The Fear Of Striking Out

This week, even though Halloween has now passed, it’s cozy sweater weather, Starbucks holiday drinks are out, it’s almost appropriate to listen to Christmas music, and I’m relishing the cool fall days, I’ve decided to write about fear.

There is a Babe Ruth quote in the movie A Cinderella Story which, for those of you who like myself grew up loving Hilary Duff in 2004, is iconic. The quote is:

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game

I’ve been thinking lately about how we can apply this kind of thinking to our lives so we can face fears and live life to the fullest.

Identifying Fear and it’s Symptoms

You might be reading this and wondering if it really applies to you, but I know that we all have our own fears, and they come in different shapes and sizes. We might be afraid we aren’t good enough, of what people will think of us, if we will let people down, of risking something we’ve worked hard for, of being vulnerable and getting hurt. But sometimes fear isn’t obvious – rather than being able to identify being afraid to be vulnerable we get defensive and guarded.

Sometimes I’ll be acting a certain way and if I reflect on why I’m thinking or feeling something and realize that it’s actually stemming from something else and that something is fear. For example: are you ever envious of someone else and then think deeply about it and realize maybe you’re actually just a little insecure and worried you don’t measure up? That is a symptom of fear working its way into your thoughts.

Another example might be pushing people away or making excuses to not invest in relationships. Putting yourself out there can be intimidating, and I’ve run into times when I’ve found myself making excuses not to do something or be the first to call or settle for a safer option. And that’s fine and you can do that if you want, but I find it helpful to inspect and see if the root of those actions is stemming from a place of fear or insecurity.

Not Acting from a Place of Fear

Nelson Mandela once said “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”. When I think about my life, the values that I want to guide me and the person I want to be, I know that fear isn’t one of those values. If we are able to identify fear, or symptoms of it in our lives, we can do something about it and think about what we would like to replace it with.

The year 2004, evidently, was a golden year for chick flicks. Another iconic 2004 movie from my childhood that talked about facing fears was Princess Diaries Two. In the movie Princess Mia says “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear”. We might be able to identify fear, and try to replace it with something else, but realistically it’s also not something that we can always outrun. That is why I love this quote because sometimes the best way to overcome our fears is not to displace them but to be courageous and face them head on.

Saying “yep I’m scared of this but I want to work through it” is almost never the easy answer but since when was the easy solution the best one?

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

We face challenging new things everyday that have the potential to be scary – even something like starting a new job or trying a new class at the gym that is out of your comfort zone to becoming a parent or making a move across the country to pursue  school or a dream job.

Emma Watson once said “I’ve probably earned the right to screw up a few times. I don’t want fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about”. I love this sentiment and I think it is important to put into practice into our lives. Whatever your fears are – this week I want to encourage you to identify fears you might have in your life and see how you can challenge that thinking.

Life is full of things that might be frightening but being courageous enough to face them, letting your choices reflect the hopes and values you want to guide you life, and deciding everyday that you won’t let the fear of striking out keep you from engaging in life are ways to be intentional about living well.

I’ll close with another quote (I know, I know, it’s a lot of quotes this week). I hope that these words can inspire you to be bold and maybe even “fearlessly authentic” in your lives and relationships with others:  “Let us not be afraid to voice our thoughts. Let us not be afraid to truly be ourselves. Let us not be afraid of judgement made by others. Let us not be afraid of speaking the truth. And, let us not grow fearful of one another.”

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Quarter Life Identity Crisis?

This was my first fall since 1999 that I didn’t need to buy new pencils or back to school clothes. Why? Because for the first time in 18 years I didn’t go back to school.

To put it into perspective I’m 21 and I haven’t had a fall season of not going to school since I was 3 years old (yay December birthdays). Being part of an institution like that has such a large impact on your perception of yourself. Being “a student” has been part of my identity for so long and now I am on the path many people who finish university face: figuring out life without the fall back “I’m a student I have time to figure that all out later” mentality.

Why Does Identity Matter?

I remember being in grade 4 and a girl in my class was talking about her favourite Star Wars character. I am lucky to have a big brother and he loves Star Wars so I grew up watching it and I told her I also liked the movies. She got upset and said I was only saying that because she liked it. The point is, she was upset because she was using this interest as part of her identity and she didn’t want me to threaten that.

Have you ever felt like a certain experience or interest became so much of your identity that when you met someone else who shared that you were less special? Have you ever felt insecure because someone is stealing your thing? You feel insecure because your identity is wrapped up in something outside of yourself.

I think identity matters because we plant so much of ourselves in it that we allow it to dictate what we do – “Oh I’m not sporty I can’t join the volleyball game” , or “I’m not artsy I’ll never learn to paint”. Experiences can impact us but when they become part of our identity I think we should be careful that they don’t shape us or limit us in our perception of ourselves.

Inherent worthiness is another important aspect of identity and relationships. Worthiness is a topic Brené Brown talks about a lot – how if we feel we are worthy of love and belonging we must also believe others share that inherent worthiness. A ground level place to think of identity is that you’re a person worthy of love and respect – and so is everyone you encounter today.

Playing Dress Up

Last night it was Halloween and with the purchase of a few new articles of clothes and accessories, I was someone else for a few hours. I donned track shorts and yellow baseball tees along with two other friends, I straightened my red hair to become Cheryl Blossom, another added a pearl necklace to become Veronica Lodge, our Betty Cooper accessorized with a blue scrunchies and another friend wore a beanie and a denim jacket to be Jughead Jones. Together we were the cast of Riverdale (minus Archie).

We can play dress up and become someone else by changing – but what if we are playing dress up every day? I read a book this past spring that I loved so much called Scary Close. It was written by Donald Miller and at one point he talks about an experience being at a retreat centre where the participants weren’t allowed to tell each other what their jobs were. They had to forge connections and relationships without the distinction of defining themselves as a writer or a teacher.

I really liked that idea and I feel like we should employ it more often. Maybe we are playing dress up more often than we think, and titles we wear are getting in the way of people getting to know the real us. To quote on of my favourite Riverdale characters, Veronica, “Can’t we just liberate ourselves from the tired dichotomy of jock, artist. Can’t we, in this post-James Franco world, be all things at once?”

Now Who Are We?

Having security in our identity is something that is important to a lot of people, but what I find interesting is what we look for our identity in. There are somethings, like our relationships or faith that are healthy places to draw our identity from. But then there are things we get invested in, that we see ourselves wrapped up in, in ways we might want to reconsider.

Does anyone remember being in middle school and the feuds between Team Jacob or Team Edward? That was your twelve-year-old self trying to find belonging and identity in a cultural artifact that your peers understood. Or if you’re invested in feud between Pop Diva #1 vs. Pop Diva #2 and that is a part of how you define yourself to others. I definitely made friends in high school based off of liking the same boy bands, because that made sense when I was 15. When we build identities we want to communicate to others who we are and we do this to find to build relationships.

I used to see myself as a dancer, a student, a kid who went to Kenya, and letting go of those things to explore new parts of myself weren’t always easy. I think many of us struggle with that after graduation (or maybe after retirement if that’s your stage of life) because we can’t don the safety of the title “student” – and now that we are grown people want to know what we are doing next.

As we grow older the identities we carry become more complex, but I think in a way it also becomes a little easier to see whats important. Values, goals, relationships – to me at least – seem more important than titles or defining oneself over which member of One Direction is our favourite. We can ask ourselves some bigger questions and intentionally wonder : What is the next title or identity we want to give ourselves?

 

Walking in a Haunted Wonderland

I am very excited because this week I have a guest post to share with you! I have always valued the voices and perspectives of others and it feels like it makes sense to me to include those unique voices here. I asked my friend Allison to write a post this week because she is a gem, so without further ado, here she is!


Kaitlyn’s blog has got it going on!

Hi, my name is Allison, first-time blogger, long-time reader. You may know me as the girl Kaitlyn wrote a blog post about a few weeks ago (I consider this fact my biggest claim to fame – if you haven’t it yet, let this shameless plug be your incentive now). Kaitlyn invited me to write about spiritual wellness this week, which is a pretty daunting topic to try to cover. I’m very aware that I can’t speak for what spiritual wellness looks like for everyone, I can only reflect upon what spiritual wellness has looked like for me and hope that you resonate with it.

Lost in Wonderland

Three years ago on a chilly October evening, I wandered Canada’s Wonderland alone. I had signed up to go with a large group of students from my university residence at the time. As our group entered the park, I got separated from everyone I had arrived at the amusement park with, and ended up searching the park for familiar faces for close to an hour. Now, you likely know as well as I do that amusement parks are supposed to be a fun place to face fears and get your adrenaline pumping. However, since it was an October evening, Wonderland was holding Halloween Haunt – an evening complete with fog machines, ominous lighting, and screams echoing through the park – both from the rides and the haunted houses.

While this night only happened three years ago, in those 45 minutes I felt like a child lost in a supermarket. Getting lost in a familiar place is particularly frustrating because we tend to play the “should” game in situations where we feel we ought to have known better. Thoughts like “I’ve been here before, I should know where to go” echoed in my head as I walked around the entire park multiple times looking for anyone I knew. The park was over capacity, and with limited cell reception to contact anyone, I can’t lie – I was genuinely terrified.

I wasn’t lost forever though, if that wasn’t already obvious. When I finally found my friends, I was greeted with open arms and relieved faces. I ran over to the first friend I recognized, and was greeted with a hug so tight that a couple of tears were squeezed out of me. Once we were reunited I actually enjoyed myself and was able to forget about my time lost in the park, and focused on having fun.

“Allison, what does any of this have to do with spiritual wellness?”

I have thought a lot about all of the metaphors and analogies that relate back to feeling lost. In fact, I’m sure if I left this space open, you’d be able to come up with a bunch of examples in your own life when you’ve felt lost yourself, whether it’s physically or spiritually lost. When I look back on this story, I think about my relationship with God at that time, and how that relationship looked that night. When I was lost, I prayed a lot of “God, I’m scared and don’t know what to do, help me through this” prayers.

While there’s absolutely a time and a place for these prayers, in the context of this night, this was the first time I spoke to God that day. Honestly, it may have even been the first time that week I explicitly sought Him out. When I picture myself in that moment, I picture a frantic Allison hoping God will swoop in and fix the problem so I can get back to the way things should go. That night, I was able to find my friends, and my prayers of “help me, help me, help me” turned to praises of “thank you thank you thank you.” What happens when we miss that second part, something I know I so often struggle with?
As kids, we’re told to remember to say “please” and “thank you” to the people we interact with. Unfortunately, I think sometimes I forget to pay God that same courtesy.

Help, Thanks, Wow

In her book Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, author Anne Lammott highlights the importance three crucial types of prayer: prayers of help, prayers of thankfulness, and prayers of wonder.

“My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God…If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real.”

This courage to be open and honest all relates back to a word Kaitlyn loves on this blog: vulnerability. Being vulnerable with God can be just as challenging as it is being vulnerable with other people, but the outcome is worth it, especially when it comes through being vulnerable through prayer. Anne’s belief that honesty is the best policy when it comes to our conversations with God, I felt a lot better about my frantic pleas for comfort on that cold October night. I do want to keep reminding myself that those prayers of thankfulness, along with those prayers of wonder, are equally important too.

Standing God Up

The idea of praying “help, thanks, wow” also goes for praying on behalf of others, too. A few years ago, someone told me, “saying you’re going to pray for someone and not doing it is like making a date with God and standing Him up.” This stuck with me, and has challenged me every time I say “I’ll pray for you.” Before a few years ago, saying “I’ll pray for you” was an empty promise I would make. Once I heard that quote, though, I simply couldn’t stand God up again. This brings us back to the importance of the courtesy we show God in saying “please and thank you,” along with the courtesy of being honest with both God and the person you said you’d pray for.

My challenge for you this week is to keep that promise you’ve made and talk to God – whether it’s a cry for help, a thank you, or simply a “wow, God.” Oh, and look up a Brené Brown quote on your own time, since I didn’t manage to get your weekly dose of Brené into this blog post. Ah, well. Maybe next time.

Redefining Strength

When you look up the word strong in the thesaurus you find words like bold, hard, forceful, tough, determined, rugged. We have different images that come to mind, there are the traditional archetypes – but I think it is important to think about strength broadly and the wide range of ways in which we can be strong.

Being Soft & Strong

Have you ever felt like you wanted to be something, or people wanted you to be something, and it was just now true to you? There is a Zooey Deschanel quote I love where she says

“Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you.”

I think it takes strength to be vulnerable, to be open to the world the way Deschanel describes and I think it’s a beautiful way to live. Sometimes I feel the way she describes in the quote – people wanting you to be tougher, colder, or edgy. But I know being true to myself means being soft and loving and looking for the best in people, the things that people sometimes call weak are actually beautiful qualities to posses.

Numbing

In the quote above Deschanel talks about allowing yourself to be affected by things and this is another important point I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s sometimes easier to feel nothing than to feel hard things. But the easy way out is generally speaking not the best. In a class about Trauma and Healing I took last year we talked about how people use different things to cope with stress, but if it gets out of hand we deal with the problem of addiction to escape hard feelings.

Brené Brown talks about numbing in her talk The Price of Invulnerability, about how our society has the most addicted, overweight, indebt adult cohort in history. Why? Because it’s easier to indulge in unhealthy habits than it is to face hard feelings.

And on some level its okay, if you’ve had a brutal day and you need to decompress or get your mind off things thats normal. But avoiding feelings is unhealthy. When we talk about feelings, emotional intelligence, all those good things, I am often aware of the people who think it’s silly, or not that important. I’ve had my share of people tell me going to school and learning to talk about feelings and conflict is “cute”. What if we all thought about how allowing yourself to feel your feelings is hard, facing things you don’t want to takes strength, and it’s not “cute” or “weak” to be emotional.

New Definitions of Strength 

I was talking on the phone the other day with my dear friend Clarice, and she told me she was proud of me for being brave and strong because of my kindness. Now kindness isn’t always perceived as strong, but I was so grateful for her words and I do think we can learn to define these “softer” or “warmer” qualities as strong too.

Last year I heard a sermon that suggested that the definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, the one you’ve probably heard read at weddings, could be a character description of what we should strive for. Trying to be patient, kind, humble, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, trusting, and hopeful (to list a few). I love the idea that we could try to encapsulate love, that we could use all our energy and our actions to love others. 

Maybe leaning into pain, being enthusiastic or hopeful, forgiving others, being vulnerable and opening up to things that might hurt are all things that can be re-defined as strong. Maybe patience, kindness, humility, and letting go of grudges and – things that aren’t traditionally what we think of as strong – can be what we strive for. 

Today I’ll leave you with this: it’s okay to feel emotional, it’s okay to talk about your feelings and be open, and you don’t have to feel weak. The qualities that people are sometimes teased for, maybe called “soft”, are symptoms of a healthy person. So if you’re feeling weak, or you’re not as tough as people would like you to be, stay true to yourself and know that you’re able to redefine strength by being warm and vulnerable.

 

A Note About Thank You Notes

If you live in Canada, like myself, this past weekend was Thanksgiving weekend. There are so many fun traditions and things to celebrate and indulge in. I spent mine with my family and ate more turkey and pumpkin pie than I thought possible. It was so great.

I have a lot of half-finished blog post ideas floating around my head and my note books and I didn’t know what to share about this week – but since there is a general theme of thankfulness and gratitude going on right now I thought I would do a little update on the Gratitude Project and think about why it’s important to sustain the spirit of thanksgiving far past the family dinners and trips to the pumpkin patch.

Project Update

Writing “Project Update” sounds much more formal that what this is, but I do want to share a few reflections of what it is like to write a thank you note a day (or try to and then realize you’ve forgotten for three days – nobody’s perfect guys and I’ve definitely missed a note here and there). The first thing is that, sending thank you notes fills your heart with love. It makes you remember little things and big things and old memories and reasons why you love people. It helps you connect with others and fosters relationships and reminds people that you love them. It is hard to be grumpy about your day when you sit down to thank someone for something.

Writing thank you notes out of the blue can feel a bit strange – I have started so many of my notes with “this is so random but…” . Saying thank you , especially for things that are general like a person’s friendship or support over years rather than a specific act, isn’t something I found myself doing very often before this project. However, building this practice into my life has been a great way to see the world and practice gratitude in different ways. Even though it might seem weird to write a thank you note for someone just “being” in your life , and you might feel like you’re living in Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Note segment, I think you should embrace it and write them anyway.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about fighting for friendship and I think this is a great way to do it. The week of that post I wrote thank you notes to some of the friends that inspired it and thanked them for inspiring me, for being wonderful and named their qualities that I admired. It wasn’t your usual “thank you for doing this thing for me” note , it was more of an I appreciate you and am so thankful for your existence. But you know what, it felt so good to name those things. To tell those people how much they meant to me. I love celebrating people not just for the individual things they do for me but for the person they are and the way they light up my life on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving Everyday

So I want you to think about thank you notes from a new perspective today, and try writing one that is out of the ordinary. Maybe it starts with “this is so random but…” or maybe it’s thanking someone for being a generally wonderful person and the way they inspire you, or maybe you don’t write it to a person. My last type of thank you note I’ve experimented with is writing lists (because if you know me well you know I love lists) about all the things in a day I am thankful for. It can be a little prayer of thanksgiving or list a list in your journal or planner of all the things that you’re thankful for in a day – whatever floats your boat.

When we practice giving thanks everyday we see how many blessings we have in our lives. Things we take for grated: our friends and family; dance parties in the car; the beach; having a safe place to call home; bubble baths; sunshine; the smell of cilantro; community; ice coffee; health care and counsellors; scones; coffee shops; coral lipstick; a closet of clothes; feeling creative and inspired; people who are patient; Chihuahuas; sharing the things I love with people who I love; driving at night with the windows down and warm summer breezes blowing around you; people who encourage you.

There are so many things to be thankful for, I could list more (my friends often joke that I’m like Julie Andrews listing all of her favourite things in The Sound Of Music) but I’ll just say this – thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year but the spirit of gratitude it represents can be a part of how you live everyday if you’re intentional.

julie-andrews

“I believe my life will see, the love I give, returned to me”

The quote in the header is a John Mayer lyric, the title of this blog is a reference to a John Mayer lyric and lately I’ve been quoting him in everyday conversations. I don’t know what’s up but lets just go with it…

The final reflection, and this seems self-serving but it’s honest, is that often when you tell people how much they matter to you they reciprocate. And not that you should give compliments or say you care about someone so that they will return the compliment, it’s also nice to hear. Sometimes you’ll get stuck in a flurry that becomes a compliment battle because you and your friend love each other so much no one can have the last word on how great you are. You should obviously not give compliments to receive them, but I’ve discovered from telling friends and loved ones they matter to me very deeply, is that I’ve found a deep sense of love sent back to me.

 

Grayscale

There are things we face in life that can be hard to reconcile. It would be easier to divide things in black and white, to ignore information that doesn’t line up with our understanding of the world. This week I’m talking about the importance of investing time and thought into our beliefs about the world around us and being intentional about trying to understand people and ideas that are different from us.

Binary Opposition

I first learned about the concept of binary opposition in a communication and conflict management class I took last fall. Communication scholar John Hartley describes this theory as a way which meaning is generated by defining thing as direct opposites. These binaries function to create order or meaning. Essentially, it is “the system by which, in language and thought, two theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off against one another”.

Binary opposition is a “comfortable” way of organizing ideas and seeing the world, but it can often lead to simplistic understandings, such as:

“That person is good, that person is bad”

“That neighbourhood is sketchy, that neighbourhood is safe”

“That university is innovative, that one is fun”

“I’m right, you’re wrong”

Binaries inform our ideologies of how we understand spaces, people, and ideas. They are problematic because create exclusive positive and negative categories with which to understand our world and miss a lot of important exceptions. What this does is that is that it frames our world in a way that we see people or ideas as good or bad and there is no in-between.

The problem with that type of thinking, and the reason it creates so much conflict, is that its rare to find a perfectly good person or a truly bad one. And so, despite the fact that sometimes it’s easier to divide people into those categories – and often I believe we don’t even see that we are doing it – but it does both us and them an injustice of ignorance.

In the middle of these binaries is an area my professor referred to as the “space of ambiguity” where there are outliers that don’t fit into binaries – so what do we do with the space in the middle and how does it effect how we see the world? Not reconciling these differences, and allowing ourselves to see the world in the form of binaries, leads to polarization.

The Uncomfortable Task of Sitting with Difficult Things

We need to do the difficult work of sitting in the middle and understand that there is  often no binary of right and wrong. I think it’s important to use the terms “work” when talking about feelings and ideas because emotional and intellectual labour is important and, emotional labour especially, is undervalued.

It can be hard to lean into challenging ideas or deep questions that feel impossible to resolve. Conflict within yourself, of reconciling difficult ideas and feeling all the confusing feels, or addressing conflict with others is an opportunity to think deeply. Wrestleing with these things looks different for everyone, it might be questioning how your religion and politics add up, it might be understanding how someone you trusted could have let you down, it might be coming to a place where you can respect neighbour or coworker who make different choices than you.

Wether or not you’re facing grey area within yourself, with people in your life, or on a larger scale – I know setting out this time isn’t easy. It can be so challenging to sit down and process these things. It may even down right painful to accept that sometimes there are truths that don’t line up and that aren’t easily categorized. But when you push yourself to think this way you’ll discover new pathways to peace within yourself and with people you’re in relationships with.

Wading into the Murky Grey

Wading into the grey area of your life to recognize that people are people. Just because you disagree with someone does not mean their opinion is invalid; just because people have the capacity to make mistakes or break trust doesn’t mean they can’t still be good.

And then we have to do the difficult and sometimes uncomfortable job of sitting with these things and understanding the world more deeply. Trying to make the best of your situation, embracing discomfort and being willing to sit with these ideas and wrestle against labels or binaries will help you grow.

I think that people are sometimes afraid of what they don’t understand, but maybe instead of dismissing the things we don’t understand, the interests, passions or values people have, we could try to understand where they are coming from. And imagine if they did the same, and instead of arguing or not talking about issues we could create space in the grey area to develop meaningful understandings of one another.

The thing today is this, the world isn’t black and white, and as tempting as it is to see the world that way – its lazy. There is a Rupi Kaur poem I love that says

to hate

is an easy lazy thing

but to love

takes strength

everyone has

but not all are

willing to practice

I’m not sure what grey area you have in your life, but this week I hope you consider taking up the job of sitting with difficult questions, feelings, or even conversations. Accepting that the world isn’t black and white does make it harder to categorize and sort it – but working through the grey area will help you make meaning of the world in a more purposeful and loving way.

For Allison

At the beginning of the year, on a blustery cold day, I went to Balzac’s for one of many coffee dates I had this winter with my friend Allison.

We talked school, stress, heartache, and the future. Two women on the cusp of graduation feeling that “wow everyone has a job, is getting married, or going to grad school and I have no clue what my plan is” feeling.

It was a conversation that stuck with me because as I told her of the hopes and dreams I had for life after school, of programs to apply for, I said “I would really love to go do that, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up”. And I’ll always remember that she said, “But why not? Why not get your hopes up?”. This week’s post is inspired by her enthusiasm for life and her encouragement to get my hopes up.

Unlikely Dreams

Sometimes we dream unlikely dreams. And it’s easy to say “I would like that to happen but I’m going to assume it won’t because I don’t want to feel letdown when things don’t work out”. That is the safe thing to do, it keeps you from being vulnerable.

Brené Brown’s TED Talk (guys she just has realllllly amazing TED Talks – okay?) The price of invulnerability talks about why people avoid getting our hopes up and relates perfectly with today’s topic.

She speaks to the fact that “It is much easier to live disappointed than it is to feel disappointment… We sidestep getting excited about something, because we’re not sure it’s actually going to happen”. When we avoid getting our hopes up, and avoid being vulnerable to our hopes and dreams we aren’t really protecting ourselves from the disappointment.

Similar to this avoidance of vulnerability Brown also talks about “numbing” emotions, to avoid getting hurt. However, she argues it is problematic because “.. you cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb the dark emotion, when we numb vulnerability and fear, and the shame of not being good enough, we by default numb joy. We cannot selectively just numb the dark emotions.” So essentially, if we don’t let ourselves get excited about things we do avoid the feeling of being let down, but we also avoid the excitement about cool opportunities life presents us.

Sprinting into Hope

It might be vulnerable to invest your hope into something or someone, but the truth is certainty about things evades our lives and we might never know exactly what we can get our hopes up about. Sometimes we get true signs of confirmation, like an acceptance letter that tells us we got into the program we wanted, but other times it is not so clear. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut and let yourself get excited about things.

Don’t be afraid to get your hopes up. What is the worst that will happen? You might get hurt but you will move on and find something new to be excited about. Life is good, life is exciting and full of amazing things.

To me, it’s scarier not to get my hopes up. If you don’t invest in relationships? Sure you completely avoid the possibility of getting hurt but you also avoid the possibility of community, love, and worthwhile friendships. Not pursing dreams because you’re afraid they won’t workout the way you want? It avoids the disappointment but also the possible joy and success of putting yourself out there.

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking this is completely unrealistic because there are things we really can’t predict and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to get your hopes up – you’re right. Maybe it doesn’t always make sense, but I would rather it be a habit to be optimistic and occasionally try to not get my hopes up about something than form a habit of saying “I would really love to go do that, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up”.

Love is an Action

Another thing I love about Al is that she not only encouraged me to get my hopes up about the things I wanted to be excited about (but was afraid to be), but she got her hopes up for me too. When we talk about the future she talks about those dreams as if they will really come true. And if I point out to her that the future is uncertain she tells me we’re planning on those things to happen because she believes in me.

It can be hard to be vulnerable for yourself, let alone be willing to open your heart for the benefit of others, so I am very grateful for her. There is a Jamie Tworkowski quite I really like, that goes:  “You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things.” Al, I’m lucky to call you a friend and beyond thankful to have you in my life blessing me with your encouragement, love, and challenging me to believe in better things and to be the best version of myself I can be.

“Love ain’t a thing, Love is a verb”