There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and [those who] really struggle for it; and that was the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy.
What they had in common was a sense of courage... The original definition of courage... was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. These folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly... They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were."
They fully embraced vulnerability. They believe that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful... They talked about the willingness to say "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental... vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. But it appears that it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.
We numb vulnerability... You can't selectively numb the hard feelings without numbing the other affects or emotions. When we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable and we are looking for purpose and meaning. And then we feel vulnerable. So then we have a couple of beers and a banana-nut muffin and it becomes this dangerous cycle.
We perfect, but it doesn't work... And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you, very quickly, what we think about children. They are hard-wired for struggle when they get here. When you hold those perfect little babies in your hands, our job is not to say, "Look at her, she's perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect, make sure she makes the tennis team by 5th grade and Yale by 7th grade." That's not our job. Our job is to look and say, "You know what? You're imperfect and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job.
But there's another way... to let ourselves be seen. Deeply seen. Vulnerably seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror... to say, I'm just so grateful because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive.
And the last is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place that says "I'm enough", then we stop screaming and start listening. We're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.