Tag Archives: vulnerability

Being the Adult I Want my Children to Become

“Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be?” ~ Brené Brown from her book Daring Greatly.

Are we being honest here?

Because if we’re being honest, then – no, no I’m not.

I could hit the publish button right now and call this a post, but I’ve got a couple of things to add here.

From Daring Greatly – “…we should strive to raise children who:

  • Engage with the world from a place of worthiness
  • Embrace their vulnerabilities and imperfections
  • Feel a deep sense of love and compassion for themselves and others
  • Value hard work, perseverance, and respect
  • Carry a sense of authenticity and belonging with them, rather than searching for it in external places
  • Have the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and creative
  • Don’t fear feeling ashamed or unlovable if they are different or if they are struggling
  • Move through our rapidly changing world with courage and a resilient spirit

Now read every one of these things as a directive for yourself, like this:  Embrace your vulnerabilities and imperfections.  Feel a deep sense of love and compassion for yourself and others.  Carry a sense of authenticity and belonging with you, rather than searching for it in external places.  Don’t fear feeling ashamed or unlovable if you are different or if you are struggling.

I am becoming increasingly aware of how often my critical responses to my children are often reflections of my deepest insecurities. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I’ve made.  I think I can control their future by making sure they understand just how serious all of this is.  I admonish my son for forgetting to feed the cat, while remembering the time my parents left me in charge when I was fifteen, two years older than my son is now, and how I forgot to feed the horses and had nightmares for years afterward.  I try to remember to phrase my sentences as – You forgot to feed the cat, what might help you remember?  Instead of my knee jerk response of “Did you forget to feed the cat again?  Why can’t you ever remember to do that?”  Because, wow, there’s a world of difference between the two…  and yes, I’ve said both.  The first is when I’m being the adult I want my children to grow up to be and the second is the adult I hope beyond measure they never become.

I worry about what a neighbor is thinking when he asks how we are and my daughter responds with, “Yeah, baby Teddy can’t go on the pogo stick.  Baby Teddy might fall and hurt his head.  Baby Teddy will cry and have to go to hospital…” and then describes how the doctors are going to have to put a breathing mask on baby Teddy.  I stand there feeling increasingly uncomfortable, because I care what our friendly neighbor thinks or because I’m afraid of what this might say about me and the things we put her through years ago?  And even as I am writing this, I marvel at how she really was answering his question, far more honestly than I ever would dare.

The truth is my children are closer to the adult I’d like to be, but am not yet.  I figure since my husband is hard at work figuring out the whole anti-aging thing, I’ve got at least as many decades ahead of me as I’ve got behind me to work on this goal.  I’m grateful for that, really.  I’m going to need every year I’ve got left.

“Have the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and creative”

Yup, check.

“Move through our rapidly changing world with courage and a resilient spirit”

Yup, check.   I got this.

Reflections in a puddle

Reflections in a puddle


Shame, Addiction & Autism

“We all have shame.  We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us.  But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us – that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough – and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable.  In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame.” ~ Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

I’ve written about shame before.  A couple of commenters on my last post about shame told me to watch Brené Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability and shame, which I did.  B. Brown also has several books, Daring Greatly, is the one I’m currently reading, where she writes, “A sense of worthiness inspires us to be vulnerable, share openly, and persevere.  Shame keeps us small, resentful, and afraid.”

Shame is something I am intimate with.  I don’t know many addicts who aren’t.  I’ve written about addiction and specifically having an eating disorder ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.  The self-betrayal implicit in addictive behavior exacerbates the pre-existing shame, creating depression and self-loathing.  Attempts to alleviate those feelings with addictive behavior only fuels them.  Shame heaped upon more shame is not a recipe for happiness or success.  Ignoring shame, trying to bury it, and trying harder to not feel it, doesn’t work either.

There have been a number of studies suggesting a link between addictive behavior and autism.  I don’t find this surprising given how feelings of alienation, isolation and fractured self-worth all contribute to wanting to seek refuge and escape. Except the thing we are trying to escape from is often ourselves.  Many of us have internalized our shame, particularly those of us who tend toward perfectionism.  Add to this obsessive tendencies, a desire to be loved, wanting to fit in, believing we are “less than” and addiction can feel like a perfect fit and the only way we can survive in a hostile, unaccepting world.

Oddly, we, as a society, tend to attribute laziness and a lack of will power as the reason people eat too much, drink too much or spend more money than they make.  Similarly, people seem to think autism is a choice or at least the behaviors associated with autism are.  These people apparently believe Autistic people can  “lose” their “autism” if they can just be trained to hide their “problem” behaviors or the things they do that make them obviously Autistic.  Many Autistic people talk about being scolded and punished when they were unable to produce the results expected of them when told they needed to “try harder.”  Trying harder will usually make the person feel more terrible about themselves.

I worry about a culture that is conditioned to believe we must ‘train’ our Autistic children to behave in ways that most cannot, or cannot without a massive cost to their self-esteem.  I worry about “autism treatments” and “therapies” whose underlying message is that our children are not okay.  I worry about what our children are internalizing.  I worry about addiction, depression, suicidal ideation, and how those things get set in motion at a very young age from feeling we are “bad,” not worthy and less than. I worry that because many do not understand autism is a neurological wiring, or do not take into account the experience so many Autistic people are describing, we are raising fearful children, filled with shame for who they are as human beings.  Instead of helping our children flourish, encouraging them to be all they can be, we are trying to make them into something they cannot be.

I love this photo of Emma because it captures her in all her Emma-ness!

Emma - 2002