we are feeling bad about. As it turns out, the acquaintance I was criticising was rich. She’s very smart with her money and always seems to land on her feet. I was jealous. (She is also very good-looking. Goddamn her.)
So since August, I’ve been making a huge effort not to say negative things about people and now when I do I ask myself what is it that’s bothering me about myself? (This is the kind of constant self-analysis that’s driving me nuts – but in this case I think it’s worthwhile.)
But in other areas of vulnerability and Daring Greatly I have not done so well.
LEANING INTO DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS
Brene says that to have real connection we need to ‘lean into difficult conversations’ with the people we love. You know, say the unsaid stuff we can dance around for months, or even years, listen to the other person, even if what they say is not going to be positive. I am terrible at this. I run away from any awkward conversations. Actually, running away from awkward conversations might be the only exercise I get. I use up more energy thinking and worrying about the imaginary conversations than the real thing would ever take. This is a real issue for me.
You can read all the self-help in the world and think all sorts of great theories but most of the work we need to do is right under our noses, it’s working on our relationships with our families, friends, partners. That’s the hard stuff – and actually it’s the stuff I’ve been avoiding by keeping my nose in a book.
So last night I did it. I had a conversation with someone that I’ve been avoiding for about two years. I can’t give details but it didn’t go particularly well – it didn’t end up in an argument or anything but it ended up with me feeling sad and depressed, which is just what I was expecting. So afterwards I had a cry, drank a giant glass of wine and felt shaken. It hurt. But then this morning, instead of feeling bad, I woke up feeling stronger and more grown up. I was proud of myself for facing up to something I’d been running away from. It felt like an important step.
And speaking of running away…
FALLING IN LOVE. VULNERABILITY AND MEN. UGH.
I don’t even know what to say about this except that it’s the big one and I have not even thought about it this month. When I started this blog I thought a lot of it would be about being single. One friend reckoned that if I didn’t find a man at the end of it, that whole thing would be a failure. I really, really don’t think like that.
I don’t know if this is denial and avoidance on my part – and it might well be – but I no longer think that finding a boyfriend is not going to be the answer to everything. Or the answer to this blog. I am on my path and I’m not entirely sure where it will take me. I hope it’ll take me into the arms of a hot man with a cashmere jumper but if it doesn’t, that’s OK. Despite my periodic meltdowns, life is pretty great. I’m very lucky.
But that said there will be a dating month. The whole thing makes me cringe but that’s OK.
My friend said that falling in love with her now husband was like throwing herself off a cliff. She was terrified. So was he. But they did it.
I hope to throw myself off that cliff one day too. Well, I’ve thrown myself out of a plane already so surely that’s some form of preparation?!
Until then, thanks Brene Brown for the brilliant book. It’s been emotional. xx
If you’d like to buy Daring Greatly – and I really would recommend it – please click below. It’s an affiliate link which means I get a tiny portion of the sales, which helps me to keep the blog going. There’s no extra cost to you.Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead