After just getting back from hearing Brene Brown speak, I am overwhelmed with all the insight she has given me about my life and the struggles we all have. There are so many great ideas I have taken from her and use every day. You can see her fantastic TED talks here and here.
I just started re-reading one of her earlier works “ The Gifts of Imperfection”. In it Brown describes ten guideposts that are essential for whole-hearted living. Now before you think I am getting all “woo woo”, I want to point out that Brown has a PhD in social work and her writing is based on grounded theory research. She is not a pop psychologist or someone who writes books based on her “hunches”- all of her work is backed by hard data.
The first Guidepost is about Cultivating Authenticity-letting go of what people think.
Brown describes authenticity as the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.
“Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
Nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough.”
The first time I read the book a few years ago I glossed over most of this but as I started reading this again it blew me away-especially the first part of what it means to be authentic:
Cultivating the courage to be imperfect
Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable
What Brown is saying is that in order to be authentic we have to able to do all three of these things. Honestly, I am horrible at all three and spent my years training to become a veterinary surgeon working on how to do less of these.
We are surrounding by veterinarians at teaching hospitals who we think are perfect or at least know a heck of a lot more than we think we ever will. The teaching hospital is not a place where you will see senior clinicians or even house officers admitting that they don’t know everything and don’t have all the answers. These are the people modeling to us how we are supposed to act when we become veterinarians and that model is seriously flawed.
I don’t know about you but veterinary school as well as my internship and my residency training was about the EXACT opposite of these three statements.
Why does this matter? According to Brown, people who do not live authentically may experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.
It is no wonder we have a profession filled with people suffering from compassion fatigue as well as one of the highest suicide rates among professionals.
I want to remind you all of Brown’s theories and teachings are grounded in research so it is factual.
So then how do we reconcile being authentic and being a veterinarian?
First, we must realize that this is a huge shortcoming in the veterinary medical training (and probably human medical training as well). This isn’t the fault of the clinicians in the teaching hospitals as much as it is a flaw in the training of anyone in a professional medical program. But until there is a dialogue opened about this, nothing will change.
Second, we must embrace the fact that we will never be perfect, that we need boundaries and that we need at least a few people in our lives who we can share our struggles and our challenges with in a safe place.
Third, we must acknowledge that this is a process- more like a marathon than a sprint. These are not changes we can make overnight and for most of us this will be a journey we are on for the rest of our careers. We must learn to embrace the process of growing to become more authentic people.
It can be a challenge to find people in the same struggle as you who are willing to be open and honest about their struggles and that is one of the main reasons I started CatalystVETS because I did not have a group of people I could “get real” with.
So what about you, are you like me? Do you struggle with imperfection, setting boundaries and being vulnerable? I would love to hear your thoughts! Please put yourself out there and let’s start a conversation.
Thanks for all the great comments – Rebekah and Elliott your names were selected to win a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection. Our team has reached out for your contact information. Thanks for reading and commenting!