As ready as we all are to forge ahead and start rebuilding an even better “new normal,” we also recognize the importance of acknowledging the collective grief we’re feeling about things we have lost: certainty in the future, job security, freedom to travel, family celebrations, our health, and the health of our loved ones.
Many of us are wrestling with larger questions about who we are, and who we will be on the other side of this crisis — myself included. In the last year, I have endured the loss of my only sibling, as well as my grandfather. Both of these losses left me feeling hollowed out and broken. But over time, I’ve become able to access small moments, and then longer moments, of something bordering on peace. And over time, I’ve come to realize that I have to keep going, bravely, because there has to be some purpose and meaning in the fact that I am still here. And in that way, these losses also gave me the freedom to belong to myself fully and to explore what that reason is.
It’s natural to want to avoid painful feelings, but the truth is that the only way out is through. As researcher and best-selling author Breneé Brown said, “I believe that you have to walk through vulnerability to get to courage, therefore . . . embrace the suck.”
As we each navigate our way to a new normal, here are 25 quotes and lessons from Breneé Brown that have helped me navigate this period of loss and change, which I hope will help you too.
Lesson 1: You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy — you are enough just the way you are.
- “What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.”
- “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
- “When we work from a place, I believe, that says ‘I’m enough,’ then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
- “How can we expect people to put value on our work when we don’t value ourselves enough to set and hold uncomfortable boundaries?”
- “…sometimes when we are beating ourselves up, we need to stop and say to that harassing voice inside, “Man, I’m doing the very best I can right now.” ”
- “I define wholehearted living as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
- “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
- “It’s always helpful to remember that when perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun.”
Lesson 2: Even when it’s hard to face the truth, avoidance isn’t the answer.
- “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
- “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.”
- “When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.”
- “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
- “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
- “The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”
Lesson 3: Embracing vulnerability is one of the most courageous and powerful things you can do.
- “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
- “People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”
- “To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”
- “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”
- “Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
- “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
- “I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
Lesson 4: You are defined by what you think of yourself, not what others think about you.
- “Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.”
- “It’s not about ‘what can I accomplish?’ but ‘what do I want to accomplish?’ Paradigm shift.”
- “A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
- “Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.”
The stages of grief are not a linear stair-step; they are a pendulum. Some days, my heart still feels broken. But it is only through facing and honoring that raw pain that, eventually, I will be able to make something beautiful from the pieces. Whatever change, loss, and grief this year has brought you, in a way, we’re all in the arena together right now. I find comfort in the thought that perhaps on the other side of this, we’ll be that much gentler and kinder to ourselves and each other.