“I am not enough.” This is a belief/myth that has followed me around my entire life. It is my constant companion, whispering in my ear, “I am not enough. I’m not enough. I’m not enough. Be more. Do more. You’re a fraud. You’ll never be enough”. Because I’m … a woman, a person of color, not a size 0 … the list goes on. I know this is bullsh*t, but still … I believe: “I’m not enough”. And I’m really tired of it. It’s time to Rise Strong.
Rising Strong: My Story
Last month I read, Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution by Brene Brown, PhD and very briefly reviewed it in my February book recap. It is a book that deserves a deeper look and one that I highly recommend, especially to those of you who struggle with feelings of not being enough or question your worthiness.
Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.
Brene Brown, PhD
I like that. I like that a lot.
If you’re like me, you don’t like falling in the first place and when it happens, you get stuck there sometimes, simmering away in a cauldron of your doubts, your recriminations, your fears and your anxiety. Your emotions overwhelm and drown you. How are you supposed to rise, much less rise strong?
Down and Out
I’ve been laying flat on my back for a long time, almost three years. This isn’t easy for me to share but a long, hard depression knocked me down. Generally, I am a fighter, scrappy, but only numbness ran through my veins so I stayed down. I am not ashamed that I “fell” but because there is such a stigma attached to depression, I kept silent.
Finally, I shared with a few, carefully selected friends and family members. The support I received was tremendous but even more so was the fact that so many of my friends had firsthand experience with depression. It’s an ugly secret too many of us keep.
Being Vulnerable Does Not Make You Weak
One of the core principles from Rising Strong is accepting our vulnerability and leaning into our emotions, rather than running away. According to Dr. Brown, very few people have been taught how to deal with their emotions in a healthy and constructive manner. This was a big a-ha for me, even though I was well aware of the relationship between money and emotions. I never thought how ill-equipped we were to manage our emotions as a whole.
We, as a society, accept “approved” emotions, like happiness but when people get “real” about how they feel, which can be ugly, raw and gut-wrenching, most of us flee. At least I did, especially if the person trying to get real was myself.
I stomped on the emotions that I didn’t want — fear, shame, disappointment, guilt, anger, sadness, loneliness — like they were grapes ready to be made into a throaty cabernet. For a time, I silenced them, but they never truly went away. Instead, they feasted on me from the inside, playing mind games and whispering, “You’ll never be enough.”
I believe that vulnerability — the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome — is the only path to more love, belonging and joy.
Damn it. I want more love, belonging and joy, which means I gotta get real with those less than desirable emotions and false beliefs. With 100% sincerity, I do not want to do this, but I want to be free. To stop believing the lies I tell myself. To actually really live.
So I will do the work.
The Storyteller in Us
When I was in high school, I participated in Speech and my category was storytelling. I’d wear frou-frou dresses and bows in my hair and spin yarns about giants and beanstalks and so on. From the number of trophies that filled my family home, I was pretty good. Too good, in fact.
Another area the book dives deep on is how we make-up stories to protect ourselves. Let me tell you, I had to read this section slowly and in small bites. Truth bombs were going off all over the place.
For long periods, I stared up at the ceiling (I generally read in my bed), just thinking.
Do I make-up stories? Yup.
All. The. Time.
And I do it, not because I lack a grasp on reality, but to protect to myself, just as Dr. Brown said. Instead of being curious and simply learning the truth, be it good or bad, over whatever experience has me feeling vulnerable or emotional, I make-up a story in my mind. I fill in the blanks, not with the truth, but with what serves me best. Now I can be self-righteous and sanctimonious or go on the offense and attack or play the victim card. Or whatever my made-up story needs to do to protect me.
What’s Really Real?
Maybe, some of my so-called hang-ups, issues, dramas are make-believe stories. Sure, some are 100% real, but even those stories, if I’m being honest, have grown to epic proportions. I fed them after midnight and turned them into rampaging gremlins. It’s time to shine a light on them.
This revelation initially knocked me down, but instead of staying down, I got up immediately. Why? Because I am a MASTER storyteller. One thing I can do is rewrite, baby. I can rewrite a true story, a real story, a strong story. One that just is and nothing more.
A Few Notes about Rising Strong
Some additional thoughts about the book overall.
- This book is not just for those suffering from depression. It is for everybody, because every single person falls. Some are big falls — ending a relationship, and some are small — dealing with a snide remark. Knowing how to cope with a fall is critical, not only for our wholeheartedness, but so we can thrive versus survive.
- I really liked how Brown used herself to give examples. In other words, she didn’t pretend she was perfect. She shared stories that painted a picture of a flawed human being, just like me.
- This not a book heavy on steps or exercises. The process is relatively uncomplicated, but the real work is still intense and hard because we have to be curious and honest, which we are not always good at doing, especially with ourselves.
I’m Rising Strong and Staying Strong
As I’ve said before and will say for the rest of my life, I am a work in progress. I’ve fallen countless time and will continue to do so. This isn’t a book about eliminating falls — that is not possible — but being able to rise strong when you do fall, whether you just have a scratched knee or are flat on your back. Rising Strong definitely had an impact on me, and I will continue to use the lessons from the book because I am enough. I’d like to leave you with a quote Dr. Brown shared that has become a favorite of mine.
May we all rise strong together.
Have you read Rising Strong? Does it sound like something you would enjoy? How do you recover from falls, big or small?