Last Friday night, I was surfing TED for new “ideas worth spreading”. I check TED at least once a week for something inspiring and thought-provoking. I also find it to be a handy resource for plot ideas and character foundation.
(If you have never checked out TED, go! From their website: “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.” I’m positive there’s something for everyone.)
My particular search criteria that night was to find something that talked about personal growth (a pet project) as research for my novel. The lead character is an emotional mess, completely closed off. As she is confronted with the external conflicts thrown her way, she is also dealing with her own mental state and a new romance. Somehow, she comes out the other side in a much better place. I haven’t quite figured how she’ll do that yet, but I’m getting there.
Anyways. That night, I found one of the best messages I’ve seen or heard in quite a while.
I came across a talk given by Brene’ Brown, a professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Intrigued? See it here.
Her basic message, or lesson learned, after ten years of study, is that people live in fear and shame. According to Ms. Brown, we lack the courage to be vulnerable because we might get hurt (well, duh…). As a result, people spend their lives insulated and numb, regardless of whether they use a substance to get there or not. Even governments do it, which is why the city / state / country / world is in such a mess. We hide behind emotional walls to protect ourselves. We whine about the people, places, and things we don’t like instead of rejoicing in the things we do like.
Misery loves company, right? But God forbid we let that company get too close…they might see us for who we really are.
But here’s a thought: Would it really be such a bad thing if people saw us for who we really are, instead of what we think we’re supposed to be?
I found myself agreeing with her.
If we are to live “wholeheartedly” (her term), we need to find the courage to step out from behind those walls and risk being vulnerable, feel compassion for the world around us, and acknowledge the connection we have with each other. The people she studied who live openly experience true grace, joy, and gratitude rather than the watered down version that most of us feel, and think is normal.
My main character is going to take that journey. If I’m going to lead her through it, I need to take it too. What about you?