Our Internal Struggle with Power

addtext_com_MTM0MDU1MzE1OTk

I have a confession: my wife and I enjoy binge watching Scandal. Similar to other TV series we’ve watched like Revenge, Prison Break, and Breaking Bad, something about the suspense and over-load of twisted details keeps us ever engaged and always wanting more.

I can’t watch them week by week, mostly because my mind can’t keep track of all the intricate moving pieces that weave the story into the twisted plot that keeps me addicted. My wife is much better at this. We may have a several month sabbatical from one show while waiting for the next season to release (or line up in our queue) and before sitting down to watch it, she can recall the entire story line (including names and details) of the previous episode in perfect detail. I usually have to watch the final episode of the previous season anyway. My brain does not have a strong enough storing cabinet for such details. But thankfully, she indulges me.

Finishing the final episode of Scandal’s most recent season caused me to ponder the kind of society we live in that has created such a strong pull for these type of shows. Then I realized, if you put them side by side, you see one common theme throughout them all: the corruption of morals due to a lust for power. These people blind-side, back stab, and even brutally kill in cold blood to climb their way to the top of political power and the social status ladder. These characters are somehow convinced that doing so will make their life more fulfilled.

What kind of world are we living in? I asked myself more than once as I saw eerie similarities between some of Scandal’s most recent season and our current political climate.

It’s shocking, and often horrifying, what people will do for money, power, fame, reputation, and appearance.

But scale it back a bit and these shows really aren’t that far off from our everyday life. Now, hopefully none of us would ever even contemplate physically murder someone, especially as coldly as Huck or Jake Ballard do. But I bet each of us has done something dishonest or something that goes against our morals/values in order to gain power or maintain appearances.

Perhaps it’s the white lie you told to your boss that made you look better, but took the credit away from another co-worker. Or maybe you embellished your skill set to make yourself more marketable for the next rung on the corporate ladder. Or perhaps you threw a friend or family member under the bus to maintain appearances in front of your “cool” friends, or snubbed someone you felt was beneath you just to make yourself feel better. Maybe you even convinced your LGBTQ child to stay in the closet to protect their reputation (or your own), or introduced your son’s partner as a “friend” to your own circle of loved ones in order to guard yourself and keep the peace. If we look closely, don’t we, just like the characters on TV, somehow convinced ourselves that doing these things will make our life better? More power-full? More fulfilled?

Which then begs me to ask the question…WHY aren’t we fulfilled?

What is it that keeps us always reaching for the next best thing, even when it exhausts us day after day?

We’ve all said or done things we regret in order to make ourselves look better than we really are. But it comes at a cost. Think for a moment about how the “other” person–the one you snubbed, the friend you didn’t side with, the person you beat out of a job, the child you silenced–felt. Think about the way your actions dented their own spirits, hurt their feelings, or bruised their self esteem.

And then, think about this: what if we were simply content?download

What if, instead of wanting what other people have, we were thankful for what was already present in our lives and right in front of us?

What if, instead of putting others down to make ourselves look better, we brought them up to our level by speaking more highly of their skills than we do of our own?

What if, instead of making our child or someone we love suppress who they are in order to make us comfortable, we instead put our own reputation on the line and fiercely stand by them in alliance?

What if, we believed in each other, valued one another, and put others needs ahead of our own?

Then maybe, just maybe, that lust for power and position and money could be replaced with things like equality and justice and love.

And maybe, we could change the world and in turn, make it a more fulfilling place to live.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber

Own Your Story: Taking Power Back Over the Things that Shame You

 

OwnStoryQuoteThis past year, I spent a huge portion of my time each week writing my first memoir. That meant that I looked at and examined my own life from all angles and perspectives for hours each day. It was like immersing myself in intensive therapy. I learned a lot about myself and I uncovered truths about my childhood that were both tough to acknowledge and hard to sit with. While some of those realizations were difficult for me to accept as truth, they were equally helpful at helping me understand my own story. It was both healing and heart-wrenching, both eye-opening and painful to see.

I’ll admit there are things in this book that I wish weren’t about to be made public to the entire world. It’s not easy to expose your most painful moments to anyone and everyone that wants to read them. But I am also aware that had I chosen not to include some of those vulnerable details, the story would not be as relatable, nor as powerful. I believe that it is when we are vulnerable, raw, and open about who we are, the mistakes that we’ve made, and the pain we’ve experienced that we not only find our own freedom, but we liberate others to find theirs as well.

This belief was ignited from a defining moment I had as I neared the end of writing my manuscript. I was reading through a particular section and thinking to myself, “Gee, I sure wish I didn’t have to include this in the book.” Then it dawned on me: I didn’t want to include this in the book because I still felt as an adult the same shame it caused me to feel as a young child. And there I was, back at the issue of shame. Again.

But then I realized, I had a choice: I could move forward and continue to feel shame over this piece of my story or I could own it. So I said to myself, “Heck, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to go all the way.” Scavenging through old photo albums, I chose several pictures that illustrated this piece of my story, and copy and pasted them into the folder of photos to be included in the manuscript.

Over the following weeks as I thought about the situation, the idea of owning my story began to resonate deeper and deeper inside me. Those pictures I chose to include are ones that I’ve always hated to look at myself, much less show to another person. But now, choosing to include them in the book as evidence of my story made me feel a sense of power and authority over a part of my life that previously, had always made me feel weak. It was my way of looking it in the face and deciding that it wasn’t going to own me or cause me to feel shame any longer. Instead, I was going to own it.

I’ll be the first to admit this transformation doesn’t happen overnight. In moments of uncertainty I’d find myself in a state of panic, wanting to delete entire sections of the manuscript to hide away all my weaknesses and failures where no one could see. “Surely the whole world doesn’t really need to know about all this, right?” I’d try to convince myself.

Wrong. Deep inside I knew that people needed to see all sides of me in order to both know that I am human and to raise awareness for issues that people may not otherwise confront or understand. But vulnerability is hard. When the years you’ve felt shame over something far surpass the number of years that you have not felt shame over it, admittedly, it’s going to take some time and practice to fully let go. But once I decided to take that plunge into the sea of vulnerability, a sense of pride rose up alongside my fear, and gave me the confidence I needed in the road that lies ahead as I intentionally own my own story a little more each day.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I continue to marinate over this idea at the same time that my book group and I press on in our study of Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. So much of her work focuses on discovering our own worthiness through owning our stories and letting go of shame. So it was no surprise when I typed “own your story” into my Google search engine, that a list of quotes by Brené Brown came up. Here are a few I’d like to share with you. Perhaps you will join me in meditating on them throughout the week:
own-your-story

 

-“When we own our own stories, we avoid being trapped as characters in the stories someone else is telling.” -Brené Brown, Rising Strong

 

 

155516-Bren-Brown-Quote-You-either-walk-inside-your-story-and-own-it-or

 

-“You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” -Brené Brown

 

BB_ChurchStory2

 

 

-“When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” -Brené Brown

 

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hustling for my worthiness. I’m tired of trying to convince myself that I belong. I want to be brave in owning my story, I want know deep in my being that I belong, I want to choose what defines me, and I want to love myself for all the beautiful and unique imperfections I possess. I hope you will join me in this journey.

Because we are all beautifully imperfect,
Amber