Skinny jeans. I have stared at them for a few years. I have eyed them with suspicion and contempt. Can they really be that comfortable? Isn’t it exhausting pulling them on and tugging them off? Don’t you eventually start to lose circulation in your legs with that denim stretched around them? A friend of mine repeatedly tried to convince me of the benefits to a good skinny jean. I told her she must be delusional. She told me that I needed to get over myself and just get some skinny jeans. I told her never.
Fast forward to this past Fall…
I love to read, and I tend to read in themes and seasons. Meaning, I like to take a whole season and read about a particular theme. This past Fall I decided to engross myself in the topics of shame and grace and specifically the work of Brené Brown. Brené Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher and the author of Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought It Was Just Me. In her writing and research, she discusses the seemingly universal struggle with feeling worthy and believing we are enough because we live in a world that floods us with messages that we are not good enough, productive enough, thin enough, successful enough, etc. When we wrestle with feeling not enough, we grow quiet. We leave out parts of our story. We avoid situations that make us feel exposed. We hide in routine and people pleasing and attempted perfectionism. We try to live like an Impressionist painting in art museum- we want people to stay behind the red rope so we look impressive from far away.
The more I read, the more it forced me to come face to face with my own ways of hiding and retreating and the true reason behind them. I started honestly admitting why I avoided certain situations and things in life. I recognized that some of the rituals and routines I have adopted are really ways I was giving into this fear of not being good enough.
Oh and as for my suspicion, contempt, and adamant rejection of skinny jeans? Well that fell under the categories of hiding, retreating, and avoiding, too.
I realized I was caught in a cycle: every time I retreated or avoided a new experience because I felt insecure or unsure, the not good enough feeling won and got stronger. Our actions reinforce our thinking. If we never challenge the beast, then we’ll never believe it can be defeated… and we end up being the ones defeated.
Brené Brown goes on to say that the antidote to feeling not good enough is learning to embrace vulnerability rather than avoid it. What does this mean in practical terms? It means we have to first get really honest with ourselves about all the ways we hide and retreat. We have to admit the things we are waiting to do once we are (fill in the blank) enough. Are you waiting to have people over to your house once it is decorated enough? Are you waiting to share what has really been going on in your life once you are put together enough? Are you waiting to truly enjoy summertime and pool parties and beach vacations once you are thin enough? Are you waiting to finally pursue that calling or hobby or family time you desire once you are financially secure enough? Once we identify the ways we are hiding and what we are hiding from, we can start practicing vulnerability.
Vulnerability defeats the beast.
Practicing vulnerability means opening ourselves up to life and to others, which means opening ourselves up to risk and uncertainty. Practicing vulnerability is a choice. We choose to come out of hiding. We choose to have a voice. Practicing vulnerability means verbalizing the struggles and worries that race through your mind late at night. It means telling the parts of your story you wish weren’t there. It means trying something new despite your self-doubt or nervousness.
It means wearing the skinny jeans.
Practicing vulnerability does not always mean you make some major life change or unload your entire personal history over one lunch date. It may mean making just a slight change in your life that no one may notice but you, but that slight change begins chipping away at that deeply rooted not enough feeling. You then discover how to break the cycle: new actions help reinforce new thinking. One small step creates a ripple effect. I took my small step in a pair of Curvy Skinny Jeans from The Gap. Each one of us has a “skinny jean” in our life. Each one of us has something we avoid doing or don’t share with anyone or have stopped doing because we feel too exposed or are worried what people will think.
So what is your “skinny jean”? What is something you could try that you’ve never done before? What is something you could share that you’ve never shared before? Anytime you do something different, whether it is a big or small thing, and you feel that little wave of nervousness, you are showing courage and practicing vulnerability. Pushing yourself out of your rituals and routines builds up your vulnerability “muscle” and frees you from your not enough thinking. Embracing your “skinny jean” could start the revolution that just might change your life.
What are you not doing because you are waiting to be _______ enough? What is your “skinny jean”?