Today I learned a very important lesson while watching a talk between Oprah Winfrey and Brene Brown. That lesson is this:
People have to earn the right to know my story. It is an honour to bear witness to my vulnerability.
For the longest time I viewed my story as a burden that I needed to protect people from. I held onto my story as a secret that needed to be kept under lock and key. I thought that it would be unfair to share the burden of my story with someone; I thought that my story was something to be ashamed of. But while listening to the words of Brene Brown today I realized how very far from the truth my beliefs have been.
Today I realized that people need to earn the right to know my story. If I choose to share my story with someone it is not a burden, it is a gift. My decision to be vulnerable with someone is proof that I trust that individual to support me and show compassion for the challenges that I have overcome.
I have a new-found appreciation for my story and the reality of my struggles. Brene Brown is famously quoted as saying “loving ourselves through the process of owning out story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do”. This statement reinforces the lesson that I learned from the discussion between Oprah Winfrey and Brene Brown. Owning my story is an act of self-love and being true to myself by acknowledging all of the obstacles that I have overcome. In the past I have felt so much shame about the trauma that I experienced as a little girl and I have tried so many times to forget the past and distance myself from the reality of my past. However, the only thing I accomplished by avoiding the past was reinforcing the shame that I was attempting to run away from. In trying to distance myself from shame I was actually allowing the shame to grow deeper roots in my mind. But through the process of facing my story head on in therapy I have learned how to accept the past and move on from it. Owning my story has given me more freedom from the past than avoidance ever did. Which leads me to the second lesson that I want to share with you:
Avoidance is not a means of moving on. Shame is like a weed. No matter how many times you cut it down, it will grow back and spread it’s roots to other parts of your life. If you really want to free yourself from shame you must fast it head on and pull it out from it’s roots.
I tend to be a bit of a nerd at heart; I enjoy watching TEDtalks and reading for the sake of learning new things. When it comes to learning about trauma, part of my motivation is driven by the desire to help others and part of it is driven by my need to help myself. Learning from the wisdom of social workers like Brene Brown allows me to catch a glimpse into my future as a social worker, but it also gives me a chance to reflect on my own experiences and face my own demons. Even if you are not someone who enjoys TEDtalks or talk shows, I would encourage you to watch the video above. The messages are profound and potentially life-changing.
I hope this post helps someone in the same way that the video helped me.