Be Kind to Yourself
By Sarah Schwartz // February 2, 2016
In Chapter 9, Composting Failure, Brené talks about regret in the context of failures of courage, “whether it is the courage to be kinder, to show up, to say how we feel, to set boundaries, to be good to ourselves.” I have experienced failures in these areas, and while I have evidence for how I am improving, when I do fail, it’s always to allow perfectionism to take hold and drive my actions. Brené’s work on perfectionism was written for me, and I am sure many others are drawn to her work for that reason.
When I experience failures of courage, it’s often when I have failed to be kinder to myself. Because I pride myself that I am very strong, have a lot of grit, and can withstand a lot of work and demands, I don’t make room for compassion and kindness for self when it’s too much. The irony is that I have convinced myself that I have this compassion for others, but through reading Brené’s work, I now know that if I am judging myself, I am also judging others for the same things.
I also experience failures of courage related to boundaries. Again, an area of improvement for me in the last 7 years, but I still allow my desire for perfectionism, and to be all things to all people to creep in, and soon my boundaries are gone. My customer needs something, “I’ll work later.” My peer needs something, “I’ll train them.” It’s someone’s birthday, “I’ll pick up the cake.” Someone needs a sub, “I’ll rearrange my schedule to be there.” There are a lot of times when I do set boundaries, and I focus my attention on those times at the expense of ignoring the many times that I don’t.
In Chapter 10, You Got To Dance with Them That Brung You, Brené’s story about Pamela and her reckoning with shame about not being smart enough, and about being found out as an imposter who’d been exposed spoke to me. When I moved to Utah, I decided to go to grad school and get a master’s degree in Information Systems. It opened doors for me, and ultimately led to my great job, with my fabulous company. But I’ve always felt like an imposter. I think people assume a certain level of knowledge and know-how from a technical perspective of someone with that degree. Honestly I have none of that. My friend Andrew who sits next to me is my personal IT support, really for the most basic things. I learned Data Conversion (my current role) based on the kindness and grace of my wonderful co-workers. But anytime I was asked a question I didn’t know, or put in a situation where I felt exposed in front of my fellow co-workers on project teams or in front of customers, the shame was real, palpable. All I could hear was “Doesn’t she have a master’s degree? Doesn’t she know how to do this?” Over time, more is learned and situations are handled more easily, but the shame of being exposed and being found out are real. This is an area of vulnerability work for me. And I am learning to combine my new knowledge at work with my other strong skills that are innate to me, that are also useful and valuable. And this brings me full circle – Do I have the courage to be kind to myself through all of this?!