1. Brené Brown on Vulnerability and Shame

    May 3, 2013

    Vulnerability and Shame


    by Gabriela D. Acosta


    If Brené Brown has taught us anything it is that the path to wholehearted living is not an easy one. It’s not something that you can attain overnight by making a few life tweaks and adjustments.


    When presenting her theories at TED conferences, the social work research-professor openly shares her experiences with shame, emotional “breakdowns” and vulnerability. The mention of delving into those three things are probably enough to make you click this page shut without a second thought, but what the concept of wholehearted living offers in return for exploring these scary topics is worth it: It means finally feeling comfortable and happy in your skin. You can’t deny that you have experienced moments of self doubt in your life. If you are lucky enough to say you haven’t, you’re either an extremely rare case or you’re just not being honest with yourself.


    Wholehearted Living


    Wholehearted living is described as living your life from the standpoint of worthiness. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of belonging. You are enough. The qualities of one who is living wholeheartedly are courage, compassion and connection. Courage is telling the story of who you really are as a person. Compassion means being kind to yourself, because this is necessarily before you can be compassionate with others. And connection is about letting go of who you think you should be and being who you are in order to truly connect with others. This is the recipe for wholehearted living.


    Shame and Vulnerability


    Brown tells us that there are two important aspects to explore on the road to wholehearted living: shame and vulnerability. These two things can often go hand and hand. At the core of shame is vulnerability.


    Brown explains that guilt and shame are not the same thing. Guilt is a positive feeling that motivates us and keeps us in check when it comes to our actions and their effect on the world. We feel guilty when we make a mistake and hurt someone. Shame, on the other hand, is the belief that we are the mistake. We are the bad thing, rather than the action we committed. You can imagine how detrimental this can be to wholehearted living. Instead of accepting that we are humans who make mistakes and fail as a natural part of being, we constantly beat ourselves up for our perceived failures. We are our own cruelest critics, telling ourselves not only that we have failed, but that it is because we aren’t good enough.


    While vulnerability is the seed of shame, it is also the seed of creativity, joy, belonging and love. Contrary to popular belief, vulnerability is absolutely essential to wholehearted living. Vulnerability is risk-taking, exposure and uncertainty. It’s knowing that you might not do it well, do it right or do it at all, but you have to try. This may sound terrifying to most people. It’s not easy to be vulnerable, and we tend to associate being vulnerable with being weak. Vulnerability is not weakness. To be vulnerable is to have courage. It is scary, but only through accepting it as a part of our life can we have a chance at wholehearted living. Imagine being able to live your life without allowing concerns about what others think of you rule what you do and how you present yourself to the world. I bet it sounds freeing.


    How to Live Wholeheartedly


    Brown gives us four tidbits of advice for attaining wholehearted living. The first is to let yourself be seen for who truly are, vulnerability and all. The second is to love with your whole heart. This means putting yourself at risk for rejection and heartache. The third is to practice gratitude and joy, meaning that in the darkest moments when you are paralyzed by fear of your own vulnerability, you stop and give thanks for living your life so fully. Feeling that fear means that you are really living and not just hiding behind your fears.


    And the final piece of advice that she shares is to believe that you are enough. With this final piece, you will approach yourself and the world in a kinder and gentler way. This is the way of wholehearted living.


    Author Bio: Gabriela D. Acosta serves as the community manager for the MSW@USC, one of the most innovative and dynamic social work graduate programs online. She is passionate about social justice, mental health research, and leadership development. Connect with her on Twitter @Gabyacosta101

    Image Credit: Stefano Mortellaro

  2. Child Depression

    March 15, 2013

    Child Depression

    We often tend to make fun of certain activities by calling them child’s play. However, it turns out that “child’s play” might not be that playful and happy-go-lucky after all. In the US, child depression on average tends to affect one in every forty kids. This should be a revelation for those of you who assume their child’s apparent depression as being just the “blues.” Neither is such a kid being emotional or moody, or even “difficult” for that matter.


    Yes, granted that children can start sulking at times if their parents or guardians have not given into their demands for that new toy or a sugary treat, even after they have thrown their fair share of tantrums. But the fact is that what with the fast-paced lifestyle that even kids these days have to cope with, as well as all sorts of synthetic and processed food that is being marketed to catch their fancy, it is no wonder that they have started experiencing similar mental illnesses as their elders.


    Symptoms of Childhood Depression

    If you see your child displaying irritable behaviour and getting angry all the time of petty things or on the flip side, becoming somewhat withdrawn socially or start brooding habitually, then there is a cause for concern. Furthermore, even though you might not immediately sense it, but your child is usually very sensitive to the environment in their homes and schools as well as the attitudes of various people that they interact with. Thus there is a whole range of emotions triggers that can bring about feelings of hopelessness, despair, guilt, self-loathing, worthlessness and even committing suicide.


    Worrying Factors about Child Depression

    The most disturbing factor that may be involved in your child developing a bout of depression with an underlying suicidal tendency is that it may be brought upon by the very medication that is supposed to treat it. Since the late 1990s, there have been several studies conducted within the scientific community that have shown that antidepressants such as the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft tend to increase the risk of suicide, especially amongst children.

    Your little ones have a body chemistry that is constantly undergoing changes as it is. Add to that a class of drugs that interfere with their brain’s job of regulating levels of serotonin, the so-called “happy hormone,” and you have a virtual suicidal time-bomb on your hands. Even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) that is the official branch of the US government overseeing the marketing of pharmaceuticals, among other things, has issued strong warnings over the potential link between suicides and the usage of SSRI antidepressants.


    How to Effectively Alleviate Child Depression

    Where it is essential to discuss the moods and feelings with depressed adults, it is even more important to engage children and have a heart to heart with them. Children can also have a lot of hesitation when it comes to revealing their inner feelings and it takes time, patience and trust-building with them for positive results to come out. Make sure your children are getting plenty of exercise outdoors, preferably when the sun is shining. This is essentially for natural vitamin D production, the depletion of which has been linked to child depression.