On The Internet Making Me Brave.

I watched Brené Brown last week give the opening keynote speech at SXSW in Austin. They broadcast it live and after fixing the audio that was missing the first few minutes, it was a great speech and I’m really glad Facebook alerted me to it via her social media account.

(Another example of why I’m dependent on Facebook and can’t give it up. So many people only use Facebook to alert their community of upcoming events.)

She talked a lot about the importance of being yourself as opposed to trying to fit in, because if we fail at fitting in we feel shame because we sacrificed something of our true selves to do so. If, instead, we don’t sacrifice anything and we’re still not accepted then we’ll feel sad or disappointed, but not ashamed. She then went on to talk about the things we’ve sacrificed in our lives to try to fit in, and she called those our “orphaned parts” and she discussed the importance of bringing all of those parts back together to complete our true selves.

This is what I’ve been thinking about a lot this weekend – do I still have any orphaned parts I need to hunt down? I do think we all orphan parts of ourselves throughout our lives. There were a lot of things I hid as a kid and a teen because I was embarrassed about them, there were tons of things I hid in college because I felt like I was not worthy of love or friendship unless I fit within certain molds. This is really sad to me because I had a lot of great friends in college that would have accepted all of those parts if I hadn’t tried so hard to be someone I wasn’t just for any kind of validation or affection.

But I truly think over the last 10 years – as I’ve worked to conquer my anxieties to make new friends and reconnect with old ones after Dad died – that I’ve pulled a lot of those orphaned parts back together. The funny thing is, I think I was able to do that because of this blog. I started this blog in early 2004 and while I definitely curated content in the beginning to be more “funny”, I have been more of myself here than I had in any year prior in the “real world.” I realized that doing things like admitting I was a Harry Potter fangirl, or that I had social anxieties, or that I felt like I was a terrible mother – and having so many people here chime in and say, “Me too!” – taught me that there are always people who can connect with you on every level if you proudly show it. I spent 5 years writing about all of my vulnerabilities – silly and serious – and being met with love and kindness. So, when my Dad died and I was suddenly motivated to try to leave the confines of my home and make friends in the real world — I had confidence of self…thanks to the my connections on the internet.

The more I thought about it this weekend the more I realized the truth of my capability of vulnerability in the last 10 years. That it exists because I made so many connections online first, where the fear of rejection is not as visceral and so you feel more brave to open up. This is why sometimes after I exclaim, “I am so glad there was no internet when I was a teenager!” – I do pause for a moment and wonder, But would I have learned lessons of vulnerability earlier?

I’m just really grateful that the last decade has brought me out of the comfort of my home and showed me that there are tons of people out there who you can connect with BECAUSE of those vulnerable parts you might have been afraid to show previously. And I’m glad I had built those connections behind the computer screen the years before to give me the courage to welcome those orphaned parts back home.

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