Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, Research professor at the University of Houston, has spent the last 12 years researching what stops many of us from living the fulfilling and happy life we all want. She describes 4 Top Life Lessons to help us achieve a fulfilling life. These 4 lessons challenge many of the strategies we think we need to adopt to get the life we so crave. Being aware of old patterns of belief is, in itself, not enough; We need to do something different and constantly check in with ourselves and track our feelings, behaviour and thoughts because those old patterns can only collapse when we replace them with new beliefs that serve us. We have to do something different to feel different.

Here is a summary of Brené’s Top 4 Life Lessons:-

  1. Fitting In Is Not Belonging – Belonging is not fitting in.  Fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. It is assessing situations and groups of people, then giving up parts of ourselves that we believe will not be acceptable to others. Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are.In her research, Brené has interviewed a lot of people who are what you might call “different” , scientists, geeks, etc. and their commonality is that they all have a tremendous amount of self-acceptance. Most are like a Neurophysicist she met who said that his parents didn’t care that he wasn’t on the football team, and he was awkward and geeky. They accepted him unconditionally. He got his sense of belonging from his parents’ sense of belonging, and even if we don’t get that from Mom and Dad, we have to create it for ourselves as adults.Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don’t have that, we turn into chameleons.
  2. Guilt Is Not Bad for You Guilt is good – Guilt helps us stay on track because it’s about our behaviour. It occurs when we compare something we’ve done—or failed to do—with our personal values. The discomfort that results often motivates real change, amends and self-reflection.We often confuse guilt with shame. Brené explains; “ A clear way to see the difference is to think about this question: If you made a mistake that really hurt someone’s feelings, would you be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake”? If you’re experiencing guilt, the answer is yes: “I made a mistake.”Shame, on the other hand, is “I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” Once we understand this distinction, guilt can even make us feel more positively about ourselves, because it points to the gap between what we did and who we are—and, thankfully, we can change what we do.
  3. Perfectionism Is Not About Striving for Excellence – Perfectionism is not about achievement and growth it is the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance in their grades, manners and appearance. Somewhere along the way, they adopted a debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.Healthy striving, meanwhile, focuses on you. It occurs when you ask yourself, “How can I improve?” Perfectionism keeps the focus on others. It occurs when you ask, “What will they think?” Research, unfortunately, shows that perfectionism hampers success and often leads to depression, anxiety, addiction and missed opportunities, due to fears of putting anything out in the world that could be imperfect or disappoint others.
  4. Vulnerability Is an Act of Courage – There are a few myths about vulnerability. The first is that vulnerability is weakness. The second is that it’s optional.Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s probably the most accurate measure of our individual courage. It’s about stepping up to the plate to do something that causes us to be uncomfortable.Sometimes people say “I don’t do vulnerability.” We all do it, every day, We do it in many different ways with our responses to being uncomfortable; becoming angry, disconnecting, dissociating from them, or perfectionism. The only choice we have is how we handle those feelings of being exposed.Brené says “The key to transforming them into courage instead is learning how recognize them, and make the choice to be there. When you know what you’re feeling and why, you can slow down and make choices that reflect who you are and what you believe”.

The challenge now, is to not only understand what Brené is telling us;  We now have to do the work. We are never totally healed from the wounds of the past therefore those old feelings will pop up. We are creatures of habit and our default is to think, feel and behave in a certain way that we used to protect ourselves growing up. These responses are unconscious; We may understand that these default patterns do not serve us but we keep on doing them.

Daily practice of mindfulness both formally and informally teaches us to be present with ourselves in each moment so that we can become aware of our thoughts and feelings before we react.

Learn how to set specific measurable goals to change your habits so that you can begin to experience the feelings of success. This helps us to have positive feelings about ourselves.

Read more about Life Lessons here

In my next article I will describe how your attitude impacts on making changes in your life.