This is a guest post from a DrivenWoman member Manisha Patel. She recently took part in our workshop and captures here what she learned about vulnerability.
It was a Saturday morning and I was up and out early, battling the cold weather and network rail engineering works. I should have been on a city break in Berlin. Why wasn’t I in Berlin having fun? I had made a last minute decision to book on to ‘The Daring Way’ workshop, an all day event held by DrivenWoman at their Soho HQ.
'The Daring Way' is a training programme designed by Dr Brene Brown. Until now, I had never heard of Dr Brown. I decided to look up her TED talk on vulnerability, to my amazement it had been viewed over 18 million times. Her talks were in the top 10 of most viewed TED talks. I was intrigued. Watching Dr Brown, I was immediately drawn in, her Texan straight talking came across as honest and genuine. But it wasn’t all just talk, Dr Brown has spent years conducting qualitative research, she has written three books on her findings and theories.
The workshop was led and facilitated by Roxanne Hobbs. Roxanne is a certified life coach, she shared her own experience of leaving a successful marketing career to do something she loves. Her own ‘Daring Way’ training involved leaving her young family and spending an intensive week in Texas with Dr Brown and her colleagues.
It was going to be a full day, Roxanne advised that we were going to have to dig deep to really get the most out of this day. Her style was very warm and open encouraging a safe and trusting environment.
Vulnerability and Shame
‘Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness’ – Dr Brene Brown
Our group consisted of six women who outwardly appeared successful, strong and confident. Interestingly, all of us in the group had our own experiences of shame. Our internal dialogues that continuously tell us 'we're not good enough’, we’re not smart, thin, popular … enough. Many of us, including myself, listen to this internal dialogue on a daily basis. Dr Brown refers to this as ‘scarcity’ because ‘we’re never enough’.
We shared our experiences of social and cultural conditioning, having to always portray how strong and independent we were.
Vulnerability isn't commonly seen as strong, or courageous in our society, but yet for us to feel a connection, we look for vulnerability in others.
Dr Brown’s research found that successful, happy people were also vulnerable but they knew how to deal with their internal dialogue, not to feel shame but to apply courage by knowing when and with whom to share their vulnerabilities. These people were happy to say they’re not perfect. They had a strong sense of self-worth.
So, how were we going to deal with our shame and vulnerability?
Dr Brown had developed the ‘Arena’ concept based on ‘The Man in the Arena’ speech by Theodore Roosevelt.
In order to set the Arena we had to get creative. Roxanne asked us to draw our ‘Arena’s’ on large flipchart paper. They were to resemble the outline of an ancient amphitheatre.
Where did we want to show up and be seen in 2015? The answer to the question was to be our centre stage. Roxanne guided us towards setting a specific stage. For me, 2015 was going to have to be about my body image and self-confidence. With Roxanne’s guidance I was able to set a more specific stage around health and fitness. Other group members had set their stages based on career, relationship and self-development goals.
Planning who was sitting in your arena was an eye-opening task.
Who was going to sit in the cheap seats? Who criticises you? Who makes you feel you’re not good enough?
For all of us it was clear that we had to sit in the cheap seat along with the other naysayers. We were our own biggest critics!
The Box Seats - Who are the people who built your Arena? In my case, it was the critical ex-boyfriends, PE teachers, extended family, The Media, and Me - all fuelling my shame.
The Arena Door
What keeps us from entering the Arena? What are the messages we say to ourselves to stop us entering? And what steps do we take to ‘armour up’ when we do show up? My armour is my make-up, nice clothes and shoes and taking great interest in others.
The second half of the day was focused on how we overcome the ‘shame’ in order to ‘show up and be seen’. ‘Compassion can be a greater motivator to change than criticism’. Filling our Arena’s with self-compassionate statements felt quite strange, it’s not something most of us ever do.
Why is being nice to yourself so unfamiliar?
Women are generally so kind and empathetic to friends, family and colleagues when they put themselves down but why don’t we apply this to ourselves? We had to learn to counteract the ‘never enough’ with ‘you are enough’, ‘you are beautiful’, ‘you are extraordinary’, ‘you can get that job’, ‘you can meet a great guy’.
The day ended with us learning about how we could live ‘wholeheartedly’. Dr Brown has developed her 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted living. These are focused on concepts such as authenticity, self-compassion, creativity, gratitude and joy.
In pairs, we worked through the guideposts, applied our new knowledge and set ourselves six measurable tasks to commit to, in order for us to ‘show up and be seen’ in 2015.
For one of my tasks, I will be restarting my daily gratitude app and including one self-compassionate statement.
The Daring Way workshop was a thought-provoking, sometimes scary, emotional, but more than anything potentially life changing. Roxanne’s guidance and facilitation was supportive as well as positively challenging.
As much as I would have loved to have gone to Berlin with my friends, I have no regrets about starting 2015 the Daring Way.