“As I sat and reflected on the discussions I’d had that day, a wave of realisation dawned on me that all the usual conditions of judgement, blame and fear were truly absent – had I freed just myself from the depression and shame or was something bigger and more profound emerging for everyone around me?”
Not the usual reflections on discussions and meetings at work but this was now becoming a frequent occurrence for which I’m going to try and explain how I got here.
In order to explain, I need to take you back a few years…
In 2016, my confidence was high, following a few years of public recognition which felt great and it was generating a buzz internally and externally. My name was reasonably known and was attracting a small amount of attention from across the country and usefully in parts of my own organisation where I’d previously been (in my view) ignored – although I suspect the reality was I was seen as a dreamer with a woolly view of the world but had some kudos about me so it opened some doors.
At this time in my development I was blissfully ignorant and unaware of the shame and depression that sat at the heart of who I was professionally and how it was driving my behaviours and actions in unproductive ways.
Then in the autumn of that year, it all started to change – my reality would start to unfold and disintegrate right in front of my eyes – this would take a further 2.5 years to fully resolve and along the way I faced some of the hardest and most difficult professional experiences and learning I’d ever been through. But all of that was the in my best interests to help me grow and develop.
What changed, well, I went for a new job, a job I’d understood would be my dream job, or at the least a step toward it.
In 2017 my view of the world around me changed significantly but alongside that I held a huge amount of judgement towards other people which I now know was because of who I was not because of what they did or didn’t do.
I was being supported to learn how to develop and support the learning and development of others and this was when I realised the limitations of this approach with the frame of mind I held.
The limitations I understood were inside me – my ability to change myself and how I saw myself and the world.
When I saw myself, my inner self for the first time staring back at me, I’m not sure I knew what else to do other than to acknowledge and accept who I really was.
I was someone who inside was insecure, scared to get things wrong, advocating only my position and believing other people were wrong. I was judgmental and had no compassion for others. On the outside, well that didn’t matter anymore, it had been shattered by the reality facing me, although no one would have really noticed.
Now before you ask I was still maintaining an exterior of happiness and a general sense of being ok to a wide variety of people but to the people I worked with who without there support and emotional safety I would never had been able to work this through to conclusion.
In the spring of 2018 I found myself drawn to the work of Dr Brene Brown – I’d been aware of her Ted Talk on vulnerability for some time but was actually too scared to watch it for what it might make me face up to. However my sense of who I was had changed and it no longer mattered how I would feel – I really needed to connect to it and when I did – wow, simply WOW…
I remember I was working from home and I can honestly say I wept for about 45 minutes as I experienced a release of emotions one after the other, like a set of waves crashing on a beach…
I followed that up by quickly googling Dr Brown and searching for anything else I could read, watch or listen to. I found her books and discovered that she had an audiobook called The Power of Vulnerability.
I had a credit on audible so downloaded it straight away – 6 hours of…. wow…wave of emotions…more wow…some shame…sense of reality…truth…deep sighs and a release of emotion again. I’d recommend it but I’ll be honest it can be a hard thing to hear if you are open to hearing what she says.
From that moment I found my path and my journey deepened and I got more and more meaning and a sense of purpose.
I listened to this audiobook about 10 times in a row as every time I listened I heard something new – I shared some of my learning and insights in the team and others connected to her work which after a while allowed some group discussion and reflections – these really helped as I was finding it challenging unpacking the learning on my own.
This audiobook was followed by six more from Dr Brown and then more recently the audiobook and physical book of Dare to Lead (highly recommended)
I have written already on this blog about my learning from Dr Brown so won’t repeat it here but do check out the other posts if you are interested.
- Understanding and working with Shame
- Learning, leadership, being vulnerable and developing shame resilience
- Development and Growth – A perspective on vulnerability
- Depression and Shame – The simple yet unconscious patterns that feed and develop an unhealthy mind.
In addition to the books by Dr Brown other significant books I’ve read or listened to which have helped me in this area of development are:
- Immunity to Change – Robert Kegan / Lisa Laskow Lahey
- The Path – Christine Gross-Loh
- The Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
- The wisdom of Sunday’s – Oprah Winfrey
- What I know for sure – Oprah Winfrey
- The untethered soul – Michael A Singer
- The Awakened Family – Dr Shefali Tsabary
- The New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
- The book of forgiving – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
- Reboot – Jerry Colonna
- Leading from purpose – Nick Craig
- Start with why – Simon Sinek
During 2018 our teams external support changed and I had not anticipated the impact this would have on my development – initially it was a backward step but somewhere inside I refused to go back and something had to give – after many months (9 to be exact) 3 of which were filled with a hidden depression – I finally let go…free from the constraints of my previous way of thinking. Most of this journey is covered in the posts about shame as I had realised this was a period of time where I struggled the most with it.
Time passed and I felt myself healing. Short moments of realisation would occur but never long enough to maintain a sense of peace…but that changed too
In late spring 2019 I had a number of insightful and open hearted discussions and meetings – one of which was with a colleague and a senior manager in a meeting which was full of emotions, reconnection and forgiveness. As we do with all meetings we debriefed what happened and as I sat and reflected on the discussions I’d had that day, a wave of realisation dawned on me that all the usual conditions of judgement, blame and fear were truly absent – had I freed just myself from the depression and shame or was something bigger and more profound emerging for everyone around me? It occurred to me that a shift was happening in a wider group of people and this was really the start of a journey to truly and deeply transform the way we think, act and work with each other to deliver and provide public services.
The specific reflection relating to my realisation of letting go is summarised in a recent post titled A Choice. Again if interested check it out.
So I come to now, or more accurately Autumn 2019 and as I write this and look back on the most incredible personal journey I’ve experienced to date. I sit here peaceful, grounded and connected to my deeper self.
I’m continually learning how to develop practice that holds and sustains that peace throughout the whole day and in time I’m sure that will arrive but until then I see people as people, through a kindness and generosity that anchors me to a non judgmental state of mind.
I’ve pondered what the greatest lesson I’ve received though all of this is actually is?
Well…after much thought this is what I have learnt.
What I’ve found was always there. It wasn’t waiting to be found or discovered…..it was simply waiting, waiting to be accepted.