What’s worth doing even if I fail?

Look! Another post inspired by Brene Brown, this time from Daring Greatly. “What’s worth doing even if I fail?” She whispered this phrase to herself as she was walking out on stage at her 2012 TED talk. I think I have to step back further from where she’s at though and just start with “what’s worth doing?” What is something that needs to be done, what is something that I feel I need to do? I want to do some sort of deep introspection and thinking here but honestly I am too internally blocked to go that far. That will eventually be my answer to “what’s worth doing even if I fail?” but I’m not quite there yet.

That leads to the question of what is worth doing in a more general sense. Superficially I want to create whether it is to create a difference, create an object, or create a thought.

Creating a difference is important to me because I have always desperately wanted to be needed. So much of my self-worth and identity is tied into being a helper, being available for people when they have little else. It’s probably the primary reason why I’ve been entrenched in mental health nursing since I became a nurse nearly a decade ago. (Side note-holy shit that was 10 years ago!) If there’s one group of people that don’t have much it’s the people described as severe and persistently mentally ill. All of the agencies I have worked at served a population of people that were homeless or only one flat tire away from it. I could be something for them: a smile, a greeting, a “how are you?” with the actual desire to know, a quiet presence to cry with, or a guide when the voices, self-contempt, or anxiety got to be too much. (This is where my tendency towards over functioning comes in but that’s a blog for another day)

You see, in working at places where my need to be needed was satisfied with little effort on my part I was able to continue to do without having to stretch out and be uncomfortable. Sure there are always the discomforts of learning new systems, new people, and figuring out my place in the system but I could always figure out a way to create a difference because there was always at least one person around that needed something.

Creating things has become a large focus for me in my knitting and crochet projects. I can make things that are useful and have an art to them. They aren’t perfect but often I’m the only one that knows how imperfect they are. Other people see the things I’ve made and appreciate them and all is good in the world. I’ve even slowly been pushing past my fears of different techniques and projects because this is a challenge I can do. If it doesn’t work out I can just rip back the yarn and watch my work shrink away until the mistakes disappear. (Note that more often than not this is an accidental thing and results in cursing at the tiny loops until I get everything back to where it’s supposed to be.) I can take chances and risks with little waste except my time and patience. This is a safe place to challenge myself and do something daring.

Lastly, creating a thought is actually the other two forms of creating mixed into one. A thought is an unformed object budding from someone who has been bit by the inspiration bug. I’m still working on how to do that with any consistency. There’s an unhealthy level of criticism and fear around creating a thought… oh. Right. I think that is probably what I need to focus more on. A something that is so important and worth doing despite the risk of failure would be an act of creation so long standing as to inspire thought, discussion, debate. Writing is one of those things for me.

Perhaps that is enough honesty and being vulnerable for the night. I know that my something worth doing despite the risk of failure is doing something that can inspire thoughtful discussion, ideas, and perhaps action. It’s still a rather broad concept at this point in my journey but I now have a direction to wander while I let this percolate a bit more. Hopefully the process of finding out what’s worth doing even if you fail isn’t so vague or hidden from yourself as what I’ve found my something to be.

An Uncomfortable (Impossibly So) Feeling

Brene Brown is a therapist/researcher that I was recently introduced to through TED Talks and work. There are several patients that we currently have at the residence who have appeared to benefit a lot from this woman’s work. Honestly though, I think it is helping some of the staff more. Partially just through being out there. We struggle working with some of our patients who have particularly powerful and ingrained, negative thought tracks. It just doesn’t seem as though our typical DBT/CBT therapies are getting through to these patients. They “know” the words, they “know” the actions, they “know” the coping skills, but they haven’t been able to embrace them and open themselves up to the scary, dark places in the center of their beings.

You know, many of the people who work in the field have similar thought patterns. Sometimes they are just as ingrained, sometimes they are more temporary or related to stress levels. But we all suffer from shame and the dialogue this woman is opening up for us internally as well as externally is just as powerful as those thought patterns, that self-talk.

This is especially on my mind now because I suffer from a sometimes immobilizing feeling of shame, sometimes mixed with guilt, sometimes just the shame. Which is more than enough on its own, so the guilt just ends up being icing on the cake. Last night was one of those nights where feelings of guilt, anger, and more guilt led to being overwhelmed with shame. Shame over many things, some of which I have some control over, others are circumstances which I just happen to be a part of and others are things which I have felt that same shame about since I was a young child.

Feelings of failing in my life because I have not achieved what I should have. Feelings of not being good enough for the good things in my life. Feelings of still being the terrified little girl who can never do enough or be enough to satisfy herself and her family. Feelings of guilt about some of my thoughts or recent failings at work and then shame over those, again, not being enough for what is needed.

I’m pretty sure it was disturbing for my husband. I do not know that he has really tried to comfort someone in that state. I also know that there is some frustration and exasperation over feeling like he has repeated himself several times throughout the last year, “You sell yourself short,” “You are worthy of being loved,” “You are good enough for me and this life,” etc. He’s damn good in knowing what to say and how to say it, and in moments of low self-esteem or guilt, I am able to recognize what he is saying and process and acknowledge them. But those times when I am trapped in the dark place inside my head and there is nothing but the feeling that I am not, nor ever have been or will be, good enough or smart enough or empathetic enough, nothing he says can break through. Actually, they sometimes make me feel smaller because then I feel worse for somehow having tricked someone into thinking any of those when I am not anything that he is saying.

I can recognize that shame is a very intense emotion and faulty, broken thinking outside of those times when I am experiencing them. At this point though, I am not far enough into my own recovery related to shame to be able to do much more beyond that.

There are several things I’m doing to change that. One is that I am reading one of Brene’s books right now. I am watching her videos. And most importantly I am talking about how I am feeling. I was more honest about how I have been feeling last night than any other time before. I’m writing this now. Both things were very hard, but I think there is something to the point that shame is more powerful when we allow it to isolate us and prevent any dialogue, any understanding. In opening up and being willing to share my experiences, I hope to diminish the power that my shame has had over me, to start those dialogues and work on my recovery.

Thank you for actually reading through all of this, and I hope that maybe there was something there to help you to acknowledge your own moments of shame or to be more open and empathetic to others who are experiencing it. Any comments or reactions or thoughts are greatly welcomed.