What’s your worth?

I dreamt this week that I was being attacked by a frenzied, Terminator-esque snake. Luckily, my friends were with me. But on the way to get help, they kept stopping to do trivial things like chat to passers-by or fix the hatch of the car we were in. Despite my loss of vision and objections of “I’m seriously dying guys, this is important!” no one really seemed to appreciate the urgency of the situation.

Now I’m not particularly phobic of slithering reptiles, but I have been watching a lot of Brene Brown lately. So I’m fairly certain this is all about self worth.

If you haven’t already watched Brene’s TED talk, it’s an absolute must. I don’t say wanky things like ‘absolute must’ a lot. If I was speaking to you in person, I’d probably tell you that you “seriously HAVE to watch it” while flailing my arms about wildly in demonstration of the most insightful moments. In any case, you know I’m serious. And look! Here’s an embedded video, so you needn’t put yourself through the arduous task of typing her name into Google:

I was incredibly lucky to hear Brene speak in Sydney recently as part of the CBA’s Wired for Wonder conference. In addition to some fascinating insights into shame and vulnerability, a lot of Brene’s research centres on worthiness. For example, her studies have shown that the only difference between people who have a deep sense of love and belonging and those who really struggle for it, is that those who have it believe they are worthy of it.

Like any other reasonably well-adjusted person, my first instinct is to say that of course I know I’m worthy. Worthy of love, of acceptance, of success… That’s not an issue.

But if we truly believe that, why do we feel the need to hold back little bits of ourselves? Why do we frame the way we want the world to see us? Why are we so hesitant to put our art out there? Could it be because underneath the logic and bravado, we really are just a little bit afraid that if someone truly saw us, all of us, we wouldn’t be enough?

It’s really worth thinking about. Because if Brene is right, developing a deep sense of worthiness and being open to vulnerability is the cornerstone of a wholehearted, connected and happy life. Seriously, go watch the talk.

Brene also just released her book ‘Daring Greatly’ in Australia, which I’ve cracked the first chapter of and will be sure to post more on once I’ve finished.


Masters of the unsaid words

I stopped writing almost five years ago. I had just started seeing my current partner when I came across an article that linked personal writing to anxiety and depression. It suggested that the introspective activity – complete with deconstruction and over analysis of every life experience – was like crack for neurotics.

Do we writers write because we’re always in our heads, or are we always in our heads because we write? At the time, it was a curious enough question to make me stop the activity altogether. I must have been having a particularly dramatic day, as I recall ripping up the pages I’d written about the relationship to date and stuffing my little black notebook into the top shelf of my wardrobe.

Around the same time, I started thinking about what I should be writing. I decided that since the holy grail of a wildly fulfilling, self-funded life path had not laid itself before me, it was time to start actively creating it.

I filled a new binder book with lots of very responsible words and diagrams. Start up ideas, capital sources, ways to potentially monetise a blog… But nothing of any real substance. Even those that started authentically quickly morphed into scalable business models, until they were so far from my true interests that they felt daunting and impossible to start. So I didn’t. Insert a few years at this point and frankly, life became stagnant.

Don’t get me wrong, I had it good – good job, good rental, good social life. I was leading a perfectly comfortable yet soul-deflating existence. I’d repressed my creative impulses for so long that they were practically non-existent.

So, I took a filmmaking course. I went to fashion design workshops. I tried (unsuccessfully) to learn guitar and I immersed myself in the philosophies of everyone from Eckhart Tolle to Friedrich Nietzsche. And these mini creativity fills were enough to sustain me, for a while. But I wanted a bigger change. I had accepted that the ‘good’ life just wasn’t cutting the mustard and I was ready to give it up for one of meaning and authentic purpose.

But here’s what I found about having it good; it’s a really effective roadblock to going out and getting something great. I felt like I had to uncover one hell of an artistic talent, a legitimate creative endeavour that I absolutely, unequivocally, 100% wanted to dedicate my life to, in order to justify leaving this comfortable existence. Not only did having it good give me something to lose, but it was starting to shape what I perceived to be a valid risk, a valid reward and a valid lifestyle.

So I did what any rational person with two maxed out credit cards would do. I gave notice at work, shipped my furniture off to my parents’ garage and myself into a share house to save money, armed with a big idea to trek across the Americas and absolutely no idea what I’ll do when I return home. I forced myself into a position of having nothing to lose. And for the first time in years, I’m facing an entirely uncertain future – with honest excitement.

So here we are. With twelve weeks left at work and home, one foot still in the ‘real’ world and the other already in an all-weather hiking boot. With all notions of what I should be doing now completely disregarded, it felt like as good a time as any to pick up personal writing again. After all, what’s a creative life without a little neurosis?