Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

By: Elaine Fraser

True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are. – Brené Brown.

Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. These words summarise a life-long journey of learning to be vulnerable and learning to stand up for myself. Patterns are set when we’re children. We’re taught to keep the peace, be nice, fit in.

Being nice and fitting in, causes tension that we can’t articulate. The patterns we set continue and make us feel uncomfortable, but we can’t really say why.

Brené says that, learning to be vulnerable (soft front): express your true feelings, reveal weakness, acknowledge need, consider the possibility you might be wrong, empathize, learn how to apologize is counterbalanced by learning to stand up for yourself or others or for things you believe in, even if it means losing your standing in the group (strong back).

The tension between a strong back and a soft front reveals that true belonging requires both courage and vulnerability.

I wish I’d learned this earlier in life. Earlier in life, I was more of a coward. I thought of myself as empathetic, but I was probably more acquiescent. Going along with the flow may build peace around you, but inside is another story.

The wilderness is where we ‘grow a spine‘.

The wilderness is where we stop freaking out about our vulnerability and just embrace it, often because we can’t outrun it.

Brené Brown says, ‘the cost of true belonging is carrying the pain of the wilderness with us wherever we go.’

We all develop losses, hurts, and failures in the wilderness. We all develop enduring limps in the wilderness. And, at the end of the day, we enter true belonging, with all the bruises and scars we earned along the way.

I find that even if I’m limping, I have an inner strength that keeps me going. In September, I climbed Kilimanjaro. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done–harder than two difficult births. I had to dig deep to find the physical and mental strength to keep going on that climb.

Six days of incredible physical, emotional, and spiritual stress stretched me past my limits and into new territory. Out the other side, my feet had nerve damage, my toes were munted into ugly appendages, and it took a few weeks before I stopped having flashbacks to endless footsteps.

My inner world is a lot like that. I’ve pushed through some tough patches in this journey towards belonging. I’m at a place in life where I feel like I’m somewhere I want to be. I have a community of family and friends who really know me and accept me as I am. I don’t feel like I have to fit in anywhere, I don’t have to be like anyone else. I get to be me. But … twinges of the past make me limp sometimes.

‘Once we’ve found the courage to stand alone, to say what we believe and do what we feel is right despite the criticism and fear, we may leave the wilderness, but the wild has marked our hearts.’

What is ‘the wild’?

For me, the wild is where I find the courage to lay aside embarrassment, a sense of shame, and feelings of inadequacy. The wild is where I stand up for what I believe, decide to be who I am and embrace it.

Getting older, and hopefully wiser, is part of the process. Experience has taught me that the world doesn’t really fall apart if I express who I truly am, my true opinions, my real insecurities, my secret, inner self. The ‘wild’ is exhilarating.

Article supplied with thanks to Elaine Fraser.

About the Author: Elaine Fraser is from Perth WA and is a teacher, mentor and author.