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I Thought It Was Just Me


Interviews & Videos Brené Brown in Video, Audio, and Print

  • Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    by Leigh Newman

    Can't wait! 

  • Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    by Krista Tippett
  • The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    by Dan Ariely
  • Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    by Harriet Lerner
  • Rhythm And Repose
    Rhythm And Repose

    Tender and beautiful. 

  • Boys & Girls
    Boys & Girls
    by Alabama Shakes

    Love this album! So happy when I saw BrainPicker post this on her site! 

  • City of Refuge
    City of Refuge
    by Abigail Washburn

    Pure magic!

  • Some Nights
    Some Nights
    by Fun.
  • She Ain't Me
    She Ain't Me
    by Carrie Rodriguez

    I'm such a fan. 

  • I'm Your Man
    I'm Your Man
    by Leonard Cohen

    Take this Waltz is on my top ten list of all songs!

  • Babel
    by Mumford & Sons
  • Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)
    Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)

    So totally addicted to this series! Absolutely amazing!

  • Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    starring Rufus Sewell

    Based on your recommendations from a recent blog post! It's another wonderful BBC mystery series! 

  • The Good Wife: The First Season
    The Good Wife: The First Season
    starring Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi

    One of the best shows on TV. Juiliana Marguiles is incredible. 

  • Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Lia Williams, Stephanie Cole, Ian McNeice

peeling the rest


Part One – I Peel

Those of us who teach and train therapists and mental health professionals often rely on the “peeling the onion” metaphor to help students understand the gradual and layered process of learning about clients and their issues. New therapists often want to take a cleaver to the onion during the first session. As you can imagine, this doesn’t work out too well. Lots of tears and terminations.

The onion peeling skills are extremely helpful with kids. During kindergarten, I experimented with all kinds of questions and, by the end of the school year, finally learned what questions lead to meaningful afterschool conversations with Ellen. Of course, I’m not one to spend much time on grade talk - I feel like I get enough academic feedback with graded work, progress reports, report cards and student conferences. I want to know about the social-emotional side of things.  The answers to these questions tell me a lot and are great jumping off points for conversations:

1. What was your high?
2. What was your low?
3. Who did you sit with at lunch? Tell me about it?
4. Who did you play with at recess? Tell me about it?
5. Who moved their pin today? (class behavior program)

A few weeks ago, Ellen’s high and low were both “playing soccer” at recess. She loves soccer, but she said that her and her BFF are “so tired of being THE REST.”  I peeled a little more, “What do you mean when you say, THE REST?”  (If you’re trying to picture this conversation, I’m usually driving or fixing dinner. I’m not sitting down in a chair while she’s lying on a couch, Freud style. In fact, I find it works best when she’s in her natural, active groove).

Ellen looked at me and said, “You know. When they pick teams.”  I forced a hard swallow, trying to keep my own inner 3rd grader from crying. Ellen went on,“They always say, I’ll take Susan, Brent, John and Harry.  You can have THE REST.”  

We spent a lot of time talking about THE REST. I had to work very hard to keep my hurt memories of team-picking in check. I've always been careful not to dismiss her experiences when my gut reaction is, "trust me, this isn't a big deal." Working on my parenting study taught me that doing the opposite - assigning or assuming hurt when there may not be any - is also a big block to empathy. It's so frickin' hard for me to stay with her, where she is, when I'm fighting off the urge to kill people or start crying.
In the end, she said it was worth being THE REST to play soccer, but she'd probably start switching between soccer and other games that her BFF liked better. So reasonable. So balanced.

Speaking of reasonable and balanced, you'll  be happy to note that I resisted the urge to beat up any 3rd grade soccer captains OR say bad things about how they were raised OR make fun of their parents (this time).

Two weeks later, Ellen comes home with this high: "I made two big saves during the first game and they picked me by name for the second game!”  She’s been Ellen and THE REST off and on since.

Part Two – Ellen Peels

Last week, Ellen spotted me on the couch looking dejected. She walked up, sat down next to me and rubbed my shoulder. “What’s wrong, Mom?”  I explained that last year I was invited by a very famous place to lead a weekend retreat on my work in July and to  participate in a big conference with a lot of very famous people in my field in September. I told her that I was excited about seeing my name and picture alongside the names of these really well-known people. I told her, “I thought if my picture was next to their pictures, it would mean that I’ve reached a goal.”

She was listening to me so hard that I wasn’t sure she was breathing. Then I pulled out the brochure and showed it to her. Her eyes darted all over the page. She traced her finger over the words. Then she looked up at me and said, “Well Mom, looks like you’re THE REST.”

I took a deep breath and said, “Yep. I’m THE REST.” She then took the words from our earlier conversations and shaped them into her own: “I see your picture on lots of things. You know how it goes. Sometimes you’re the captain and sometimes you’re THE REST. It just depends on who you’re playing with.”

We talked for a while and she helped me remember that just being invited to do a weekend workshop at Omega is a gift and something that I've worked toward for a long time. And, that being a part of a women's weekend on courage is a huge gift. The opportunity to work with (and learn from) these incredible women is not about being the best or the rest, it’s about the privilege of doing work that you absolutely love in the company of women working to change the world.

Ellen strutted away from our conversation. I could tell she was so pleased by her ability to help me. I had to fight off the voice of fear that kept whispering, "Don't you want her to think you're perfect?" There is a part of me, of course, that wants her to think that I'm perfect, but there's a bigger part of me that is working really hard so she doesn't inherit my perfectionism. It was a pretty great moment.

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References (2)

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Reader Comments (13)

You can so easily tell what a wonderful mother you are. I hope that when I have kids that I can keep these same ideas in mind when talking to my children. Have a wonderful day, and thanks for sharing this with us!
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterSandy
When I used to work out and participate (not compete)in races, I always hated the fact that I was often last person to cross the finish line or was always in the very back of the pack. But then I remembered that someone must finish last, and why cant that person be me? I mean if you come in number 20 out of 20 - you were still in the race. How many were not in the race. So, even if you are part of "the rest" you were many were inside for lunch detention or tutoring??? "
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterDawn
Wow. Peeling the onion with my daughter is a task of extraordiary patience and courage. It is so hard to sit there and stay with her when everything she says either illicits the "no big deal" reaction or drives a stake through the most painful memories I keep buried deep inside.

She is obviously hearing what you have to say. I love the questions you posted and will incorporate them into our after-school dance.

Your picture is flashing by with a host of others on Omega's website - if that makes you feel any less like "the rest". I didn't know such a place existed - I'm intrigued.
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterRenae C
just came across your website --- love it. you are obviously doing an amazing job raising your daughter...I can only hope that mine turns out as down to earth and bright and caring!

jenny :)
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLobotoME
What a fantastic lesson.
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelody A.
Yep...the little ones are usually the ones reminding us of what we said... and how they say it exactly when we need to hear it.

but i also understand the feeling of rejection...and of dreams and wanting to not be 'the rest'... how wise to think that sometimes it just depends with who you play?

Although you are breathing...and trying to stay not feel you want to be perfect....i'll do a little trantrum with you! xx
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLinni
Loved this. My 6 year old son did a similar thing when I was a little exhausted after a day at work in my new team. He sat me down and proceeded to tell me how hard it was for him when he moved school years and that he didn't know everyone, but look at him now with lots of friends and loving school. He also told me to ask my Boss to tell me everyone's names and that would help me feel better. I loved him so much for his compassion at that moment, a complete role reversal!
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine
An important lesson told in a way I will remember. One phrase I'm going to take away and modify at bit -- I need to say it to myself at different times as I fulfill different life roles -- is this one:

"The opportunity to {insert applicable opportunity} is not about being the best or the rest, it’s about {making the most of the gift you've been given}."

03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterElaine
I have horrid memories of dodgeball in particular. I love Ellen and YOU! If you guys are "the rest" then I want to be on your team too. :)

Seriously though, Sayer had one of those "the rest" moments on our trip to CO. The older boy that he just loves told him that he couldn't sleep with him or sit next to him because Nicholas (another boy) was going to. He was so hurt. It's so HARD to watch. I did my best (like you did ) to try and help but it just sucks to see them hurt.
03.25.2008 | Unregistered CommenterFarrah Braniff
Ellen is a wise soul. And, what a wise mother she has. I have been struggling lately whether or not to share with Priya reasons why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling.

I decided that it was better to talk it out with her (without divulging too much info) so that she can see it's okay to feel despair, frustrations, etc. rather than keep it stifled and hidden.

You and Ellen reaffirmed to me that being a part of "the rest" doesn't matter. We just need to be the best "us" we can be. I mean, who better is qualified to live this life as the Honorary Indian?
03.26.2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen A.
I love reading your blog. Ellen is so right when she says... "Sometimes you’re the captain and sometimes you’re THE REST. It just depends on who you’re playing with." I love that quote, I'd love to steal it! To me and a lot of other people , you are much, much more than THE REST!
03.27.2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen
Brene - I am loving you and Ellen! What a fantastic post - and it came at just the right time for me. We are going through some 5th grader drama and I am trying hard not to use the cleaver to get straight to the bottom. I am also trying hard to not call some parents and tell on their kids! I feel like going on the war path!
I remember being a bully to a girl in 5th grade - just because we decided that she was gross. (she tried too hard).
I have so many regrets over this and have wanted to summon up the courage to apologise to her. I have a huge amount of energy around it and I wonder just how much this is leaking out and possibly creating drama for my son? I have a sense that if I call this woman and resolve my guilt, that the same issue will stop showing up for my son. I really get that this is my stuff - and I wonder if she would welcome my call? Now what was the name of your therapist??? :)

xoxo Bonnie
03.27.2008 | Unregistered CommenterOptimst
Brené, I keep coming back and reading this post. Did you write it just for me? I think you did. Thank you!
03.27.2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

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