Being vulnerable is hard

I recently read Daring Greatly, and it’s central message is so powerful: We all need to learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and actually properly, openly talk about things. Effective and open communication is so important and something I value really highly. I’ve been in my job 6 months and still haven’t had any kind of progress meeting with my boss, who barely gives me any feedback on my work. No wonder I’m so disengaged and spend close to half my time surfing the web (this is definitely not something I’m proud of).

daringgreatlyDare to enter the arena

(Daring greatly, by Brené Brown)

There’s so much great stuff in this book so I’m just going to pick out a few of the many points that really stood out to me. Essentially it’s a study of shame and vulnerability, and well worth a read.

Vulnerability hangovers – oh how I can relate to these! When you have a really honest and open conversation with someone, then sometime later completely regret opening up. “What was I thinking?” “What will they think of me?” “I can’t ever take that back!”

The contradiction – As Brené says, we love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. “Vulnerability is courage in you but inadequacy in me. I’m drawn to your vulnerability but repelled by mine.

Defining shame – Guilt = I did something bad. Humiliation = I didn’t deserve that. Embarrassment = collective emotion that will pass. Shame = I am bad/ I am unworthy. Shame’s the one we have to watch.

Brené’s prayer before anything important:

Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.

I haven’t been very good at vulnerability in the past, but I want to change that. Being vulnerable isn’t easy. It’s really difficult and not at all comfortable. But it’s worth it.

Which would you regret more?

what ifYou regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did. No, really, you do.

It’s taken me a very long time to even begin to accept this.

Let me give you an example. When I was offered a paid internship that I was really unsure about taking, one of the first things I asked myself – and one of the first things many others asked me when discussing my dilemma – was which choice would I regret more?

Having worked, unpaid, for the company, I knew lots of the good things about them, but also lots of things I didn’t like so much. I’m very much drawn to variety and new things; I’m bad at commitment. And my expectations for a first job were too high.

I tried to picture myself in the role, and rightly or wrongly felt that I would regret taking on something which I felt so very little enthusiasm for. I knew the company was looking for someone to stay on after the internship and I didn’t want to take the position fully intending to leave after the three months and to be actively looking for other opportunities while in the role. I thought I would feel guilty. I thought that would be taking advantage. Except that’s what opportunities are there for – taking advantage of.

Yes, looking back my thinking didn’t make much sense. Even now I have to remind myself that companies don’t have feelings. You can start a job and quit in a month. It’s about you, not them. And you know what else, I might have changed my mind. I might even have grown to like it – first impressions can be wrong. But let’s keep this balanced, intuition can also be pretty accurate, it might not have worked out. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

I turned it around in my head and asked myself – would I regret more taking something with so little conviction, or would I regret more not taking a risk to continue to look for something better. Of course this is rubbish – I could have worked and searched.

We regret more the things we don’t do than the things we do, because it’s the not knowing that drives us crazy, not making a mistake. We can deal with mistakes because we can learn lots from them. All we can learn from ‘what ifs’ is next time,  just give it a go.

Sitting in the park

parkbenchThis might well be the longest I’ve gone without writing a blog post since I started – where does the time go?!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of fate. And I’ve come to the conclusion that believing things are just ‘meant to be’ is a really positive way of thinking and living. If you don’t accept things that come your way then you’re just left fighting against them.

I’m not sure that I really believe in destiny or fate, but I do believe in believing that everything will work out in the end. Hope is absolutely everything, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like to lose all hope. You have to believe that something better is around the corner when things aren’t so great, or you’d just stop trying, and to get anything really worthwhile out of life takes effort.

If it’s meant to be, it will be. If it’s not meant to be, it’s because there’s something better out there.

I’m starting to appreciate the fact that my job is actually a pretty good starter job. Life’s not a race and I’m holding on to my dreams and ideals, but right now I feel like maybe things are on track and where they’re ‘meant to be’. I’m finally beginning to let go of the regret I was holding about past opportunities and whether I made the right choices. I did what I thought was right at the time and that’s all that matters. Those things simply weren’t meant to be.

I’ve also done a little reading up on mindfulness – the practice of being fully in the moment here and now. It’s really calming and helps me to feel in control. Essentially (from my limited reading on the subject!) it’s a case of paying attention to each individual sense and appreciating them all without judging. I’ve been noticing the birds singing more than I might usually, and not getting so annoyed at music and chattering on the train. I’m not talking about anything spiritual or religious, just relaxation and acceptance – give it a try!

5 ways to stop worrying about regrets

red_sunset_triple1024

After my last post on the theory of accepting regret and moving on, I thought I’d share some of my own techniques for dealing with regrets and worries:

1. The worry scroll

I can’t remember where I read about this idea but it’s a great one. When you’ve got something on your mind that you keep going over again and again, picture yourself removing the ribbon from an invisible scroll, opening it up and writing your worry down, then rolling it back up, retying the ribbon and throwing it into a corner.

This represents noting the problem down as something to worry about later. You’ll know it’s there and you haven’t forgotten about it, and you can plan a time to get the scroll out and do some serious concentrated worrying! Whenever you find yourself thinking about it just stop and remind yourself that you’re going to go back to it and worry about it later. (I don’t usually get to the going back to worry about it, having it written down ‘for later’ seems to be good enough for me!)

2. Someone is always regretting something worse than you

You only have to listen to the news to realise that your mistake is probably insignificant compared the worries of others. And I’m not just talking poverty, famine and war, there are people in this world living with the regret of awful and/or tragic actions. People locked up in prison for taking the life of someone else, whether intentionally or unintentionally, must be suffering immeasurably, and arguably a lot more than you or I are for choosing one job over another, ending a relationship, messing something up at work or the like. Never forget this.

3. For how long will this matter?

One of my personal favourites. Whenever I’m feeling like an idiot I ask myself: Will this matter tomorrow? (The answer is probably yes, it will still matter to me tomorrow.) Will this matter next week? (Depending on the issue, possibly still yes.) Will this matter in a month? (Quite possibly not.) Will this matter in a year? (With the majority of worries, probably not.) I also try to think back to previous worries and remember how quickly they stopped mattering to me. Mistakes fade as time passes and new events replace the memory of them.

4. What have you learnt?

No matter how stupid you feel or how big an error you think you’ve made, you can always find something to learn from it. Focus on this positive, however small, whether it’s the fact you’ll now better understand others who make similar mistakes or that you’ll never make this same error again yourself. You don’t want this feeling again any time soon, so don’t forget what you can learn to prevent yourself from repeating the same mistake again.

5. You worry and regret because you care

I mentioned this in my previous post on regret, and I’m repeating it again here because it stood out to me. We regret things because we care about our lives and our goals and our dreams. We want to get things right because we care about ourselves, our values, our integrity. If you ever stopped caring about these things, then you’d really have something to worry about!

Life isn’t about living without regrets, it’s about learning to live with them

I recently read a post that referred to American motivational author Louise Hay and her 12 commandments on loving yourself. Now I’m not one for over the top self help, but one ‘commandment’ really stood out to me, it’s something I’ve been told in the past that I really needed to hear and always need to remember:

Forgive Yourself.

Let the past go. You did the best you could at the time with the understanding, awareness, and knowledge that you had. Now you are growing and changing, and you will live life differently.

I just think this is so important and completely paramount to being content with life. People talk about ‘living without regrets’ and ’embracing every opportunity’, but in reality we’re going to make mistakes, miss opportunities and, at least temporarily, regret things. I think the key message here shouldn’t be about living with no regrets, but learning to live with our regrets, accept them and move on.

Regret: A feeling of sadness, repentance or disappointment over something that has happened or been done. You can’t just remove feelings of sadness or disappointment from your life – you can’t truly live with no regrets – but you can choose to move on.

regretpaths

Now I do love a good TED talk, and it hasn’t taken much searching to come across this one, which shares some of my thoughts. I’ve definitely had multiple emotional meltdowns over regrets in the past, and as Kathryn Schulz says, regret is painful.

Kathryn talks about the components of regret, and the one that hits home for me is bewilderment, the ‘what was I thinking?!’, the alienation from the part of us that made that particular decision, and the lack of empathy for that part of ourselves.

She reminds us that, just like her tattoo, some of our own regrets are also not as ugly as we think they are, and she says that if we have goals and dreams, and if we want to do our best, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is not to hate ourselves for having them.