i'm better, braver, kinder and stronger with these women beside me

A few months ago, I had the immense honor of attending a presentation by the phenomenal Brene Brown.

Brene (yes, I call her by her first name - for some reason, I consider her to be a near and dear friend despite never having met her) is an author, speaker and social worker, researcher and storyteller -- known by most for her bestselling books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, and her 2010 Ted Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability." She has this almost magical ability to take data and research and turn it into beautiful connection and authentic vulnerability. She transforms the practical and scientific into the personal. 

So, on a warm September night, a few hundred of us gathered in sold-out Seattle Town Hall to hear Brene speak about her newest release, Rising Strong, and what her research reveals about the process of rising after failure.

In her talk, she spoke about the painful and vulnerable process of integrating her former identities, their strengths and their failures, all of which have made her who she is today. Brene calls these former identities her wayward girls and fallen women.

She argues that it's only when we invite all of the pieces of ourselves to the table, forgiving each for their mistakes and celebrating each for their strengths, that we are able to move forward with authenticity and intention.

"Our identities are always changing and growing, they're not meant to be pinned down. Our histories are never all good or all bad, and running from the past is the surest way to be defined by it."

- Brene Brown

To be open to our own evolution, it means making peace with everything and everyone we have been. We need all that we have been before, and all of those past identities need who we are now.

In late October, I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. Entering a new decade, I was inspired to look back on the ones that proceeded it.

Who I am now is made up of everyone I have been before.

Honestly, while there are some identities that I would readily claim as my own - the big sister and partner and connection-obsessed creative, for example - there are some that I still have to warm up to. There are pieces of me from the past that, until recently, I have been more than hesitant to forgive. 

For many years, I saw some of my previous identities - women that I saw as perfectionistic and puritanical - as shameful and shadowy voices from my past. I believed that, to claim the woman that I am today, the woman I've grown into and worked hard to become, meant rejecting and renouncing who I was before. I let my failures - or the pieces of be that I believed to be "failures" - to haunt me as I ran, desperately, in the opposite direction.

I love who I am today. Much like I loved who I was before. It's about time to forgive, love and accept her.

You are under no obligation to be the same person that you were before. Change and growth will lead you to new communities and careers, new adventures and new opportunities.

Be open to your own evolution.

But who you are today, who you will be, as you grown and shift and stretch and change - those people are built on all that you have been before.

To reject and hide and run from them, while it may protect you from the shadows and sadness, also blocks you from loving, accepting and celebrating the best parts of you. You cannot have the light without a shadow or two.

Who I was before was, and is, beautiful. She was brave and kind, responsive and compassionate -- all qualities that I continue to carry with me today. Yes, she had lots to learn. But she wasn't ready for those lessons, just yet.

Just like I have a lot to learn, when I'm ready. 

"I can't rise strong unless I bring all of my wayward girls and fallen women back into the fold. I need them, and they need me." - Brene Brown

I'm better, braver, kinder and stronger when all of the women that I am and have been show up. -- TWEET THIS!

Who shows up with you? What pieces of you do you need to forgive, accept and celebrate to step into the fullness of your love and light? Share in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in the Twitterverse!