#VULNERABLEMOMENT to share with you. I realized something important today as I engaged with my daughter. (Children are our greatest teachers aren’t they?). I want my daughter to grow up strong and empowered. Part of that means acquiring habits that generate bravery. She’s 4. The neurons in her brain are creating synapses all the time as she learns and experiences more each day. I want her to develop a core belief that she is brave and strong.
We have told her in the past about being brave, for example when getting hurt or squishing a bug in the house. I have noticed my husband, who has good intentions, but isn’t necessarily a student of brain science or life-coaching for kids, say a phrase to help her deal with a ‘fall’ or knee scrape such as “….but you’re very strong and brave right?”
And today, I realized the flaw.
She hurt herself three times today doing all the things 4 years old do, and each time she said “It hurts. But I’m not crying. Because I’m brave.” Now most of us would be like, ‘atta girl’, you got this.
Her third ‘owie’ was slipping on the floor, and twisting her foot. She looked at me immediately, and I could tell the pain was pretty OUCH (imagine us rolling our ankle – fudge right?).. and I went up to her and provided empathy, hugged her, and asked if it hurt a lot… she said “It hurts. But I’m not crying. Because I’m brave.”
And it dawned on me as I watched her swallow her feelings… (my intuitiveness kicked in; I could see her process the pain and push her feelings down…)
I said “You can be brave and still cry.”
Simply telling others to ‘be brave’ or ‘be fearless’ isn’t helpful if we aren’t dealing with the emotion that does come up instinctively. Instead, we become over time, these ‘false brave’ humans shoving our feelings down because the world tells us to be brave.
In my opinion, this has impacted girls and women over the last two decades significantly as we have risen sharply to claim equanimity in the world… but the emotional repercussion of swallowing feelings… Well, you can’t eat feelings. Feelings will come out one way or another; it’s a matter of when and how.
Healthy processing of negative emotions and creating balance in our approach with our kids is crucial.
Being brave INCLUDES vulnerability and allowing ourselves to cry if that is what comes up for us in the middle of an experience. Being brave doesn’t need to exclude tears or sadness.
This type of bravery – the fear of showing up weak in the world – isn’t bravery; it’s exhibiting fear of our natural essence in the moment, or choosing to revoke the 'negative' emotion that arises from the one person we need to love the most; ourselves.
I have heard many-a-woman cry and then apologize for crying in the middle of a conversation. Heck, I’ve done it too. Women are strong as HELL – no? I’ll be the first to cry in front of you… But I will say that when I have witnessed a woman cry in vulnerability in front of me, I don’t think she is weak, I normally experience a huge sense of honoring her in the moment.
BE BRAVE GIRL. BUT KNOW THAT IT'S OKAY TO CRY.
So why was this topic important enough to share? Kids develop their core beliefs about themselves by age 7. From age 8 onwards (sometimes sooner) they start to compare themselves to others. Neuron count and synapses (connections between neurons) is high when kids are young and unused neurons get pruned as they enter their more 'independent years. If we prune away the neural networks for healthy emotional expression because the pathways weren't strengthened --- we do a disservice...)
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