So what makes the core difference between those who were connected and those who weren’t?
After six years of study, involving hundreds of interviews and focus groups, Brown found that people with a strong sense of worthiness and belonging differed from those who struggled from that sense only on one point: they believed they were worthy of love and belonging. In other words, the only thing keeping people from love and connection was their own beliefs on their worthiness of that love and connection.
According to Brown, these whole-hearted individuals lived with three commonalities:
- Courage to be imperfect and to tell the story of who they were with their whole hearts;
- Compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others; and
- Connection as a result of authenticity, willingly letting go of who they thought they should be to become who they were.
- Avoid the impulse to numb vulnerability through food, drugs, debt, or any other surface distractions. “The problem is… that you cannot selectively numb emotion,” Brown said. “You can’t numb the hard feelings without numbing the assets” like joy, gratitude, and happiness.
- Stop trying to make certain that which is uncertain by the nature of life. We live in an uncertain world yet try to pin things down to be concrete or sure, and Brown said that increases the cycle of shame, as fear leads to shame of being vulnerable.
- Let go of the drive toward perfectionism, especially in when raising children. “As parents… our job is to look and to say ‘You know what? You’re imperfect and wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’”
- Take responsibility for actions instead of pretending they don’t affect others. Admitting a mistake can be difficult, but it’s necessary in order to connect.