At this point in my life, my favourite person is renowned author and researcher, Brene Brown. For those of you who don’t know of her, please do yourself a favour and go watch her talks on YouTube, get your hands on her books and read them, and really take in what she has to say. Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work.
There is one particular TED Talk that I watched a while ago and then again just recently and it is entitled “Why your critics aren’t the ones who count.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-JXOnFOXQk&t=599s
The following quote which Brene has borrowed from Theodore Rooseveldt, is so profound, particularly since we spend a great deal of our lives, always trying to please others. And in so doing, we kind of forget who we are and without even knowing it, we doubt ourselves and question our motives and our actions. So please, take the time to read this quote and read it a few times, to let it really sink in.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Let me ask you this question: “How often do you start out with something, putting your absolute best into it? How often do you stop doing what you set out to do, because you received some critical or negative remark from someone? Interestingly, Brene Brown points out how often we try to please those who are on the outside and forget about our close circle, the ones that we love and who we know love us. We don’t even think about them and their opinions, because we’re trying to reach out to people who we don’t really know, people who don’t matter. This all because we feel that we need to prove ourselves to people with an opinion that doesn’t matter at all in the first place.
In striving to create a peaceful place of existence for ourselves, it is important to understand that we (as in all humans) are all the same. At the most fundamental level, each and every one of us are striving for the same things and these are acceptance and a sense of belonging. When we can get to that point where we just get it, where we see that our wants and needs are so basic and so alike, all judgement falls away and we allow ourselves the beautiful experience of connecting with others on a level that is deep, meaningful and charged with spiritual energy.
Dr Brown talks a lot about shame. This is a pivotal part of her research and has been for the last 10 years. Interestingly we all are dominated by our shame and we allow it to hang over our lives and affect every decision that we make. In fact, it’s the one emotion that holds us back from achieving greatness, success and happiness. She talks about shame being the one thing that no-one wants to talk about and in fact is an emotion that cannot exist when we develop empathy. Because, the two cannot exist at the same time, and empathy will always win. When we have empathy, we are able to say, “I’ve been there too. I understand where you’re coming from.”
According to Brene, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” And “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
One of the most fulfilling things that you can do is start a Gratitude Journal. Start out by recording, every day, five positive things that happened in your life that day. Write down five things that you’re grateful for. Initially you may find it difficult to find five things that happened in your day that was positive and possibly even five things that you’re grateful for. But as you go along, you will find that you’re actually programming your mind to seek out the positive, to seek out the things that you’re grateful for. You’ll know that this is happening when you consciously think to yourself “I mustn’t forget to put that in my journal tonight”.
This practise also forces you to be in the moment every moment of every day. It forces you to stop doing things on auto-pilot and to rather think before you act, think before you do anything or say anything. What ultimately happens is that you find yourself becoming much happier and becoming a person that everyone wants to be with. Remember that it’s so important to focus on all interactions with people – people will forget what you said, but they don’t forget how you make them feel. And that’s either positive or negative.
So yes, be the first to smile, the first to say something nice. Complimenting someone even if you don’t know them, opens up an opportunity to communication and connection. Saying something nice is much easier than you think, yet we’re actually programmed to seek out the negative and say negative things rather. And this is because we allow ourselves to be governed by fear. I’m not talking about fear of being physically hurt by someone. I’m talking about our fears that we’ve developed when children, and those that we still carry about with us way into our adulthood.
It’s so important to consider your reaction to something or someone, particularly when it’s negative. Take stock and ask yourself why you are feeling the way you do, what is it that triggered that particular reaction. Doing that will enable you to figure out whether what just happened is actually coming from something deep within that needs working on, or whether it’s the other person’s thing that needs working on. And either way, it doesn’t matter – I’m defnitely not advocating laying blame. What I’m saying is that when we find what triggers certain reactions within ourselves or understand that it’s coming from the other person, we make ourselves less judgemental both for ourselves and for the other person. It brings us into alignment with the fact that we’re all the same and the only thing that separates us from each other is the path that we have chosen for this lifetime – nothing else.
My wish is for everyone, including myself, to find joy and happiness. To find our purpose and our absolute reason for being here. Enjoy the journey, it’s yours. Own it. Be proud of it!