I had been waiting for this weekend since January and it finally arrived! My friend was going back to Boston and I roped him into dropping me off in NYC on his way. It was much nicer driving in the car with him as opposed to taking a train or a bus and getting nervous that someone was going to steal my belongings, which yes, is a real fear of mine because it happened to someone my dad works with.
When I got to the hotel, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people there, not only for the conference I was attending, but for numerous other functions and events. Luckily my room was ready at about noon and I was able to check in and head upstairs. I was exhausted from a very long week and getting sick and all I could think of doing was sleeping, so I took a little nap before checking into the conference and got a bite to eat at a diner across from the hotel.
Tired NYC Face
The first event was a keynote speech by Elizabeth Lesser and David Wilcox. To be honest I hadn’t heard of either of them, but I learned that Elizabeth Lesser is the author of a book I now want to get called Broken Open and is a co-founder of the Omega Institute, which I am now slightly obsessed with.
She talked about various things related to happiness, such as the desire of some economists to measure growth by using Gross National Happiness in addition to GDP or GNP. She also made the astute observation that even though there is still a lot of injustice plaguing women around the world, we are in many ways fortunate to live in the time and place we do. Lesser said that in the 1800s, women washed their hair once a month, 2 out of 10 American adults were illiterate, women were punished for witchcraft (and that many of us in the room would be punished as well), and that some studies show that humanity is becoming less violent. I’m sure there are a lot of strong feelings about the last two statistics.
On Saturday morning, Elizabeth Lesser spoke again and I was eager to hear what she had to say. She referenced a study at Wharton Business School called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness” (or something very close to that) and basically showed how although women are in higher positions in jobs (or have jobs), material wealth, etc., they still aren’t happy. Sound familiar anyone?
She also mentioned the misconceptions about our culture’s definition of happiness. She said that happiness is flourishing, passionate living, and optimal aliveness. It is NOT a constant state of bliss as we are taught to believe. She ended her opening speech of the day discussing 5 areas of research on the topic of happiness:
- Love/Relationships- we MUST put a priority on them and it doesn’t matter the type of relationship (romantic, friendship, “womances”-strong bonds with other women, or yourself)
- Self-awareness- Know what makes YOU happy, everyone is unique and take responsibility for who you are. Most importantly, engage in non-comparative consciousness (don’t judge yourself or others or who you used to be)
- Define “Enough”- Know what is enough in your life. An over-abundance of choice can actually make us miserable
- Find your Calling or Purpose- It may not be your job but it helps put you in a “flow state,” because when you do what you love, you are able to give, which brings me to…
- Generosity-Helping others helps you!!
We then heard from speaker Geneen Roth. I had heard of her book, Women, Food, and God but for some reason was never really interested in reading it. Now, I know that not everyone’s message will resonate with me, and that’s ok. It’s just like how what I write about here on my blog might not resonate with others. As long as there is no mean-spirited commenting or judgment either from me or others, I think it’s ok to say to highlight differences. Within the first ten minutes of Geneen’s talk, she mentioned her lowest weight, and for me that’s the biggest trigger and always has been for my eating disorder. Hearing about someone’s lowest weight used to make me want to compete with them, and that’s not only unhealthy, but it can be deadly. I appreciated the fact that Geneen has overcome many of the same things I am working to overcome, but her message just wasn’t a good fit for me.
Saturday afternoon was the real reason I decided to attend the conference: Brené Brown was speaking. I’ve mentioned her a few times on my blog and I’m sure many of you might be familiar with her Ted Talks or her books, I Thought It Was Just Me and/or The Gifts of Imperfection (which I talked about here).
Brené’s talk was everything I thought it would be and more. She writes and speaks with a wonderful and rare combination of humility, knowledge, wisdom, and humor and I soaked up her words like rays of the sun on a beach.
“Stories are data with soul”- Brené Brown
She talked about how we live in a culture of scarcity:
Never ________ enough
Never good, rich, safe, perfect, relevant, or extraordinary enough. This is one of the most dangerous messages in our culture, she argued. For some reason, it is believed that if you wake up and do your best it isn’t enough, and that an ordinary life is a meaningless life. There’s a belief that we HAVE to be extraordinary…all the time. That statement hit me hard, because I recently have been realizing that my desire to be extraordinary is more harmful than it is helpful. What we need to believe, Brené Brown says, is that WE ARE ENOUGH. Not only women but men too.
Her latest book is centered around the concept of Wholeheartedness, which allows us to believe (or we are Wholehearted if we believe) that love and belonging are irreducible needs and we need to feel WORTHY of love and belonging. People who live Wholeheartedly cultivate self-compassion and let go of perfection. They also cultivate play and rest and let go of exhaustion as a status symbol. Did you hear that?
LET GO OF EXHAUSTION AS A STATUS SYMBOL!!!!
Be honest folks, how many of us have tried to “out exhaust” someone else? I’ll admit that I’ve done it and many, many people have done that to me. This is something that I want to stop because it’s basically along the lines of putting someone else down to build yourself up. It comes from a place of insecurity and makes others feel bad and instills more competition where there doesn’t need to be any. ”I’m sorry you had so much to do that you stayed up late, but I might choose to go to bed early and it doesn’t mean I’m not as smart, dedicated, or busy as you” is the thought I want to have instead. Many people also use anxiety as a status symbol, and Brené argued people do this because they often feel like if they keep going so quickly through life, the truth of their life won’t catch up to them. I personally feel that when you try to compete with everyone, your heart and your brain, and possibly your body will eventually not let you continue.
With that being said, I need to hit the hay for an early morning tomorrow. I will be back with more stories from this weekend, and if you follow me on Twitter you know that I had a little starstruck moment…