Those of you who have followed my blog know that I am a closet geek – well, truth be told, I’m not sure how much longer I can lay claim to the ‘closet’ part of that label. And, to some degree, that is the purpose of this blog.
I’ve just started reading Brené Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think’ to ‘I Am Enough’.” For those who may not be familiar with Brené Brown, she is a shame researcher. As a PhD candidate, I am captivated not only by her research but her ability to effectively convey her research to a broad audience.
In the Introduction (did I mention I’ve just started reading the book?), Brené describes ordinary courage as speaking from our hearts. She goes on to say that “I think the idea of ordinary courage speaks to the importance of telling our stories. It is especially difficult to practice ordinary courage in today’s culture of shame – a culture of fear, blame and disconnect.” She suggests that the contradiction to these are courage, compassion and connection. And, while I am excited to continue reading, I felt compelled to share my initial thoughts with you, particularly where these thoughts converge with my own research.
I noted above that I am a PhD candidate. My area of interest is in understanding how teachers can help students (I use both terms very broadly) to see themselves and their relationships more clearly and inclusively. So, as I read Brené’s examples of shame stories, I connected them to my own story that I am not smart. The rigors of a PhD program will gladly reinforce that message for you. As a result, I spent the first two years of the program with a chip on my shoulder, working super hard to prove that I deserved to be there; and the second two years, reinforcing the rhetoric that I didn’t. This may seem oddly reversed to some. Wouldn’t I have those fears at the outset and then gain courage over time? In actuality, what posed as courage in the beginning was thinly veiled fear – many of you may recognize it as imposter syndrome. And so, now that I have passed my comprehensive exams, I have to make my scholarly contribution. There is no place for the fear to hide.
Instead of continuing to give life to – and feed and nurture – this fear, I chose to take a step back and hold it gently in the daylight, to see it for what it is. And what I see is that little girl who was told all those years ago that girls aren’t smart. But, I am not that little girl anymore, and I have a bit of proof behind me that would support the fact that I am curious and persistent – my definition of smart. You see, it isn’t about someone else’s definition, it is about the stories I tell myself about myself.
My research is about offering insights to those who want to help awaken the potential of the individuals they work with. And, as is typically the case with PhD students, my work touches close to home. So, I’ll leave you with this query, what are the stories you tell yourself about yourself that are not helpful? Pick one and examine it carefully, you may be amazed at how you see it, and yourself, differently.