Richmond students can learn a thing or two from Brené Brown.
At the beginning of the school semester, I began reading Brené Brown’s latest work titled “Rising Strong: The Reckoning The Rumble The Revolution.” She draws on a decade of research on shame, vulnerability and courage to outline the steps people can take to walk themselves through criticism, fear and failure.
In her new book, she refers to her previous works as a “call to arms,” encouraging people to dare greatly and be vulnerable in order to establish true connection and joy in their lives. With her latest book, Brown meets her audience in the middle of their struggle, in the times of hurt that inevitably come with letting our whole selves be seen.
She writes, “The goal of the rising strong process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.”
Brown defines wholehearted living as “engaging the world from a place of worthiness.” An important step to achieving a wholehearted life is to first understand the emotions that drive the stories we tell ourselves.
Let’s take a look at how stories we tell ourselves can be shame driven, and lead to self-loathing:
Say that you have just failed your first test in college. You rush out of the classroom frustrated at your inability to perform to the standards of your professor and your peers. “How could I be so stupid?” you say to yourself. You don’t tell anyone your exact grade, and no one will ask for it. They too want to hide their mistakes, but no matter how many questions they got wrong, you are convinced you got the lowest grade. You don’t belong in this school; you’re just here because of your skin color. So the admission office could show off the school’s diversity.
Brown writes, “The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness,” because they can lead to fear, shame and disengagement from the community.
Too often are we untruthful about our own self worth. We do not stop and challenge these notions, and instead are left in a dangerous state of mind that becomes a barrier to learning.
Learning is a vulnerable part of our lives. To learn is to lean into the discomfort we feel when facing unknown information. If we allow ourselves to go to the next meeting, interview or internship (as so many Richmond students do) without fully assessing how our emotions are affecting our behaviors, we will not give ourselves a chance to learn from the mistakes we made.
When we fail to show how much we learned on a test, oral presentation or paper, there will always be a need for the strength to rise again. There will always be a need for curiosity of our emotions, to ensure wholeheartedness in our lives.
In an academic learning environment where failure is rather than judged, true learning and creativity can thrive. Students will be encouraged to ask questions to fill the gaps in their knowledge, so that they can become greater participants in the Richmond community.
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