Brene Brown, a self-proclaimed “researcher/storyteller”, says that our ability to feel loved and accepted comes from having the belief that we are worthy of love and acceptance. Huh? Basically, we have to buy it. If we don’t allow it to be true, it won’t be. But how do we allow this to be true for us if we don’t feel it?

As a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, Dr. Brown studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She looked for the common themes in people she studied who believe they are worthy of love and found this:

  • They were courageous or “whole-hearted” in being imperfect.
  • The word courage comes from the Latin root “cor” or heart and the original definition was “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart” (even the imperfect parts).
  • They had compassion toward themselves and others.
  • They were gentle with imperfection, resulting in less shame.
  • They had connection.
  • As a result of being authentically themselves, they were willing to risk being vulnerable which resulted in connection with others.

If you’re at all like me, a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, embracing this list can be a challenge. Here’s what it boils down to for me illustrated by a conversation with myself:

Me: “Cut yourself some slack!”

Me the Perfectionist: “Yeah, right. Then I’ll be a loser and not accomplish anything.”

Me: “C’mon, there’s got to be a middle ground.”

Me the Perfectionist: “Really?”

Me: “Yeah, really. Believe me, you’re doing a good job.”

Me the Perfectionist: “Good? Is “good” good enough?”

Me: “Yep. Just do a good enough job and you can always go up from there if you want.”

Me the Perfectionist: “Huh. I never thought of it that way.”

Me: “Everyone is making mistakes all the time. You just can’t always see them because they’re not the same as yours.”

Me the Perfectionist: “Seriously?”

Me: “Yeah. Hey, take it easy, ok?”

Me the Perfectionist: “Wow, uh, ok…”

Dr. Brown says if we reject the vulnerability that encompasses fear, shame, grief, we also lose the same vulnerability that holds joy, gratitude and happiness. Then we feel purposeless and empty and seek a way to numb again. An endless cycle? Not if we can begin to have a compassionate, inclusive, conversation, inviting ourselves to believe that we are indeed worthy of love and acceptance.