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Published March 20, 2013, 11:34 PM

Positively Beautiful: Whole-hearted living is a goal worth pursuing

A friend introduced me to Brene Brown’s work in early 2011, and I have been mesmerized since. She does research by interviewing people about their lives, focusing on feelings of vulnerability, worthiness, shame and courage.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

A friend introduced me to Brene Brown’s work in early 2011, and I have been mesmerized since. She has her Ph.D. in social work and teaches at the University of Houston in Texas. She does research by interviewing people about their lives, focusing on feelings of vulnerability, worthiness, shame and courage. She shared her work and her personal journey to understand herself during her 2010 TEDxHouston talk, and she struck a chord with audience.

The video of her discoveries resonated with an audience beyond the auditorium walls and made her an Internet star, with over 8 million people watching her speech on the website TED.com, which showcases innovators and thought leaders. She gave an encore presentation last year, and I consider both talks incredibly worthy of your time.

Her books include “The Gifts of Imperfection,” “I Thought It Was Just Me, But It Isn’t,” and her new best-seller “Daring Greatly,” which is my next book club/mastermind selection.

I’ve heard her speak twice in the past year, and she shares her wisdom with great humor and wonderful stories of her clients and her own family. She seems like the best friend we all wish for.

With her new celebrity came anonymous, mean-spirited criticism of her work, her weight and her looks. She admits to feeling very low but was inspired by this quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

This quote inspired the title to “Daring Greatly.” Pearls that I’ve gleaned from her books and speeches include the definition of courage is being brave enough to share all of yourself and your story, that perfectionism is the ultimate fear, and that guilt is feeling bad about something, while shame is feeling that you are a bad person. Joyful people don’t dress rehearse tragedy but practice gratitude for everyday pleasures and challenging moments alike. A rich life means daring to be vulnerable.

She’s developed a concept called whole-hearted living and feels that our greatest weaknesses may also be our greatest strengths. According to Brown, we should work on:

  • Letting go of what people think.

  • Letting go of perfectionism.

  • Letting go of numbing and powerlessness.

  • Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.

  • Letting go of the need for certainty.

  • Letting go of comparison.

  • Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

  • Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.

  • Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to.”

  • Letting go of being cool and “always in control.”

There are many on this list that I need to work on. Ever since childhood, I have defined myself by getting good grades, being very involved and achievement-oriented. While there are positives to this list, it also brings great pressure, fear of failure and loss of some precious moments and everyday pleasures that make life sweet.

What if all that mattered is that we dare to live authentically, to do what feels right for ourselves, sharing our strengths and acknowledging our weaknesses? We are all works in progress. How do you dare live whole-heartedly?

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.

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