I have a slight obsession with Brene Brown. I love her books, but I prefer to watch her talks on YouTube because her sense of humor, spunk, and wit are second to none. When she talks, it's like my ADHD runs and hides.
While there are many essential topics she translates into digestible information, my most recent favorite was addressing critics. She says that when you go into the arena, you can expect to get dirty. Your clothes get torn. Your knuckles get scraped. You get the wind knocked out of you. You might even break a rib or two. So she decided that when it comes to criticism, she’s only going to listen to it if it comes from other people who are in the arena with her.
So what is the difference between the people in there with you and those sitting in the stands? The people in the arena give advice and suggestions. They offer some sort of guidance that they acquired from their own time spent in the arena. The people in the stands? They commentate, speculate, assume and decide. Very rarely do they ever say, “Hey, how can I get in there with you? What can I do to help?
Among those people in the stands is where you will find your critics, so you need to know how to deal with them. In my opinion, this is where Brene Brown really gets it right. To sum it up, she says that you know your critics are going to be in the stands and you probably know the types of things they are going to say, so you save them a seat right next to your self-doubt. Then you tell them all, "I see you, I hear you, but I'm going to do this anyway."
Everyone wants to be wanted or needed and to feel appreciated and let's face it, needing someone can be scary especially when you know from past experiences how awful and hard it is to recover from losing someone you felt like you needed. Another thing we humans like to have as much of as possible is control. We love to think that we are in control of something and when we feel out of control we tend to try and find a way to create it ourselves.
One way to generate that power we long for is by keeping distance because controlling that decision makes us feel safe and like we have control of our emotions. We must be at least willing to try something new, or we will perpetuate the same disconnected relationships of past. Doing something over and over again expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity, if you want a new result, you have to do something different.
The only thing that I've found helpful when trying to change has been the gratifying experience of learning to recognize when I am holding back or not saying out loud the thoughts are rolling through my brain and in real-time choosing to speak up about it. Sometimes I don't catch myself immediately but as soon as I do I stop myself and verbally acknowledge to myself and my partner what I just realized and sometimes there is a great deal of fulfillment experienced by both of us just because I was able to identify the obstacle almost immediately.
Of course, there is risk involved but what is the alternative if we never let our guard down?
"The vulnerability paradox: It’s the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I want you to see in me." - Brene Brown
When allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we feel more connected, invested, respected, valued, needed and desired. That said, vulnerability is a paradox. You get a break from wasting energy trying to protect yourself. Stop worrying about having every answer. We no longer need to work to impress others; we don't have to worry about saying the right thing, we can just talk.
When we are little, it is easy to be ourselves because we don't know any better. Then we spend time watching other people and listening to them criticize each other and point out differences and somewhere along the way we start to lose ourselves. We push the unique characteristics that make us who we are out so that the accepted version can shine through. It is a carnival game though, meaning that most of us will not win a stuffed animal or even a goldfish. It takes courage to be true to who you are, but the payoff is worth it in the end.
Choose courage, don't be complacent. Being courageous means being afraid and acting anyway. Don't let your fear keep you from acting, do it anyway. The great thing is, courage is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it is and the easier it becomes to enact.
Attend to positive signals and discount negative ones. We tend to pay more attention to disapproval and rejection rather than compliments and acceptance. Learn how to respond to compliments with a simple thank you rather than down playing them. Appreciate what you have to offer the world, and the world will acknowledge you back. Outside the sun is shining and the skies are blue so dare to open the door and take it all in!
Expectations are a funny thing. We want ours to be met but we don't talk about them. We want to meet other people's expectations but we don't have a clear understanding of what meeting them even looks like. Often expectations are unmet because they are unknown and unknown because they are unspoken.
Ask yourself, "are my expectations clear to me? Could I explain them to a first grader? Does my partner understand the why behind them? Did I provide context?"
These are the questions I should know to ask myself when I feel like my expectations are not being met but instead I sometimes prefer to throw a fit like a toddler. I just want to be mad. I want to be crazy and blurt out all the things that have me frustrated so that I can feel better and after I'm done being mad I am ready to go back to pixie dust and unicorns.
That is not acceptable behavior though, and pixie dust and unicorns aren't real. What is real is the residue left behind from being angry and the hurtful words that didn't make you feel better, but you said them anyway.
If you want a different result, you have to try something different. Clear expectations allow you to be yourself. When there are clear expectations, they are either met or unmet, leaving nothing to hide. Remove the confusing gray area and stick with black and white.
The best relationships are transparent and don't come with fine print. Don't expect your partner to fix all your problems, don't expect them to know what you want or need rather tell them, there will be plenty of better-suited situations to be put in the hands of your imagination go ahead and call this one like you see it.