The Gift of Struggle

by Whitney on February 8, 2013

I had lunch with my friend Amanda yesterday. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of months, so the conversation started out like most distant, in that need-to-catch-up kind of way. How are you? Great! How are you! Good! How’s your business, hubby, kid? Good! How’s your business, hubby, kids? Great! Yada yada, you get it.

She told me she had been reading Napoleon Hill’s book, Outwitting the Devil. Mental note made. I read any book that another creative entrepreneur recommends. She gave me a summary of the book, and then, of course, it was my turn to carry the conversation.

I told her I’d been reading Daring Greatly. “The book talks about shame alot in the same way some people talk about fear,” I explained. “Men and women define shame differently–the triggers are different for each gender. For women, it might be motherhood, for men, it might be a career. But both genders have learned to wear armor that covers up their vulnerability, and what our society hasn’t figured out is that the armor that covers up shame is heavy, and it’s a burden to wear. The secret to overcoming shame is much like the secret to overcoming fear: name it. It will never go away, but it can be tamed into submission. Recognize the burden of armor, what you’re doing to cover up the shame: are you glorifying busy? Living in worst-case scenario mode instead of living in the moment? Are you numbing shame with addiction?”

Amanda’s face revealed she was interested in this topic. “You’ve done a good job leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability,” she said.

I went on to explain to her, if there is anything that has come out of the past 18 months, it’s that when you think you’re at the bottom, and you finally give up, sometimes you’re just cutting the rope that’s tied to the stone that’s making you sink. When you don’t have anywhere to go but up, it’s a whole lot less scary to open up to vulnerability, and change, and buy into the story that anywhere can be better than now. The struggle, in that sense, has been a gift.

Amanda said she was amazed that I was able to handle it with such a good attitude. At that point, I laughed. In Daring Greatly, I told her, Brene Brown describes two groups of people who can’t handle vulnerability. She calls them Vikings and Victims. The Vikings are the people who steamroll, conquer, and win–all the time. They refuse to acknowledge they are vulnerable, and take pride in the fact that they’ve never been defeated. The Victims are the people who can’t compete with the Vikings, so they just give up. They know they are vulnerable, and instead of growing into something better and stronger, they let themselves live defeated. I told Amanda, “That’s why I have a good attitude–because I’d been a Viking, and I knew I was on my way down, and there was no way I was going to resign to being a Victim.” We laughed.

What a journey, friends. What a gift.

In the struggles of life, the goal isn’t to come out on the other side without scars. There is no way we can go through life without a few battle wounds. The goal is to get to the other side of the struggle alive, stronger, and a little bit wiser than when you went into battle. Those are the gifts.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: