I know all about it, literally. A few years ago I was jogging around a pond nearby, lost in thought as usual and not really ‘in the moment’. A pebble that stuck out got me – I fell down at full running speed. I vividly remember falling as if in slow motion and being incapable of changing the final outcome. In a desperate attempt to break my fall, my elbows and hands hit the ground first and then I literally fell flat on my face, banging my head against the ground. Some may remember what I looked like the days after, my bruised face was not exactly a sight for sore eyes. A few walkers helped me get up and gave me some tissues to stop the bleeding.
I especially remember the shame about what had happened to me, and what others must have thought of me, stumbling so stupidly. The years after I was not spared and the story repeated itself: stumbling stupidly – resulting in a severely broken wrist in the Vosges, sprained ribs at the Dutch seaside and a dislocated and broken finger in the Spanish Pyrenees. Every single time I also literally stood up again and continued on my own, either home, to the first aid, to the car… Afterwards you can talk about it in a heroic way – the pain, the shame and the misery of the moment itself and the days after eventually fading away.
But what about falling figuratively – failing or making mistakes – and then getting up again? What stories do we tell ourselves and others about that? The American researcher, social worker and author Brené Brown wrote about this in her latest book “Rising Strong. The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution“. Her 2 TED talks about shame and vulnerability are legendary, and her latest book is a logical continuation. Brené claims that it is absolutely worthwhile not to run away from setback or failure (or what you perceive as such) by telling a different story about it, not only to others but also to yourself. Think for instance about the stories you tell about the conflicts with your partner, relatives or colleagues. There is every chance that you create a story that makes you look better, in which you are right and the other is wrong, in which you are the victim and the other is the bad one. Brené Brown advises to rather look for the story of this struggle, to get into it and to be honest with yourself. This means being curious and acknowledging your dark feelings of fear, anger, aggression, shame and guilt. And this will definitely make you stronger, possibly stronger than ever.