I'm reading Jenny Lawson's newest book, Furiously Happy. I'm only 50 pages in, but you guys--it's so good. It's funny and insightful while simultaneously giving a different perspective to mental illness. (Word of caution: It is wildly inappropriate and has lots of strong language, so if you're sensitive to that kind of thing, I wouldn't recommend this book.)
Last month I finished Dr. Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly. It was a transformative read for me and made me think of vulnerability not as a weakness but as a necessary strength. I've always sort of chided myself for being too vulnerable because sometimes it seems like the people around me simply shrink away at my displays of vulnerability.
I feel like these books work hand in hand. Lawson is dripping with vulnerability (if that can even be a thing) throughout Furiously Happy, and it's endearing and makes me come face to face with times when I've shied away from vulnerability. (Side note: Brown presents fantastic research on when and why we should be vulnerable; she cautions against blind vulnerability.)
Here's the thing: It'd be easy to mistake me as someone who has her shit together. I tend to go for the things that I want without holding back, but on the inside I am a HOT. MESS. You know when you make a batch of cookies and take them out of the oven before they are really done so when you pick them up they kind of melt all over the place? That's internal me 76% of the time. I am emotionally impacted by nearly everything I see. I have a deep fear of judgement from others. Each time I hit publish or submit on a piece of writing, anxiety pulses through me until I receive a confirmation that it was either accepted or denied either by my blog readers or by an editor. And if the feedback is negative, it takes me a few
days weeks to bounce back and feel brave again. Each week at therapy with my kids, I fear the therapist will call me a horrible mother because I yelled at them or haven't taken them to the pool yet this summer. Beneath my Honey Badger exterior is a junior high girl begging to be liked and told she's funny and smart and cute. I am a HOT. MESS.
And I bet you are a HOT. MESS. too...just like Jenny Lawson...just like me. Maybe you appear to have it all together. Maybe you've got the best clothes and flawless make up and a perfect house and cute kids. Maybe nobody even knows that inside you're a melting cookie taken from the oven too soon. (Note: The Avett Brothers, my favorite, have a new album coming out later this month with a song on it called "True Sadness." One of the lines in the song is: "I hate to say it, but the way it seems is that no one is fine. Take the time to peel a few layers and you will find true sadness..." If The Avett Brothers sing it, this concept of everyone being a mess MUST be true.)
I've written a handful of pieces that would "expose" me, pieces that required me to knock down some serious walls. And you know what? The connections I've been able to make with others has been worth any negative feedback I encountered. I've received PMs on Facebook from foster-adoptive mommas who are in the thick of helping their kids work through tough places, emails from fellow trauma mommas who share encouraging success stories about their now grown children, exchanged texts/emails/conversations about folks who struggle with anxiety--folks who are my friends, folks who I never knew struggled like I struggle. These connections in the last six months have reminded me of the power of vulnerability to connect people. I don't think we should run away from our vulnerabilities any more. Likewise, I don't think we should spew our weaknesses all over the world throwing them out like confetti at a high school graduation party. But we should find at least one person with whom we can be vulnerable.
And those internal battles of inferiority or not feeling like you are enough--let's try and let go of those. I've gone through nearly 6 months of therapy, and I still haven't received any sort of good advice about how to let go of my self-doubt at being a mom and writer and wife. But today as I read through Lawson's book, I came across some useful advice: "'Pretend you're good at it'" (48*). When we can name what it is we're not good at, then we can fake our way through whatever it is that scares us. Faking it will provide an air of confidence (even if it is fake) that will carry us through the task. Then we can keep working on the thing that we're pretending we're good at to try and actually get better.
What could you be vulnerable about this week? Who could you connect with or open up to? And what task do you need to fake it through this week or this month? We are all a HOT. MESS. in some aspect of our lives.
I realize this piece is sorta heavy...so here's a picture of a cute dog:
*Writer, Neil Gaiman, sent a text to Lawson with this advice when she struggled while recording her first audio book. Just wanted to give credit where credit is due.