Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Ernesto shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené .
Since I was a young teenager, I have been reading lots of personal development and psychology books. Throughout all these years I have come across wonderful books, those that change us and leave a profound impact in us. Brene’s latest book ‘Daring Greatly’ is definitely one of these wonderful books. Sometimes I even say that ‘Daring Greatly’ is probably the best book I have ever read – and yes, I know that is quite a statement to make!
I am also aware that how good a book is, depends highly on where we are in life at the time we read such book and it’s normally a very subjective matter. A book that can be great for me is not necessarily as good for someone else. I believe this is the result of how well we can relate to the book personally. If the book resonates with something we are going through or have experienced before, then the better the book is. It is like if the book was directly speaking to us. This is also why when we read a book again some time later we discover complete new meanings, because we are now reading it with a different state of mind. And this is probably why ‘Daring Greatly’ was such a good read for me; because it came at the right time and it relates to things I have gone through; and I continue to go through.
I have been always someone who tends to approach life in a rather unconventional way to the average person. Whilst most people would tell me to ‘sweep the trauma under the carpet and just get on with life’, I knew this would not heal my pain. At an early age I discovered that the only way for me to heal my wounds was to take the ugly, unpack it, look at it, accept it and deal with it. This is of course a counterintuitive thing to do. Most people would tell us that when it comes to pain and shame, what we have to do is to lock it away and by all means do not talk about it. You know how it goes, we cannot let ourselves be seen as weak or too emotional, society after all does not appreciate those traits.
However I learnt that owing my story and allowing myself to be vulnerable with others, was the way to liberate myself from the weight of trauma or the pain. Whilst most people would avoid the suffering, I could find joy in exploring deeper into my wounds to understand why they were there in the first place and what I could do to heal them. I knew that the only way for me to move forward with my life was to open those boxes and deal with what was there. Only when I can accept myself fully, both beauty and ugly can be reconciled and I can be at peace with my whole self. My story is part of my identity; hiding part of my story would be hiding part of me, and therefore living an incomplete life.
I am convinced that the good things that have come into my life are the result of living in a way that embraces the ugly and the uncertainty as part of who I am. I discovered that showing up, letting myself be seen and taking risks was for me source of success and growth. I learned all of this from my own experience, it was something that was emerging in my own life as if I was exploring by trial and error in a daily basis. I, however, always had a small doubt in the back of my mind; is this not a masochistic way of living? What if other people are right and I should forget these things and just get on with life?
When I read Daring Greatly I was stunned to discover that much of the things I have experienced and believed are part of what Brene found in her research. I was amazed at the way she pulled it all together in an easy to understand framework and also that she had the evidence to prove that being vulnerable and dealing with shame is the way to experience joy, connection, love and belonging. I know this is going to sound strange, but it is like if half of Brene’s book was a collection of some of the lessons I have learned; and the other half were the answers to the questions I have not been able to crack throughout my journey. This is why Daring Greatly was such a powerful book for me, it seemed like it was written for me personally.
Now you can understand why contemplating the possibility of meeting Brene in person was such a big deal for me. She is one of the people I look up to the most and for whom I hold an enormous amount of respect and admiration. When Ade told me we were meeting Brene for an interview I couldn’t believe it, I was somehow expecting the moment I would hear it wasn’t possible any longer and it would be cancelled (foreboding joy). When the day actually arrived and we were waiting for her at the hotel I felt overwhelmed, I had no idea how I would react when I saw her. It was a mixture of excitement, happiness and shyness. I was fearful I would not be able to speak.
You might be wondering now what my highlights were after meeting Brene? Well… there were essentially two highlights. First of all, I was left feeling totally reassured that the work that I have been doing on my self since a very early age was the right thing to do. I know there isn’t such a thing as ‘a wrong or right path’ but for me it was incredibly reassuring to hear that what she found in her research is that only when we do the work, deal with shame and dare to be vulnerable, we can unlock the doors to happiness, love and connection. This means fully accepting who we are -warts and all-, embracing that we all have a gift that is unique to us, and that only when we accept, embrace and give that gift to the world, we can develop a sense of worthiness, meaning and belonging.
The second highlight was about worthiness. Why did I not dare to write to Brene before Ade did? The honest answer is that the possibility of meeting Brene was totally inexistent in my mind; I could have not even contemplated the idea. She is such a recognised author, why would she want to meet me?* However, Ade dared greatly and what I learned from him was that who we are and what we do is worth listening to. It was actually a slap and a reminder of what I always preach:
If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it
If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no
If you don’t step forward, you will always be on the same place
If you never try, you will never know
What I didn’t know at the time was that Brene was going to leave me with an even more difficult challenge about worthiness. At the end of the interview she was very impressed with the work The Quest is doing that she invited us to go to Houston and take part in ‘The Daring Way’, an intensive training programme she is launching for practitioners that are doing daring work. I am still really struggling to believe she invited us and that I will actually go and spend a week of learning with her and meeting amazing like-minded people. The fear in me wants me to think that sooner or later something will happen and that none of this will actually become reality. This is what Brene call, foreboding joy, and this is the challenge I usually face, that of worthiness*.
I also learned that I will never be completely ‘shame-free’, that the work is ongoing and that doubt will always daunt me; but that no matter what or when, I must always dare greatly and believe I am worthy.
Thank you Brene, love you dearly
*: I am daring to be vulnerable by writing this! 🙂