I looked into her eyes and said “Fuck You!” in response to her question… She looked right back at me and smiled, “Fuck you!” she said… “That, is why I feel so comfortable in this country” …
Brene Brown has one of the top 5 most-watched TED talks on the internet and has traveled internationally speaking to corporates, creatives, and the general public alike on the subjects of Vulnerability and Shame. She also has a host of books under her belt, 2 new online courses and gosh, who knows how much more out there. Basically, she’s good… really fucking good… and tonight I got one teensy bit closer to my (very recently realised) dream of not only meeting her but discussing with her and sharing with her my work and my art. Tonight that looked a hell of a lot like me saying “fuck you” to her from my front row seat of the State Theatre in Sydney. How it became appropriate for me to shout this at her (not that I am generally known for being particularly appropriate) is slightly irrelevant to the point of this story… though I know you are interested, so I may even tell you later.
I have spent my life, on and off stage, staring directly into the eyes of Vulnerability and Shame. It is impossible not to when you work in the public eye. As I say in SpeakUp, for every pair of eyes looking at you, you turn a thousand of your own onto yourself. So when in my first or second month of running SpeakUp someone linked me to her profound TED talk, “The power of vulnerability” it is no wonder that I was filled with an overwhelming sense that this woman was to become a big part of my work.
In fact, I would say it felt a little bit like discovering I had an older sister I had never known about. You know the story… younger sister is an aspiring artist, older sister, an esteemed scientist, yet somehow they share a deep and profound vision. Discovering her had a two-part wave for me, one part said “YES!! I am being affirmed by science! This woman is incredible!” and the other part said “Fuck, this woman has done a LOT of research and has data. How am I, as a mere “artist”, ever going to get listened to when there are women like this out there already” … It is so easy when faced with scientific research and data to feel like my anecdotal evidence has little or no worth.
However as I sat there tonight, and watched her call me out on all of my shit… like ALL of my shit… (A side note, as a woman who runs, manages, teaches and hosts a lot… it is SO refreshing to be stripped down to my guts and core and be shown where I have not been living up to my own work and passions) … I realised that everything she is saying, I already know. Of course, I do.
How can we not know when we are being inauthentic? Our bodies are LIVING in the authenticity, it is just our reactions and emotions which can convince our mind of otherwise. It’s our egos and fear which protest owning it fully. She is not teaching us, she is, in effect, remind us of what we already know, highlighting what we must un-learn.
In relevance to my work, when someone stands on stage and we can see them shaking, raising their vocal pitch or tensing their whole body and leaning forward slightly in a desperate attempt to feel heard. often, when seeing that, we actually decide not to acknowledge it and instead do what we have been trained to and listen patiently to what they have to say, unquestioning.
However, part of us knows that something in that picture isn’t quite right or in alignment. The truth is, we have been taught this, taught to wear the horse blinkers and pretend we don’t see the signs where their body is saying “I am so afraid right now that you will see how much I doubt what I am saying, how afraid I am of you seeing how small and worthless I really think I am”. We blind it out so much that we actually no longer let ourselves acknowledge it is happening… but SOMEWHERE inside ourselves… part of us doesn’t fully believe that person, trust that person. That is where the body is speaking to us. I spend my life investigating and inquiring into this in reference on how to be more authentic in public speaking.
So what did Brene remind me of tonight?
Sometimes I am the person watching myself straining to feel heard in life. Telling stories as if they were Truth with such desperate conviction that I actually believe them. However… the truth is, If I take a moment to stop and really listen to my body, I can hear it saying “Oh Fleassy… you are better than this. Bigger than this. You don’t need to tell this story because it’s not true, and you know it’s not true…”. In that moment, I can feel the part of my body that doesn’t fully believe my own words… or trust my own words… because what I am saying is not based on deep truth, it is based on reaction, fear and shame.
I have been the woman who doesn’t react from this place, who listens deeply to herself before reacting to loved ones with pain. I have been that woman and she is FUCKING INCREDIBLE. However, I have also been that woman who creates a whole story of anger and aggression and shut down based on my own inner fears of worth. I have spent a lot of time with this woman over the past few years, and it is time to end that relationship.
Bare with me. I will be reactive, I will be angry and aggressive in moments still… but I will endeavour to remember to take a moment and enquire once more… “Is this true?” and listen. Listen deep to my body’s response.
Bare with me.
I am trying.
…Oh and about the “Fuck You” thing. She asked how we would react in a situation she had been in. In a moment of overwhelm she had created a story where she felt shamed (by another and herself). “What would you have said?” she asked … others shouted out things such as “I’d be angry!” or “I’d tell them to go and buy it themselves!” … and I just looked right at her and shouted “FUCK YOU!” … because I know… not only would I react like that in that situation… but I have reacted like that, a lot…Fuck.
Like I said…
Bare with me.
I am trying.