Having a daughter has made me look at life through a different lense. I am more keenly aware of the example I am setting for her and think about the things that I want to pass on that will shape her life and experiences. After reading Brene Brown’s book about belonging I couldn’t help but think about so many lessons.
I want her to never feel as if she has to comply to be accepted into a group, to change for a partner, to be thin to look beautiful, or to play a role that doesn’t feel natural. I want her and us all, for that matter, to be everything we are meant to be. To embody our wild-hearted authentic selves in this world and to relish each moment of strength and beauty. To find value in our differences and our individual stories and let those shine through vs dimming down our beautiful unique lights.
I believe if I could just find the path to full acceptance and deep self-love for ourselves, then imagine the impact that would have not only on our lives but those around us. As women we are such powerful influencers in our families, networks and communities.
I know its an idealistic ambition to want this for my daughter and for everyone – that sense of belonging to our true selves but more often than not, we don’t and the reading I’ve been doing lately has started to help me understand why…
Why Aren’t We Taking The Space We Deserve?
The truth is this. If you are older than 35 years old right now then it’s likely you were raised in a different way from all of the millennials you know. We, the women of Generation X and The Baby Boomer period are different. Not in our value or in our essential worth – we are simply a different product from a different time.
Back then, depending on your culture and country of birth, women were still brought up with an invisible cage of smallness. We were told that we ‘should be’ big, and we heard about other women who were out there protesting, smashing glass ceilings and generally being the trailblazers of a revolution. But whenever we dared to rise up, we were somehow, quietly and subtly pushed back down. It wasn’t that people didn’t want us to be big – just that it was easier back then if women were compliant with the expectations of others.
And while we may not have been chained to the kitchen stove like some of our mothers were, we were still victims of a more silent form of oppression. A quiet crushing of the spirit. It demanded we look and behave in a certain way.
- That we should not take up too much space or time.
- That we fit in with the other girls at school.
- That we choose careers AND motherhood
- That we know how to entertain and heal and love
- That we could be the father and the mother in a broken family
- That we be self-sufficient yet willing to sacrifice our independence
Breaking Out Of The Cage
Despite all of that conditioning and all of those old beliefs, so many of us have gone on to achieve incredible things, we are pilots who land planes with engines on fire. We save lives. We are prime-ministers while also being mothers and we are blazing the way for the millennials who came after us to be exactly the women they wish to be.
We continue to rise up and succeed but the problem is this: Those old feelings of smallness remain. The feelings of not being accepted are rife in our gender. Those women who dare to be big and funny and real are often shamed for being too loud. Those women who put themselves out there often feel fear about not being accepted for their individuality or beauty. And most of us are still trying to find out where we belong despite all of these talents and skills and the true path that ‘fits’.
This lack of acceptance and our search for belonging is something one of my favourite authors is writing about at the moment. Her name is Brene Brown and she’s come up with an amazing method of casting aside our childlike desires to belong to the world in favour of working to belong to ourselves.
Learning To Stand Strong – Refusing To Move
In her book, Braving The Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Brene talks about a pivotal moment in her career. She was about to appear on the Oprah show. One of the biggest honours any professional speaker could hope for, and out of all the contenders Oprah could have chosen – she picked Brene.
Brene deserved this honour more than anyone and yet she still felt scared of showing up as her true self. For some reason she doubted her years of study and the words of her fans. The night before the interview she remembers feeling so nervous that she wasn’t able to be truly present at a dinner with the show’s producers and her own manager. Brene found herself being polite but detached instead of authentically owning the space that she deserved.
Brene writes with such honesty about that horrible place of self-doubt and shares the moment when she realised she just had to give herself permission to be her goofy, fun loving, vulnerable self. She was back in her hotel and it was getting late when she received a call from her daughter – asking whether or not she had signed a permission slip for school.
That’s when Brene realised that all she had to do was give herself the same permission that she was giving her daughter. The permission to be free and real – to be her authentic self despite her fears. Her courage was rewarded when after the taping of the show Oprah introduced Brene to a longtime idol; Dr Maya Angelou. It was an unplanned chance meeting but from it, Brene was to be affirmed.
Continue to take space, continue to grow but stay unmoved in your intention
Here she writes about the encounter with her hero.
“What do you do when you’ve spent the majority of your life trying to fit in, then Maya Angelou starts singing to you, telling you not to be moved? What do you do? Well, you plant your damn feet is what you do. You bend and stretch and grow – but you commit to not moving from who you are or at least you start trying.”
Giving Ourselves Permission To Be Big
So how does it work? How do we manage our multiple worlds? How do we refuse to be moved from our opinions without fear of being cast out? How do we stop playing small – but still get along and feel accepted? The answer is this: We give ourselves permission to be exactly as we are. We set an intention to stop being small, to stop shrinking and to stop trying to comply. We make a decision to live our truth no matter how messy, loud or complicated it may be.
Reading Brene’s work is a total inspiration so I want to recommend her to you and also pass on some of the tiny but life-changing things that she’s been teaching me and that I in turn, wish to pass onto others. The first of those is the permission slip so let’s all do as Brene does and write ourselves a permission slip today.
Let’s excuse ourselves from shame and expectation. Let’s give ourselves the right to be vulnerable. To dress the way we want to dress, to eat what we like, to say what we believe and to support the causes we want to support.
How To Take Up The Space You Deserve
Giving yourself permission sounds amazing doesn’t it? It sounds powerful and freeing and almost unreal to those of us who have been conditioned to be small. It sounds unrealistic to those who still believe the story that we don’t deserve complete abundance. So I want to share with you Brene’s method for being big, for not moving and for belonging to ourselves and to the world around us. This is how she gives herself permission.
True Belonging Through Braving
“True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into those hard moments.”
Braving The Wilderness
Brene uses a beautiful acronym to encapsulate the steps we can take to stop being small and start giving ourselves permission to be big by stepping into our true authentic power. I love this idea. I love it so much that I wrote my own interpretation of it just for you. It’s one I am planning on framing and mounting on my little girl’s bedroom wall – so from the very beginning of her life she can understand that she belongs first and most importantly to herself.
Identify and then maintain your own boundaries then respect the boundaries of others. If you’re not clear about someone’s boundaries – ask and don’t be afraid to restate your own boundaries whenever someone pushes up against them.
Do what you say you’re going to do. Always. Be a woman of your word. This means you don’t over promise and you are always realistic about your limitations and abilities. Deliver when you say you will.
Take responsibility. The buck stops with you. When you make a mistake own that mistake and then apologise. Don’t blame others, don’t make excuses and don’t take on any blame for what’s not yours either.
Be trustworthy. Respect the privacy of others and keep their private thoughts confidential. Listen and support your fellow women without gossiping. Be a trustworthy friend.
Stay true to yourself and choose courage to cope with the discomfort that comes with telling your truth. Stand up for what you believe in. Be an advocate for yourself.
Don’t judge or beat yourself up for your mistakes and never look at your vulnerability as a weakness. Practice acceptance every time a judgment comes up.
Be generous in your actions and words. Do service whenever you can. Stop to help people without expectation of payment, give others the benefit of the doubt.
A Recipe For Growth
I am lucky enough to be able to have time to dedicate to self growth and continual learning and Brene Brown is just one of the teachers I am grateful for. Running a women’s retreat in Bali means I’m surrounded by simply amazing people. The guests and staff of Escape Haven bring each other such joy and so many moments of realisation. Through sharing their stories and experiences, they teach each other that it’s ok to be your true self, they show each other how to centre yourself with mindful practices like yoga and meditation and they share their true gifts with the world.
I like to say that women who come on a retreat in Bali are giving themselves the gift of true self-love so I hope you too can write yourself a permission slip to belong completely to yourself and to the world around you.
Escape Haven Bali Retreat, supporting women on year making wellness experiences.
We invite you to come and experience for yourself our award winning Bali retreat. If it’s time to fill up your cup and shrug off all the roles that you wear and all the balls you juggle in your busy life, we’d love to pamper you. From transformational yoga and meditation classes, to exhilarating surf lessons in the warm waters of Bali, fun fitness in our tropical gardens to restorative healing and pampering sessions, how much or little you do is all up to you.