What Makes Us Feel Small

What Makes Us Feel Small

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Brené Brown  as part of our Ask the Expert series. Thank you to our Community for your profound questions, and to Brené for her wise guidance.

Some of the questions addressed perfectionism and what to do when someone uses our vulnerability against us.

I see a lot of perfectionism in my work with elite athletes and business people and rely on Brené‘s work in this area.

Her research shows that an important piece of breaking through perfectionism is understanding what makes us feel small and less than. We must reality check these messages and then reach out and tell our story. We must speak our shame.

Caveat: It is important to tell our stories to people who’ve earned the right to hear them.

When you’re feeling small and scared, seek out someone who has earned the right over time to hear your story. Someone who is not invested in your perfectionism. Someone who knows who you are and loves you for your strength and struggle. Someone who has built a relationship with you that can bear the weight of vulnerability.

This likely will be a very short list. You’re lucky if you have a few trusted friends you can share deeply with. If you don’t have this type of friend, it may be helpful to establish a relationship with a trusted coach or counselor. Be careful who you share with or you are setting yourself up to get hurt.

The other side of building this resource of trusted confidantes is being a person that earns the trust of others. Begin by looking within the walls of your home.

Brené said, “The most scarring fighting that happens between two people normally happens between parents and children, or between partners. And it is when we use something that we know about someone’s vulnerability against them. These are instances in our families that create long-term trust issues.”

She shared this heartwrenching example:

* If we have a child that confides in us and says, “I made these really cool bows out of duct tape and I wore it to school today. I was so proud of it and my friend made fun of me. I just wanted to die. It was the worst moment of my life, Mom”.

* We sit with them in that darkness, and we talk about it and we practice sympathy and compassion. And then a month later, we’re frustrated because there’s this outfit that our kid has on to go to church or something is inappropriate. They say, “Well, Mom, come on. I just want to pick up my own outfit. I’m in middle school. It’s time.”

* “Oh, how did the duct tape bow go for you?”

* That almost makes me physically sick to think about. It’s just so damaging. And we’ve all had it done to us. More importantly, we’ve all done it. Especially in times when we’re stressed out, and anxious, and really are desperate to be heard. One way we think I can get someone’s attention is to really bring out something that I know that’s really painful for them.

What can you do to make better choices about sharing your vulnerability with people who’ve earned the right to hear it?

How can you live in a way that earns the right to stand as a trusted resource for someone in need?

These soul searching questions can change the quality and compass of your life.

Questions or comments on perfectionism and shame … or becoming a person who honors other’s vulnerability? I’d love to hear what you’re thinking.

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