Connecting… With the Secret Sauce (and my Award Ceremony)

My husband sent me an article recently, a short read by Brené Brown.  He knows I co-led Rising Strong and Daring Bravely groups of hers, and she often talks about the same topics I talk about with clients in therapy. I read it immediately, then sent it to a few clients I hoped it would resonate with.  What a thoughtful gesture from him (I thought)!

When he got home from work that evening, I thanked him and said that it was perfect timing for a couple of people who might find it helpful.  He looked at me, and I had one of those “Ohhhhhh,” moments.  “I just realized you were not sending me a resource.  You were sending this for me to read for myself.”  He smiled, rolled his eyes, and I thanked him–for his intention. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the article.

I’m sharing it with you now:  “Brené Brown Says This is the Core of Mental Toughness”. Who wouldn’t want to be MORE mentally tough?

Coincidently, earlier in the week I had talked with my older son about the value of Self-Reflection. Is it the deal-breaker between someone who’s easy to date or be in a relationship with vs. someone who is more argumentative, more drama, draining, and manipulative (along with all the other negatives in unsuccessful relationships)?  We had a good discussion about people who are self-reflective; how it’s easier to forgive and understand when the other person also acknowledges what the issue is.

It turns out that the answer to Mental Toughness is Self-Compassion,  different from Self-Reflection.  The article explains that if we are learners from our disappointments and failures vs in despair over them, there are opportunities to improve.

Self-compassion is rare–yet vital.  It’s what allows us to forgive ourselves for the things we’d rather not think about:  Unkind words and deeds, not considering how our behavior impacts others; and especially, their accusations for those misdeeds.   It’s easier to get defensive and deny our responsibility than to put ourselves “in someone else’s shoes.”

Yet, when we do and we take ownership of our behavior, we also own our self-compassion:  We made a mistake, and that’s human.  We feel compassion for ourselves for making the mistake, and compassion for the other person who was hurt by it.  It’s a win-win solution.

Brené Brown suggests we talk to ourselves more kindly, give ourselves a break, believe we deserve empathy, and that will validate our feelings.  She talks about how important it is not to talk to ourselves in a critical, punishing way.  Truly, those are words of wisdom.

Now, take it to the next step: Self-Reflection.  If you are kind to yourself and understand yourself, then that self-reflection brings you closer to others.  You are not threatening.  You are reasonable.  You are a safe person.  You may not be in agreement with someone, but you will be understanding.  The next time you falter–and we all will–you’ll find that self-compassion a little sooner, thereby connecting with the other person, and grow that Mental Toughness.

This week I attended my award ceremony for selection as the NASW-Il Social Worker of the Year.  I have given a lot of thought about what it means to be a social worker.  It isn’t what I do;  it is who I am.  My associates will tell you that when we talk, I am always client-centered, always highly attuned and sensitive to your needs.  I never stop persevering on behalf of our worthy and dignified clients. It is who I am.

The Chicago Tribune asked me what I am grateful for.  I am self-reflective enough to know that I don’t know it all–or even a lot.  I do know I am grateful for all you have taught me about courage, resiliency, trust, grit, and vulnerability.  I am grateful for you.


Happy Thanksgiving.



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Lynn Zakeri