I have two teenage boys at home – one my own, and one whose mother has courageously sent him halfway across the world to live with a stranger. A third teenager (mine) is homesick in a foreign country. A fourth, on his way.
You’d think they’re the ones having the personal growth experience. Probably. But it’s my own that’s inspired this post.
In Braving the Wilderness at Home, Brené Brown (to whom I credit the title of this post) speaks about our desperate search for belonging, and how we settle for fitting in. In my experience, nowhere do you feel more alone than in a strange country with no language skills and a suitcase of teenage angst.
Of course this longing isn’t reserved for exchange students. Even when it comes to our own families we yearn to be acknowledged for who we are. If we aren’t, it could break our hearts, our spirit and our self-worth.
The less brave among us pretend and please in our frantic need to fit in. We don’t dare to be ourselves, to stand in that lonely, unpredictable, vulnerable place of truth. We choose instead to be what others want us to be and as payment, we’re weighed down by the constant companions of blame, rage, and inexplicable grief.
Brené encourages us to:
“Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self worth are not goods. We don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”
In our family, we’re not skilled at rewarding authenticity. Our own fears and pain about not belonging drive us to teach our sons to ‘fit in’. We think we’re encouraging them to be their own people and choose their own paths, and most often we genuinely support their choices, until they make us uncomfortable or scared.
The consequences of our constant molding are teenagers who feel trapped by our rules and bored by our predictability; wild horses champing at the bit of freedom from expectation.
Maybe if we’re able stand with a strong back and have the courage to be ourselves, so can they. Maybe if we dare to expose our soft, vulnerable front, so can they. Maybe if they’re able to model for us how to stand in wild, passionate truth… so can we.