I used to hear my mother say things like “own it” or “own up to it” when one of us would make a mistake or bad choice growing up. I say that to my 18 yr old stepdaughters from time to time now. My purpose is saying “you want to be an adult and be given the respect and responsibility you think you deserve at your age, you’ll gain the most respect by acknowledging your mistake, saying ‘I F*ed up’ or ‘this happened to me’, figuring out what you’ve learned from it, and move on.”
I’ve always known this is the much better response than ignoring it or pretending it didn’t happen, but let’s be honest, it’s far harder to say “I messed up” or “I suffered this awful thing” aloud than it is to just kick some dirt over it and hope it doesn’t come back to haunt you. Therefore, maybe I haven’t always been fantastic about practicing what I preach.
But the term “own it” is growing in meaning to me and it’s more than just taking responsibility for something, it’s really turned into the ownership and control of it. Listening to Daring Greatly in the car, I almost pulled over and wrote down Brené Brown’s words when she spoke of “owning your story”:
To me, this runs the gamut of everyday mistakes all the way to horrible tragedies or victimizing events.
I feel like I’m at a new turn in my journey right now. A new job, a new commitment to my body, health and mind (from a different and healthier perspective than I’ve ever taken before – I will be posting about this soon), shifts in relationship/parenting communication (for the better), adjustments in financial thinking to accommodate how we will get through a move in the next year or two, etc. It seems like there are so many things swirling in my head that are starting to come together in bigger, more manageable pieces. And these have all had me thinking a lot about my own personality traits, anxiety, concerns, and lessons I’m teaching my kids as they watch me respond to the world around me.
I realize that I’ve spent a lot of time in my life worrying about things like:
“what if they think I’m a bad mom?”
“what if people laugh at me?”
“what if this person changes their attitude when he/she discovers I’m gay”
“what if people know about this or that awful thing/mistake/etc.”
“what if people at the gym scoff at me because I’m the fattest one here and I’m doing it all wrong?”
“what if I say something stupid?”
“what if they think I’m stupid?”
“OMG I just said something stupid!”
“was that a compliment I just received, or a dig?”
“that was a stupid mistake, you are an idiot, you should be embarrassed to show your face again!”
“what if I blog about how much I’ve learned from Brené Brown but I butcher my message or totally mess it up?”
Or my two (2) favorites:
“what if someone finds out my thought(s) or secret(s)?”
“what if I fail?!?!”
I thought these thoughts meant that I had to work on my self-confidence. I maybe listened to an audiobook or two on self-confidence and it was hard for me to connect. Then, I started reading/listening to Brené Brown. The word that came flying out of the pages/speakers was: SHAME.
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. – Brené Brown
I realize that it’s so easy for me (any maybe many of us) to allow that little devil called SHAME into our wonderful brains. And while I have many friends who can say “I don’t care what people think” – it’s not that easy or simple for me because I still feel that no matter how wholehearted or mindful you are living your life, you still care a little about what people think. You still want to have connection with people. But, I think the real question is whether or not you are letting it DEFINE you.
[Full disclosure: while listening to several Brené Brown books in the car, I’ve also been taking 2 different mindfulness classes at work in the past several weeks. I feel like both are hand-in-hand for me right now.]
I’m tired of worrying about these little things when I should be living – and I don’t want my boys to grow up constantly fighting these questions/shame gremlins either. I believe that when we make visible mistakes or colossal failures or suffer serious setbacks or tragic events, I think we need to recognize that accepting and acknowledging that it happened, opening ourselves up to the lesson involved and moving on is much better for our own (and our family’s) health, sanity and happiness than burying it deep in a place that will cause us to live our lives in constant fear of discovery by someone.
The thing that is coming (slowly) full circle for me is that, by owning our own stories, we can chase that little gremlin of shame away from time to time. This is how I’m choosing to live my life going forward. And I think that living authentically and wholeheartedly will be enough to help me be the best parent I can be.