Choosing Comforts Wisely

On Sunday evening, inspired by an afternoon chat with my husband, I re-watched an eye-opening Brené Brown video. The first time I watched it, I mainly absorbed its core message on “Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count.” This time, I locked on a specific nuance.

At about 16:40 in the video, Brown says that “clarity of values” is necessary for anyone committed to living in the arena. She names courage as one of her values, and says, “If courage is my value, I have to do this. Whether it’s successful or not is irrelevant.” 

This got me wondering how Brown identified courage as one of her values. Even more so, I wondered how on Earth I could identify mine.

I searched “Brené Brown finding values.” I found her list of values, but wasn’t sure what to do with them. I read folks’ examples elsewhere and got an idea how to proceed. 

First I wrote down every value that resonated deeply with me. I thought the list would be huge, but I captured fewer than a dozen words.

After I had the full list in view, a few clearly resonated less intensely than others:

  • Caring
  • Compassion
  • Gratitude
  • Openness

I removed these supporting values, then set aside my shortlist for a little while. 

On my second pass, I removed five more:

  • Fairness
  • Grace
  • Resourcefulness
  • Truth
  • Understanding

This left me with the two values that hit me at my core: courage and growth. Having named them, I could see how important these have been to me–without my being able to name them as values–for as long as I can remember. They fit me just right.

Yesterday, I arrived at work committed to making choices consistent with these values. At day’s end, I saw both where I’d succeeded and where I had room to grow into being my own idea of my best me.

I was startled how different the world looked through the lens of explicit core values. I found it easier to identify when I’d fallen short of my own standards, why, and how. This is great news, because it means I know where and how to begin course-correcting.

Brown often writes about choosing “courage over comfort” as an element of integrity. What I found yesterday is that I can’t actually have comfort without courage. I can have the illusion of interpersonal comfort, but I cannot have genuine intrapersonal comfort. For me, then, choosing courage is central to enduring, actual comfort with myself.

Every time I’ve ever chosen the illusion of interpersonal comfort, notably by gossiping (see: Brown’s take on the perils of “common enemy intimacy”), I’ve done so at the expense of true comfort within me. I’ve suffered discomfort longer and more intense than if I’d chosen to honor my own then-unarticulated values.

All this understanding from a little Brown-guided contemplation! I’m glad to see, with crystal clarity, that I cannot choose between courage and comfort. For me, they’re a package deal.

Knowing this, I can now honor myself by choosing comforts wisely.

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