Question of my working life
25 years in and probably 25 years to go I am still not sure what the title of my working life should be. Do you know? Do we need a title to answer the introductory question so often used to put us in one box or another…”so what do you do?..” Or is there a better question…”…who are you?…”
Is defining who we are important?
The longer the journey I take in life, the more answers come my way, the greater the number of questions which seem to muse me…yet the question of who I am has lingered for a lifetime. As one of my academic hero’s, Brene Brown, says “…our only choice is one of engagement…” which raises the thought that perhaps defining who we are is less important than engaging…with ourselves. Working with managers, leaders and career changers for the last five years I have witnessed the love, care and engagement we have with each other…especially when we see exceptional performance combined with outstanding staff satisfaction. Yet, the question so often raised in personal conversations is one of identity and confusion about who we actually are.
Connecting with ourselves
If we are “hard wired for connection” (Brown 2012) why is it so hard to connect with ourselves? Or is I just me? Perhaps it is hard to connect with our truest selves without also triggering thoughts, feelings and a sense of our vulnerabilities? Brown invites us to consider that vulnerability exists in both the “victory and defeat”; the challenge is to understand the “necessity of both”. So do I avoid connecting with myself wholeheartedly because it will bring my vulnerabilities to the surface? I would have to answer Yes. Why? To uncover why we disturb something deep inside which we don’t often talk about. We need to “consider Shame” (Brown 2006). In 2003 Scheiff described shame as the “master emotion of everyday life”. If we take a dose of courage and hold someone’s hand and take a dive in to shame we see the roots of vulnerability. Our triggers for shame drive vulnerability; when we are vulnerable our tendency is to shut down and narrow modes of thinking towards fight, flight or, as in my own experience, freeze. Feeling vulnerable can cause psychological paralysis; we avoid dealing, speaking or sharing our vulnerabilities and build layers of coping mechanisms on top. So what happens when you peel back the layers? What mechanisms can we employ to connect with ourselves at our fullest, at our best and at our most vulnerable? The science tells us that when we act with “Courage”, “Connect with others” and show “Compassion” (Brown 2012) towards ourselves we can explore the complete picture which makes us, us.
Uncovering and accepting ourselves for who we are is perhaps the adventure of a lifetime and one which deserves intimate sensitivity and the companionship of the perspective of the observer. Of course the observer is us and we can develop the skills necessary to observe ourselves non-judgementally in the practice of mindfulness. So the journey, according to my internal sat-nav, says the journey to understanding ourselves lies in the skills of mindfulness and the strengths of Courage, Compassion and Connection…and is the adventure of a lifetime. Go explore.
Your fellow traveller.
Brown, B (2006). Shame Resilience Theory: A grounded theory on women and shame. Families in society: The journal of contemporary social sciences P43-52
Brown, B (2012). Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love parent and lead. Portfolio Penguin
Scheiff, T. (2003). Shame in self and society. Symbolic interactions, 26, Pg 239-262. In Brown, B (2006). Shame Resilience Theory: A grounded theory on women and shame. Families in society: The journal of contemporary social sciences P43-52