By: Morgan Pirkle
I’ve always been a fairly independent person. I’ve been working since I was about 12- for my mom first, then at 15 started a nearly decade-long affair with the service industry. I loved serving tables because each day was different. I was always meeting new people and bringing home enough cash to cover rent within a single weekend of work. Two hand surgeries and several cortisone steroid shots to the hip later, I was forced to call it quits. My bank account and self-worth plummeted. I found myself sleeping nearly twice my normal amount, mindlessly eating, yet still falling behind in schoolwork. As a full-time student, most of my family and friends encouraged me to “focus on myself,” and “put my health first.” But this newfound time on my hands left me feeling bare. Exposed. I was spending more time with myself than I had in years and I was learning that I wasn’t all too sure I liked who I was.
Watching Brené Brown’s TED Talk On the Power of Vulnerability required confronting these insecurities and acknowledging that I wasn’t alone in having them. Apparently the never-ending soundtrack that I had for so long tried to silence was fairly common. Brené describes the parent-child relationship and its effect on worthiness. As she addresses parents’ search for perfection in their children it reminds me of my own struggles with my parents and familial expectations for young women. Instead of marrying my high school sweetheart and settling down to have kids, I deviated. While my parents have become more accepting of my choices I doubt I’ll ever fully be free of the guilt I feel in disappointing them. However, Brené says rather than searching for perfection, parents should be reminding their children “you are imperfect and you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” It’s the apology I never received; the acceptance I still yearn for.
Brené’s research aims to correct the disparity in self worth. In this TED Talk she describes the research she has been doing for years. Brené evaluates the correlation between feelings of love and belonging and a person’s perception of worthiness. Her data examines interviews of people that consider themselves worthy of love and belonging and those that do not. After years and years of studying people and conducting these interviews, she found one thing that divided these groups: the ability to be vulnerable. Despite our eagerness to numb ourselves- whether that’s exhausting ourselves through overworking, tormenting ourselves with food, dulling our senses with alcohol- our lives are significantly improved when we allow vulnerability. In feeling vulnerable we are able to live more whole-hearted lives, Brené found. Trusting in the ability to be vulnerable is the difference between doubting self worth and celebrating it. Regardless of a whole slew of external factors, the mere belief that you are worthy of love and belonging will create space for it to exist.
I found this TED Talk enlightening, but one viewing surely can’t strip me of the self doubts that have plagued me for a lifetime. I still take on new tasks to bury insecurities of not working hard enough and not being talented enough. I still can eat more pizza in one sitting than most of my friends any given night, convinced that someday I’ll feel satisfied. And I think it’s important to know that it won’t happen overnight. No one individual’s acceptance will prove it; no job or promotion will be enough to convince me. Instead it’s something I’ll work on reminding myself of every day until it’s second nature. In the margins of my notebooks, a post-it on my desk, on the back of a receipt stuffed in my wallet I write and rewrite the words “You are imperfect and you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”