Vulnerability became a household name thanks to the groundbreaking research of Brene Brown. Her 2010 TEDx talk titled The Power of Vulnerability is one of the top 10 most viewed TED Talks in the world. Her work facilitated a shift in perspective and allowed people to look differently at their imperfect selves. Reading Brene’s work encouraged me to have the courage to start telling the truth about who I really was.
The first summer that I was a mother I was invited to a friends potluck BBQ. My daughter was six months old and I was struggling with sleep deprivation and overwhelmed by the enormity of my new role. I loved my daughter but my life did not resemble the image of motherhood that I had seen on tv. I had lost my own mother just a month after my daughter’s birth; I certainly had every reason to be right where I was, but my story about what motherhood should look like was strong. My shame was high and my ability to be vulnerable was low.
The days leading up to that potluck, I debated what to bring. My friend, the hostess, is known for being a spectacular cook who makes most dishes from scratch. I wanted to bring something to the potluck that would be at the caliber of my friends cooking, but I had neither the skills nor the energy to do so. What I wanted most was more sleep.
The day of the potluck I still didn’t have a salad or the energy to make one, so I went to a local store that specializes in read-to-serve food and bought the most decadent salad they had. (I would later learn the embarrassing lesson that if you’re trying to pass a dish off as homemade, don’t buy the best item in the store.) At home, I removed the packaging and transferred the yam salad into one of my fancy serving dishes. Later, at the BBQ, I started to hear chatter about how good the yam salad was. Guests started asking who had brought the yam salad and by the end of the night, several people had asked me for the recipe, including the hostess and another one of my closest friends. I sheepishly accepted the compliments and perpetuated the lie.
According to Brene Brown, shame needs three things to survive: secrecy, silence and judgement. I had created the perfect environment for shame to thrive. I felt a lot of shame for not being able to pull it together enough to make a salad and I felt even worse for pretending that I had. What I didn’t understand yet, is that I wasn’t a bad person, I was just ignoring some pretty big truths about myself. I wasn’t courageous enough to be authentic because I valued acceptance more than authenticity.
After attending some personal development courses, I developed a deeper understanding of myself. I learned that there were many truths about me that I had been ignoring in order to project the version of myself that I wanted people to see. I had been telling myself so many stories about what it means to be a mother, a wife, a daughter that I couldn’t reconcile what I deeply desired with my actual life.
It was so incredibly freeing to be able to admit to myself that I don’t love to cook and to let that be okay. What is true is that in my spare time, I would rather be reading a book than cooking. I would choose that everytime and from this perspective, buying the yam salad was the most authentic and self-respecting choice I could have made. Lying about it was ignoring my truth.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make everyday. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown
It’s been many years since the yam scandal and I have since confessed the entire story to my friends. Like the wonderful friends that they are, they love me anyways. They continue to invite me to parties and I offer to bring the music and flowers because those are the ways that I love to contribute. I get tempted sometimes to package myself as something I’m not but I am much quicker now to notice. In those moments, I remind myself to be brave and step into what is true and what is homemade simply because it is me.
Sarah is a working mother, freelance writer and inconsistent runner. She lives with her husband, two children and a Puggle on Vancouver Island. She has a love for the written word in all its forms. Learn more about Sarah here.