When I first began my self-discovery journey about six years ago, I had no idea what incredible gifts I would find along the way. At the onset, I was cobbling together teachings from notable mindfulness gurus like Pema Chodrun, Deepak Chopra and Thich Nhat Hahn. I relied on Mindfulness Magazine and SoundsTrue.org to help me find teachers and tools that would guide me. I contributed at least a dozen of the 60 million views to Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability.
I felt a lot like Alice in Wonderland when the Chesire Cat offered his wisdom. I had no idea where I was going on this personal growth journey, I just knew in the deepest part of me that something had to change. I had a few breadcrumb clues to work with (patterns that I was discovering as I reflected on my 60+ years), and a 1,000 piece puzzle of both good and not so good pieces of my life. I knew I wanted to heal from heartbreak, to gain some traction in becoming a better version of myself, and above all to live a peaceful, meaningful rest of my life.
Little did I know that I was part of something bigger than I could have ever imagined — a growing community of like-minded people who were hungering for change and who were willing to look at themselves as the starting point for that desired positive change. It became evident that “inner work” was an emerging new path for self-help, enlightenment and personal growth. What fascinated me was how neuroscience was weaving its way into relevant conversations about evolving into our best selves. It is not only possible, it is incredibly beneficial, to rewire our brains for an enriched quality of life.
Last year, I wrote a blog post about how this entire field of inner work and personal growth has grown exponentially over the past five years — and how collectively so many different disciplines, resources and tools are merging to create a solid framework for anyone who wants to proactively address their mental well being and quality of life. Best of all, it is so mainstream now that the stigma associated with counseling, therapy and mental health is loosening its grip. We can almost hear and feel the collective sigh of relief and release. We are long overdue in getting to know our true, authentic selves.
I don’t offer that last sentence lightly. The real transformational change that humanity needs begins by truly knowing ourselves. Brene Brown has been shedding light for years on all the ways that we armor up to hide and protect our vulnerabilities. Yet it is our vulnerabilities that forge our strongest connections and are the birthplace of innovation, change and creativity — the very things that get us unstuck from old patterns and behaviors that just are no longer working.
We think that words like “love, trust and vulnerability” are gauzy and mushy — that they lack the strength, endurance and conviction to bring about meaningful change and deep connection. Well, prepare to be amazed — these words convey an enduring personal empowerment and an undeniable shift to growing self-awareness, perspective-taking and cultivating empathy. When we invest the time and work in truly getting to know ourselves, we shed the heavy armor that gets in our way and weighs us down. We live more at ease, comfortable in our own skin and stories. We have room to grow in the expansiveness we’ve created by purging what is no longer needed.
I remember very early on in my personal growth journey the words of Pema Chodrun. She said that once we know ourselves, we will in turn get to know others better too. This is a compelling message that Brene offers to us in her newest book Atlas of the Heart. Brene encourages us to do our inner work so that we can show up in life with “grounded confidence” in ourselves. It is from that deeply rooted place of self-trust that we can in turn engage with others with empathy, awareness and courage.
Just imagine “showing up” in your relationships with skills and tools that foster compassion, respect, non-judgment, safety and trust — instead of old armor that often leads to shaming, blaming, dismissing or avoiding.
Today, If anyone were to ask the Chesire Cat the best path to self-discovery, I am fairly certain that he would mindfully hand them this most incredible book — The Atlas of the Heart – Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. As Brene shares “I want this book to be an atlas for all of us, because I believe that, with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.”
I just finished reading this book a few days ago. It had a profound impact on me. I have been on my committed practice of self discovery and personal growth for six years and what I discovered about myself while reading Brene’s work, was both healing and revealing.
“The lack of self-awareness in folks is not overcomeable without language and the study of emotion. We are not rational, cognitive Vulcans — we are emotional beings. People are trying so desperately to become more self-aware without the lexicon and language to do it. It feels (this book) like something completely different than I have ever done and also the culmination of all my work.” — Brene Brown during her Unlocking Us podcast, Part 3 of A Sisters BookClub on Atlas of the Heart.
Normally at the end of my blog posts, I share my recommended resources with all of you. Today, the only recommended resource I’ll share is this beautiful, hearty, impactful, colorful, inspirational, incredible book. The bonus I’ll throw in is simply to listen to the 3 part Sister series on Unlocking Us where Brene and her twin sisters, Ashley and Barrett, have a book club discussion about Atlas of the Heart. You can listen to Unlocking Us for free on Spotify. You can also find show notes and links to every episode at https://brenebrown.com