“I Am a Badass!” Practicing Emotional Resilience

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Badass“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.” Brene Brown

I write a lot about managing emotions, but it’s not because I am an expert. One reason that I do it is to improve my own skills. Recently, I had an opportunity to use my own emotional resilience, as Brene Brown describes in her new book, Rising Strong.

I made a decision in one of my groups which angered some of the members. Even though I am convinced that my decision was the right one, I failed in how I communicated it to, and processed it with, the group. Dealing with the fallout triggered an overwhelming sense of emotional turmoil. Brown’s Rising Strong process provided me a map though my difficulty and the hope that I would recover, and eventually feel better and stronger.

The Rising Strong practice has 3 stages:

  1. The Reckoning

To reckon means to account for where we are and has two steps:

a. Engaging and acknowledging our feelings.

b. Becoming curious about our experience: “What emotions am I experiencing, and how are they connected to my thoughts and behaviors”?

  1. The Rumble

Brown says, “The reckoning is how we walk into our story; the rumble is where we own it. The goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge, and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness.”

  1. The Revolution

Unlike incremental change, ”Revolutionary change fundamentally transforms our thoughts and beliefs. Rumbling with our story and owning our truth in order to write a new, more courageous ending transforms who we are and how we engage with the world. Men and women who rise strong integrate the key learnings that emerge from the rising strong process into how they live, love, lead, parent, and participate as citizens. This has tremendous ramifications not only for their own lives, but also for their families, organizations, and communities.”

“Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people— including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive.”

The End Result is Wholehearted Living

Brown describes wholehearted living, as:

“…engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

My Storyshutterstock_386649091

My own reckoning started with recognizing, acknowledging, and giving myself permission to feel my negative emotions. Brown says that many people gloss over, deny, or bypass their emotions. I know that I am not glossing over, because my shame and deep hurt consume me.

Once that I acknowledged and accepted my shame and hurt, it was time for the second step of my reckoning. I “walked into my story” and became curious about what was happening and saw how my emotions were connected to my thoughts and behaviors. Once I said, “I’m having an emotional reaction to what’s happened, and I want to understand the cause” the reckoning step was complete. Then I was ready for “The Rumble”.

Writing down my story, I started to see my “conspiracies and confabulations”. Brown says that, “The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness.” My own favorite story line destroys my sense of worthiness:

“I must be really bad to deserve this. I should know better than declaring what I really want and need. It always backfires. I am deeply hurt that others are not recognizing my needs and emotions, AGAIN!” No one ever stands up for me!

And, I am always preaching mindful fulness to my members to deal with their own intense emotions, so when I realize that I’m not practicing it myself, I feel ashamed.

Self-acceptance, self-compassion, and curiosity help me to answer three important questions “…that cultivate wholeheartedness and bring deeper courage, compassion, and connection to our lives”:

  1. What more do I need to learn and understand about my situation? My high, sometimes unrealistic, expectations set me up to fail, and I masterfully create ways to chastise myself for not meeting them. In addition, waiting too long to make my decisions made the situation worse.
  1. What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story? Several members of my group didn’t know the history behind the situation. In addition, my experience and training allow me to see things that untrained eyes don’t. Given that, I now understand that their reactions were to be expected. They were scared, hurt, and rumbling with their own stories.
  1. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself? My personal history makes me more sensitive to situations where I feel attacked. I desperately wanted other members of the group to protect me, so that I didn’t have to protect myself. When it didn’t happen the way that I wanted, I judged them for not fully understanding me, even though I didn’t fully communicate what I was feeling or needing.

This rumble taught me that there is no shame in drawing boundaries. Being vulnerable and transparent, especially during difficult situations, signifies strength and promotes compassion. And, that is how I want to live my life, even when it gives others more information to question and misunderstand. Pema Chodron summarizes my choice in her book, The Places That Scare You:

“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

I hope that someday, I welcome tumultuous experiences like a warrior-bodhisattva; someone who courageously confronts suffering. Even though I didn’t welcome my difficult situation, I was able to learn from it. When my next challenging situation presents itself, my story will be different. I will remember that I am not unworthy, and I will be kinder to myself. Making a mistake is different than BEING a mistake!

By publicly sharing my story and embracing wholehearted living, I am (at least for today!) an official badass.  What about you? Next time you encounter difficulty, will you be a badass?

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