Do you love really getting to know someone? Do you find yourself drawn to a new friend, eager to hear their story and gleefully discovering common interests, common ground? What stories do you tell your new friend about you?
I was thinking a. lot about Brene Brown sharing with us in Atlas of the Heart that we can all become better at being good stewards of stories. She guides us to become good listeners, to hold space and withhold judgment and to “accompany” others on their journeys rather than attempting to fix, rescue or dismiss.
As I reflected on Brene’s teachings, I wondered just how well we really know ourselves — are we good stewards of our own stories. Just maybe, we need to start there…..
I’m so grateful for my “marble jar” friends because I can go explore this idea of self-discovery and self-awareness with them on a deep and personal level. What fascinates me is that I have known several of these remarkable women for many years. I’ve known them to be big-hearted, resilient, hard-working good human beings. It is only recently that I have come to know the broken parts of their stories – and they are learning mine. My love and respect for them has grown exponentially as we pull back the curtains and take a deeper look at our lives honestly and face the truth about the places where we have room for transformation and growth.
Most of us are in our 60’s and 70’s. Why did it take us so long to do this inner work? How would our lives have been different had we known how our old narratives and lived experiences had impacted the way we showed up in the world? What were we teaching our children by osmosis when we armored up, shut down or shape-shifted to fit in?
As we unpack so much of our personal history, we begin to see more clearly why we get emotionally triggered by certain things. The more we open up to each other, the more common ground we find in behavioral patterns that we used to navigate our life situations. Most importantly, we gain a lot of clarity about how easy it is for all of us to get stuck on the broken shards of our past.
Each of my marble jar friends was independently working on self-improvement — and frankly had been for decades. Our nightstands and desks hold stacks of books from the “self help” section of Barnes and Noble, countless journals and post it notes with inspirational quotes. We all had found authors, inspirational speakers or podcasts that were pushing us along our path. Could it be that we were spending all those decades doing this work secretly, hoping that no one would notice that we felt flawed in some way, that we longed for life to flow a little easier?
I remember years ago sharing parts of my young harried, married life with girlfriends. We all commiserated about the juggling act of parenthood, jobs, marriage, housework and bills but we never really took a deep dive into our emotions. My generation was encouraged to suck it up, put your head down and plow through. We read magazine articles about the top 10 ways to “(fill in the blank)” — get organized, get in shape, get more done, clean your house in 15 minutes. There was often more gossip than genuine support when the wheels came off of life.
The “window dressing” of our lives that became prevalent with social media over the past decade only took us all down this rabbit hole a little further. We slowly were digressing away from revealing any of the messy parts of life and showcasing the highlight reel instead. The more we would compare our lives with others through the lens of social media, the more likely we were to keep the broken parts of our own lives to ourselves. Just maybe we were becoming isolated long before the pandemic struck.
I can almost laugh when I look back six years and realize that it was a pretty bold move for me to launch a blog on personal growth and be so candid about the messy life event that pulled the rug out from under me. This was not at all typical fodder that you’d scroll through on social media. Yet I had a found a little community through Mindfulness Magazine and knew I wasn’t alone. Often in life, when I’d hit rock bottom, I would try my best to be a good example for moving on. Helping others who were in similar situations helped me get through big challenges. Two of those past challenges were breast cancer and the sudden death of my beloved husband. Now my life challenge was getting to know myself on a much deeper level.
It was this blog and an online Brene Brown discussion group that forged a reconnection between me and two friends from my younger life. Today these two women are treasured trust buddies. We know more about each other know than we thought possible and we have each other’s backs — and hearts — through thick and thin. It turns out that we each could feel the “nudging” for self-discovery and personal growth. The realization that we were not alone in this feeling drew us to each other like a powerful magnet.
It may have been the very first time that any of us had done this deep exploratory inner work with a trusted friend. We’d gone to counselors, met with pastors and been to support groups. But to have a “dive buddy”, who was on the same quest — well, that was uncharted territory. The more we explored and unpacked, the more common ground we found. Not surprisingly, we also discovered that many of our behavioral patterns, triggers and vulnerabilities looked and felt exactly the same. We were not only willing, we knew it was necessary, to do this hard work.
Over the course of the past two years, these two treasured friends have introduced me to other women who are also longing for increased self-awareness and personal growth. Our circle of friends has become an invaluable network for transformation and self-development. Together we are discovering passions and purposes for this chapter of our lives. Oddly enough, it is the “work”, the hard work of breaking old patterns and healing old stories that keeps us so energized, engaged and eager.
The big reason for this is that we have bonded in ways that have deepened our friendship connection and swelled our hearts. Where we once felt alone, we have found others just like us — basically good people who have struggled, who wished to do better, who were weary of dragging around a lot of unnecessary emotional baggage. We are becoming good stewards of stories — our own and those of others.
It was friendship that opened the door and it was vulnerability that sat us down and gently persuaded us to share our stories. I give so much credit to Brene Brown’s body of work for providing us with the framework, the language and the courage to share our messy, broken stories. She always provided us with accessible, relatable real life stories of her own as the whiteboard for the rest of us. When we dumped out our stories, we could all begin to see the common ground we shared.
Ian Morgan Cron, enneagram expert and author of two incredible books — The Road Back to You and The Story of You, encourages us each to rewrite our stories — to let go of the old title that no longer serves us in learning, growing and evolving. It is with his wisdom and encouragement that I have begun to realize that all the broken pieces of our collective stories create the most beautiful stained glass window from which to view our lives anew.
I am witnessing the positive impacts that self-discovery and personal development have been having on me and my friends over the past few years. The better we have gotten to know ourselves, the more space we have created in our awareness, hearts and minds for learning from the stories of others. I can feel empathy and compassion growing.
I’ve shared many times in my posts over the years, how I will notice a theme that seems to overarch many of the resources I rely on. Currently that theme is “storytelling”. You may not be aware of how the “story you are telling yourself” is holding you back from being your most authentic self. Any work that you do to better understand yourself and your life story is the best investment of time and energy you can make.
Here’s to a Happy New Year — and to getting to know yourself and others better. If we all became good stewards of our stories, I believe we will make meaningful contributions to humanity.
The Enneagram – check out The Enneagram Institute online for a great introduction to this dynamic self-discovery tool. https://www.enneagraminstitute.com
I highly recommend a very recent episode of the Typology Podcast entitled The Enneagram and Shame. Dr. Curt Thompson, a noted psychiatrist, speaker and author offers deep insights into the way our shame triggers” show up and the neurobiological and physiological impact that they have on us. Brene Brown talks often of shame and how it can isolate us. This podcast offers real life examples of how ineffective behavior patterns we adopt to secure love and belonging often do just the open — pushing others away. This podcast was one of the most insightful explanations on shame I’ve heard. Here’s the YouTube link to this episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CSr1XKANOY