Daring Greatly

First, a quick apology for the oversized pictures in my recent posts. WordPress updated their mobile app, and since then, when I put pictures in from my phone, they grab the highest resolution. I’ll see if there’s a way to keep them a bit more moderately-sized.

Now, about my main focus for this post. The last few weeks, Ian and I have been reading a book called Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. She writes about shame and vulnerability, and although the writing is a little chatty and not as honed as I like, what she says really struck home hard. It’s given me a huge amount to think about, and may even change the way we live. Seriously. I strongly recommend it to… pretty much everybody, actually, because shame is so pervasive while vulnerability is so rare.

The key quote, from which she draws the tile of her book, summarizes her overall thesis succinctly:

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 them 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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in 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 fails while daring greatly…

Also, check out her TED talks, one on vulnerability:

and the other on shame:

There’s enough there that I expect to re-watch these several times before it all really sinks in. The following vignette won’t make as much sense if you haven’t watched the videos, so take a few minutes (18 each, actually) and watch them. I’ll wait.

Done? I mean it, those are worth watching, so if you didn’t, you really should. Anyway, now you have the background, here’s my story.

On Friday I went out to lunch with my boss and co-worker, who happens to be my boss’s mother. We went to a nice fish restaurant, where both of them ordered soup cups and salads. My boss mentioned detoxing from all the junk consumed during the holidays, and I agreed — I’d consumed a lot of junk, too.

But as I read the menu, my first choice of expensive salmon seemed, well, expensive, and second choice of fish and chips seemed plebeian and flauntingly unhealthy, next to their modest selections. I took a long time looking at the menu, debating about whether to also order a salad in order to fit in, even though I wanted something else, or to order what I wanted, appearances be darned. Plus there’s the guilt factor of (a) eating something as egregiously junk food-y as fish and chips after weeks of holiday junk; and (b) going to a nice restaurant and ordering something as ho-hum as fish and chips.

When in doubt, I usually just close my menu and make a spur-of-the-moment choice when the waiter looks my direction. This time I did that, but only after all that internal debate and having also spent the last several weeks thinking and talking about vulnerability and shame.

I ordered the fish and chips — two fillets, thank you — and you know what? I enjoyed it (although I’ll also admit I had to quash some serious feelings of guilt and silence some pretty loud internal shame-clamoring). Benji and Ian, who got my leftovers, also enjoyed it. If my boss and her mom judged me for choosing the plebeian and unhealthy option, they kept it to themselves. It wasn’t easy; food choices are never easy for me, and this one was particularly hard. But I’m glad that I refused to let my internal shame voice (I think of it as my “anorexia brain“) rule my decision. I hope that some day in the future, I won’t care what other people think about what I order. Until then, I’m going keep trying to deliberately choose vulnerability over shame… and maybe even the less-healthy but more enjoyable menu option, too.

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