In this chapter, Brene discusses narcissism. She talks about how many people look at the youth of today and think they’re all a bunch of narcissists. As humans we have a deep desire to label things, and more so people. But we all know how detrimental it can be to label people and place them in a stereotype. And that’s exactly what the concept of narcissism is turning into.
“Labeling the problem in a way that makes it about who people are rather than the choices they’re making lets all of us off the hook.”
By saying people are so narcissistic and think the world just revolves around them, it no longer addresses what is really going on. It takes away the responsibility for our actions. (mind you narcissism is an actual illness that can be diagnosed by a mental health professional through extensive examination)
Brown offers an explanation through what she calls the lens of vulnerability. This lens takes a look at the deeper causes of peoples actions. It is helpful to look at patterns of behavior, but what we sorely lack doing as a culture is looking at the reason for the behavior.
“I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed,to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”
Brown actually refers to narcissism as a stigmatizing label, and I honestly have to agree. Yes, narcissism is a real thing and people can have a diagnosable disease process for narcissism. BUT in today’s culture we’re skipping the process of looking into the root cause of people’s behavior and just labeling them to be a certain way.
“I can see exactly how and why more people are wrestling with how to believe they are enough. I see the cultural message every that says ordinary life is a meaningless life.”
Ordinary life is a meaningless life. That’s a tough message to swallow. But we live in culture where we regularly post the highlight reel of our life on social media. We have a whole new feeding ground for comparison, that at one point did not exist. Teenagers today don’t remember a time before social media. They have lived in a world where everyone has a facebook, twitter, and instagram. These platforms are great for sharing about our lives. I know my grandma keeps up with what is going on in my life through facebook because I can be really bad about calling people. But it is also a feeding ground for comparison. We post something on one of these platforms and wait with anxious anticipation of how many likes we will get on said post, and feel lesser if we don’t get a certain number of likes. Whether it’s comparing life as a whole, or a specific aspect, such as relationships or physical appearance, social media can be beneficial or it can be detrimental.
So why is the extensive comparison platform of social media a problem?
Because of the never ________ enough statements.
I will never be good enough.
I will never be perfect enough
I will never be skinny enough
I will never be pretty enough
I will never happy enough
I will never be successful enough
I will never be certain enough
I will never be safe enough.
We live in a world of never enough.
Brown shares this powerful quote in her book and it’s a quote that is absolutely worth sharing:
“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is I don’t have enough time. Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with the litany of we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack… This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our argument with life.”
I’m guilty of this. If I get up after a night of restless sleep, I wake up and start my day thinking I didn’t get enough sleep. It sets me up for a worse day because I start my day in that negative mindset. Last night, I literally stayed up making grocery lists, planning out my week, and assessing my financial situation so I could start making smarter choices to help with cost of traveling to see my boyfriend. I did that because I knew if I didn’t I would stay up all night feeling anxious about that. But if I can give myself the illusion of a plan I’ll sleep better. If I can have a plan for the stuff I didn’t accomplish today, I’ll sleep better because I think there’s a way I’ll make it happen the next day. Because if I have a plan then I’m less inadequate for not accomplishing what I set out to do that day.
So we’ve addressed the problem of scarcity, the never enough culture we live in, but what is the opposite of scarcity, and how do we get to the point of daring greatly, and living a vulnerable life?
Brown defines the opposite of scarcity as enough. And enough means living a wholehearted life. Wholeheartedness is a combination of vulnerability and worthiness. It’s facing the uncertainties of life, the questions, the things we don’t get done and saying “I’m enough any way”. Wholehearted living is taking away the never enough statements.
I love this concept. I love the concept of whole hearted living. I want to tell people when I’m not okay. I want to be able to say I’m sorry I didn’t text you back yesterday, I was feeling really overwhelmed by life and really anxious. Or I’m sorry I have to cancel plans on you but I have early signs of a migraine and if I don’t get rest I’ll get a full blown migraine. I want to be able to look over my day and say, my worth is not any less because I didn’t get my blog post written by noon. I want to be able to let go of my need for control. I like planning. I like meal prep. But if it doesn’t get done, I don’t want to feel anxious over it. Because my worth does not lie in what I accomplish in a given day. I am not any more or any less of a person based on what I accomplish.
Whole hearted living takes work. It means working every day to be aware and be committed. Committed to saying I am enough; committed to saying what is actually going on rather than trying to cover it up with excuses.
In order to start making changes, we need to be aware of what is going on within us. To finish out this blog post I’m leaving you with these 2 tasks:
- What is your never _______ enough statement?
I want you to really spend time pondering this, digging into what it is that you believe about yourself. Do you think you’ll never be pretty enough, skinny enough, kind enough, smart enough, etc.
- Ponder the following questions:
- Shame: Is fear of ridicule and belittling used to manage people and/or to keep people in line? Is self-worth tied to achievement, productivity, or compliance? Are blaming and finger-pointing norms? Are put-downs and name-calling rampant? What about favoritism? Is perfectionism an issue?
- Comparison: Healthy comparison can be beneficial, but is there constant overt or covert comparing and ranking? Has creativity been suffocated? Are people held to one narrow standard rather than acknowledged for their unique gifts and contributions? Is there an ideal way of being or one form of talent that is used as measurement of everyone else’s worthy?
- Disengagement: Are people afraid to take risks or try new things? Is it easier to stay quiet than to share stories, experiences and ideas? Does it feel as if no one is really paying attention or listening? Is everyone struggling to be seen and heard?