Horne: Gifts of imperfection: Courage, compassion, connection

In my work developing the substance of Graceful Aging I began a soulful exploration of how this was affecting my sense of self.

I am sure you have all met someone that you instantly felt a deep connection with.

A person where the usual progression of developing a friendship seems to get thrown out the window and you are suddenly in a profound joining that has a familiarity and closeness that defies logic.

I had this experience a couple of months ago and I have spent some time pondering why this occurs, referencing the unfolding of this gift of a wonderful new female friend that was presented to me from the cauldron of sweet, magical happenings.

In my work developing the substance of Graceful Aging: A Path to Elderhood, I began a soulful exploration of my own journey into the unfolding years of my 60s and how this was affecting my sense of self and my relationship with the world.

This willingness, or I might say courage, to explore how to attain a deeper sense of connection required a move from being focused on external signposts of how I was doing and moving instead to internally understanding what I was honestly feeling about myself.

It became a discovery of determining what choices and actions would support my own self-worth in an inspiring way, rather than continuing to worry about what other people thought of me and what I did or how I performed.

It’s a wake-up call that I think many of us are presented with as we approach or move well into our aging in the third stage of life.

It doesn’t mean we have to answer the call, but the ringing of that bell can become quite deafening if we choose to keep ignoring it.

Brené Brown, an author and researcher on all aspects of shame and vulnerability, answered the bell as she came to realize that the stories she was hearing from her many interviews during her research process were simply reflecting the many doubts, fears and insecurities that she felt on a daily basis in her own life.

We always think other people have got their act together in a way that seems illusive to ourselves.

It seems that their lives are seemingly running so much more smoothly, perhaps because they are able to hold it all together to a seeming perfection that is wildly competitive to our own inner battlefield of emotions and judgments, mostly of ourselves.

Brené defines shame as the “intense feeling that we are unworthy of love.” Where does it come from?

It is made up of different ingredients for each of us.

There may be very traumatic incidents held from childhood and beyond. Or it may come from a series of smaller events that have led to the development of our own particular dialogue or storytelling to ourselves that we are never good enough.

This results in the perennial question being posed: “Who do you think you are?”

It comes up every time we venture into taking a step towards realizing our dreams or using our innate inner gifts in a way that makes us feel very happy.

Brené says there are three things that help shame to grow experientially—secrecy, silence and judgment.

She has discovered both through her research and her own exploration of herself that “empathy heals shame.”

When we share our insecurities with someone else, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, and that person in turn shows empathy towards us, shame is dissolved and released.

I don’t think aging and years of experience automatically heals this for us, but it is rather our willingness to take a path of acceptance of the imperfections that we each have and to then also stop our judgments of others and their imperfections.

The saying “nobody’s perfect” really is true.

When we have an intention to let go of projecting our feelings of unworthiness onto others and take ownership that this is coming from within us, the journey really begins.

It does not matter what age you are. Despite having read countless books and taken every personal growth workshop there is, it was not until I experienced the intimate process of caring for my own mom as she was coming to her death that I really stated unequivocally to the universe that I wanted to change.

She acted as a mirror for me and through giving her compassion, it led me to some very honest reflection about where I was heading and that perhaps I might want to look at the path that I was on.

Caregiving can really be an opportunity for transformation in the most unexpected ways.

So back to the gift of a new friend that was presented from the cauldron of sweet, magical happenings.

It relates to Brené  Brown’s expression that “we are only as liberated as our secrets.”

The gift of someone with whom you can share a soul connection, no matter how long you have known them, is magical because they illicit a sense of trust that offers you the permission to share your authentic self.

You share your secret insecurities and doubts, your realizations of your warts and weaknesses and they look back at you with love and empathy.

It’s an energy thing. It is unmistakable in its acceptance and how it liberates you from the shame that binds you.

Yep, the three gifts of imperfection that Brené speaks of are very powerful and what gifts they are turning out to be in my life—courage, compassion and connection.

If you would like to explore this more within a sharing circle of like-minded people, contact me for more information about a weekend workshop entitled “The Gifts of Imperfection,” to be held in February 2016.

It will be a great way to begin a new year of aging gracefully.