BB ch 8

Rising Strong International cyber-bookclub Ch. 8

Catch up on the previous chapters here:
Introduction/Chapter 1
Ch. 2
Ch. 3
Ch. 4
Ch. 5
Ch. 6
Ch. 7

Okay! Here we go. Thank you Xeno.

Chapter 8: Easy Mark

I didn’t know. I didn’t know back then.

Medals adorned my neck in grade school, high school, and even college. But what mattered more in the household was that time I burned a pot of rice.

Blood relatives and stupid strangers embarrassed and insulted me in public. My parents just stood there and allowed that to happen.

Kids my age deemed me strange and weird so I made friends with imaginary beings.

They laughed at my emotions and mocked my tears. I decided to shove them in a deep pit away from awareness.

Little me remembered the rules. Can’t cry. Don’t be a sissy. No display of weakness.

I was afraid. I shut up and hid.

I became the son who saved up his allowance to give to his parents only to never get the money back.

I became the student who did my classmates’ school projects because I was the smart one and it was, according to them, the “right” thing to do.

I became the friend who lent money to my friends even when I myself was deep in debt.

I became the face present in other people’s parties because they were special but I seldom celebrated my own.

I became the soundboard of people’s heartaches and stories but I couldn’t find a soundboard of my own.

I became the teacher who took on the most classes but was vilified for demanding excellence from fellow teachers and students.

I became a lot of things but being open to love wasn’t one of them. I had read about it, its definition, the involved emotions, but I didn’t really understand. I was witness to love in books and TVs, and in tales and movies, but I was blind to it. When it stared me right in my face, when somebody wanted to love me, I was frozen. I felt it but I couldn’t comprehend. I felt it but I didn’t believe. I had it but I couldn’t receive. The love that the stars of the galaxy sent to me walked away. I didn’t know then. I didn’t know back then.

bb own your story

In the middle of grief and tragedy, I had an epiphany. People who didn’t feel love growing up, they try to serve people, help others, and become heroes. They carry an emptiness inside them, caused by the lack of love, hollow and cold. And in order to feel whole they turn to servitude in the belief that the giving of love can substitute for the receiving of it. But that’s wrong. No matter which way the world turns or which direction the birds fly to, giving will never be equal to receiving.

That’s why when people praised me for my smarts and intelligence, I shrugged it off. I still haven’t forgotten about the rice.

That’s why when people appreciated my commitment and hard work, I pretended to not hear a thing. There was still more work to be done.

That’s why when people complimented my looks, I thought they were joking. At home and in the company of blood, I was always ugly.

I didn’t know back then but I know now. A life spent only in giving is nice but it’s lonely. A life dedicated only for others is admirable but it’s sad. BB was right when she said it’s not just about helping, it’s also about needing.

no greater threat

My life turned into a tall, sturdy, and empty fortress that’s also dark, lonely, and cold. I needed some warmth to light me. I needed some touch to ignite me, to show me it’s alright to be sad, to fail, to hope, to scream, to dream, to cry, to fly, to feel, and to love.

That’s why I’m here. That’s why I joined this club. I need this.

Up Next: Chapter 9, spearheaded by Patty Young

P.S. If you're interested in more gems from Xeno, check out his blog. Click here to read his recent wonderful post about peace and living authentically. I'm humbled that he asked me to participate in it.

Also, BB's Living Brave semester began this week. If you're interested, it's not too late to join. Brené herself will be taking the class right along with us! She spoke about it during her live Q&A session Sunday evening on Facebook. The first module is on Daring Greatly, the second is on Rising Strong. We're sure to have a leg up on the work for Rising! Check the program out here.

crystal chin meme connect


And last, I'd like to announce a little something special. I appreciate, more than any of you know, your participation here for our Rising Strong bookclub. As a token of my gratitude, I plan to celebrate each one of you over the next several weeks by creating a meme with a favored phrase or two. It's just a small way that I can say, "Thank you" to you. From my heart to yours. Up first, Crystal Chin. Check out more about Crystal here.


  1. Xeno- I just want to give you a hug. Some people go their whole lives without such an epiphany. "The unexmined life is not worth living" (Socrates)

  2. Xeno – thank you for modeling vulnerability so beautifully for us. Vulnerability, I'm convinced, is the key to true intimacy. It is the purest form of trust – sharing yourself fully and honestly. My greatest respect to you and others who are strong enough to be vulnerable. ❤️

  3. Wow Xeno. I'm sitting here alone. My chest hurts from holding my breath while I read your piece. My heart hurts for the pain of a little boy to a young man. My eyes sting with tears for not being able to reach out and hug you close.

    Have you read this out loud or had someone else read it out loud to you? It is exactly what Nancy said above – 'modeling vulnerability so beautifully for us'. She said it perfectly and I have no doubt if BB read your piece, she would be just as blown away as the rest of us.

    YOU have found your tipping point. There is a wonderful book by that name The Tipping Point written by Malcolm Gladwell. It was given out as a gift to those who attended the Ebony awards a few years ago in NYC. It is one of those books, like The Alchemist, The Secret, Anything written by the Dahli Lama or Deepok Chopra – that you read it now – and learn something amazing. You read it again in six months, a year, etc. and you will learn even more. I think you would find it quite interesting. A dear friend several years ago, gave me another book – Better Boundaries – Owning and Treasuring Your Life by Jan Black and Greg Enns. I wish I read it sooner – I am just now learning how treasuring your self and your life truly is.

    What really amazes me too – and please everyone, tell me if you find this just as amazing as I do. Here is a young man, across an ocean, putting into print exactly the same things I've experienced, felt, tortured myself over, blamed and wept about. How is this possible?! I grew up in Jersey for pete sake! Yet as humans – we have that common thread. Its woven into the fabric of everyone's life. It connects us on levels no one really ever expected. Can you imagine the good that could be done if everyone became aware of it – cared for it and played those threads like strings on a guitar. Oh the music that could be made and the healing would be wondrous.

    Thank you Xeno. Thank you for being brave and strong and baby you better believe that is true, or a bunch of highly creative, passionate women are going to come over there and kick your butt! YOU are special. YOU are exactly enough! XO

  4. Oh my goodness Patty and Wendy and Nancy!!! I second every single thing every one of you said! I, of course, will write more, but I had to say that right now!

    And Xeno, you better believe it baby. You are beyond awesome and (as I've already told you) incredibly inspiring, a trail blazer, and a leader in the arena. We absolutely WILL come over there and kick your butt if you don't believe it.

  5. I love my meme Tracey! Thank you so much for that!! Is there any way we can get our memes sent to us to use? I thank you for creating this inspiring book club and safe forum:)

    Xeno, thank you for your words and your vulnerability. I think you speak of something that resonates with a lot of people. Much like Patricia said, it is "woven into the fabric of everyone's lives." This reminds me of the old saying, "You can't give what you don't have" and goes back to self love. I too realized that I was trying to give so much of what I didn't have to fill a void but realized that I was only drying up my own reserves even more. I'm still learning to accept that I won't ever get what I want from certain people. I will never be loved the way I dreamt or appreciated like I wanted to be from them. No one was left but me to fill my cup. My godfather once pointed out that I never asked for help and I couldn't receive compliments. Deep inside I didn't feel that I deserved any of it. Until I learned to first and foremost fill my needs was I able to truly receive from others. It's a constant works in progress, learning to feel and feed your worth.

  6. Wow, Xeno, such a heartfelt, beautiful piece you wrote! I just want to jump on a plane and give you a hug!

    Yes, Patricia, it is amazing that we share so many common threads. When our needs are not met, and we struggle with coming to terms with our experiences, our pain is similar even though actual circumstances can be very different.

    Xeno, one line you wrote struck a chord with me: "That’s why when people praised me for my smarts and intelligence, I shrugged it off. I still haven’t forgotten about the rice."

    I get along well with my dad now, and he appreciates all I do for him. He's 88 and I know he loves me and is proud of the person I am (who I am as well as what I have done). That's all fine but whenever he praises me now, I cringe inside. It's a gut reaction that I had to rumble with because it seemed ridiculous to not be thrilled at hearing those words from him, finally. The problem was that in my heart it simply felt too late. I needed to feel cared for, encouraged, understood and valued as a child. I needed to know then that he was in my corner. How could I believe in my worthiness, value or potential when he didn't teach me I had them? I had to raise myself emotionally, and now I know I am worthy of praise. I am valued. I am understood. But because he wasn't the one to ultimately get me to this wonderful place, his words of praise only remind me that I needed to hear those words from him decades ago; I don't need to hear them from him now.

    But I just force a smile so he can feel good about what he says. It's feels weird for me, but I don't want to cause him any pain by doing anything different. I can live with the way it is now between us because I have so many other people in my life who give me so much just by being my friend.

    So, Xeno, I am happy to hear you are letting love in, letting friendship in, letting feelings come out. The more you show who you are to the world, the sooner you will meet the people who will cherish you and give you what you need. None of us can "un-burn the rice" in our respective pasts, yet insight as well as healthy relationships can overshadow the pains of yesteryear. As Brene says, we can change how our stories end.

  7. Thank you, Nancy! You're right. It is the purest form of trust. We can't except to receive if we don't give (vulnerability that is). And during the exchange, trust is born.

  8. Thank you so much Pat, and for those book mentions. I have two from Gladwell but I don't have Tipping Point yet. I must look it up and the others you named.

    No, I haven't read it out loud. I don't read out loud what I wrote, which is something I should tackle down the road as part of the journey of self-improvement.

    I believe The Law of Attraction is at play here, bringing us together and revealing our commonalities despite the distance. And I love how you put it – woven into the fabric of our lives. The world will surely become a better place if more people are aware. I want a picture a future that's exactly like that.

  9. Crystal, thank you!

    You're absolutely spot on. I'm a proponent of self-love too. Indeed, we can't truly give what we don't have.

  10. Thank you, Susan, and also for sharing that story about your dad.

    My father and I are in a similar boat but he lives abroad so that only happens when he visits the country. It's not easy to respond the right way whenever he tries to be affectionate. Healing with the family is one of the hardest. Our wounds with them are deeper and the healing will really take time.

    And this:

    "The more you show who you are to the world, the sooner you will meet the people who will cherish you and give you what you need. None of us can "un-burn the rice" in our respective pasts, yet insight as well as healthy relationships can overshadow the pains of yesteryear."

    I love how you put it.

  11. Oh, Xeno, I so wish the best for you in everything! I believe in you and your dreams. You have started rumbling at a much younger age than when I started. That is one thing among many that you can be grateful for! I see success and happiness in your future. Your near future!

  12. I love that quote, too, Wendy! Thanks for sharing. I'm a big fan of Mary Pipher and she writes in Seeking Peace that suffering/pain lead us towards a more examined life. That's a good thing I guess, but man. I wish it could be a little less painful and include less suffering when we're young while still leading us towards these important lessons!

  13. Patty, thanks for the tip on the boundaries book! I'm going to get that one right now. I struggle with understanding what having really good boundaries looks like…being true to yourself and saying no or being strong or whatever in a way that isn't overly aggressive and doesn't hurt others. And I couldn't agree more with you re: your point about the commonalities of the human condition! I've said that here too and it never ceases to amaze me…which is why, I think, this work is so important. It's hard to believe sometimes that we're more alike than we are different, but this bookclub has been an excellent learning curve for me that those words are completely true. Thanks Patty!

  14. Thx Crystal for this great reminder….re: not being to give what we don't have. Also, that we must be able to take care of our needs and part of that journey is not only to give but to receive. I'm very bad at that, but you are spot on. Yes ma'am: "It's a constant works in progress, learning to feel and feed your worth." Thanks Crystal!

  15. Wow Xeno- Well, I think you know by now how I feel about you and your writing and your willingness to go here to where you go. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm so honored by each and every one of you, but since Xeno is our only fella, I think it's taken an extra dose of courage to share so openly here. Thank you again.

    This chapter resonated with me deeply in many ways, but two in particular. First, about our need to be able to receive as well as to give. Back when I wrote my gratitude post that came out on Thanksgiving, I received a voicemail. I wrote that piece–which was about the fact that I was having a hard time dealing with just about everything and was crying all the time–because I wanted to let other people know, if they struggle at the holidays, that they are not alone. The post just sort of fell out of me, and scary as it was, I put it out in the world without expectation, but like I said, hoping it might help someone. Then the weirdest thing happened. A day or two later, I looked at my phone and noticed I had missed a phone call from a very dear friend of mine. I listened to her voicemail and tears welled up my eyes again. She had called to let me know she was there for me, that she had my back, that she was ready to lend an ear whenever I need it. Her message meant more to me than I can possibly express here, especially about how grateful I was to hear it and to have her in my life, but here's the other thing I felt…and this is all about me. I felt like a loser. I felt worthless. I felt ashamed that I had caused someone to need to call me and coddle me and leave a message like that. Now, I've read enough Brene to know where those feelings were coming from–but that moment, when I put my cell phone and felt this wave of negative emotions come over, I realized just how much more work I have to do in this arena about believing that I am enough. That I am worthy of love and compassion. That I can receive as well as give. I have an easy time believing it in my head, not so easy a time believing it in my heart.

    Here's another memory that struck me while I read this chapter. It, too, makes me feel ashamed and I don't think I've ever discussed it with anyone. Years ago, when I was still working in HR for a charter jet airline, I drove to work every day through the valley to reach the Van Nuys airport. One day, I looked to my right, and noticed that there was a man lying on the ground. Mind you, this happened pretty quickly because I was driving by in my car, but in seconds, my mind took in the details. He was prostrate on the ground, not moving. By his clothes, he appeared to be homeless. I had no idea if he was hurt or asleep or even dead. I drove past and had the very distinct thought that I should pull over and check on him and maybe call 911. Then I kept driving. On and off over the years, I have chastised myself for not stopping. I did nothing. I didn't even call the police after I got to work figuring by then that someone would have beaten me to it. I'm disgusted with myself. I don't understand what Brene means when she says that it was not pain or hurt that made her look away, but that it was her own need. I DO understand what she says about how we try to solve problems, that we do more of what's not working, just by doing it harder, grinding it out longer. That's the story of my life until more recent years. And I DO understand her question, "How can we be truly comfortable and generous in the face of someone's need when we're repelled by our own?"

    Hmmm. Well, I don't have answers for myself to what I've proffered here. Musings that I'll maybe understand better down the line. I know it's important, and that thinking about it will eventually lead somewhere.

    Thank you so much Xeno: "My life turned into a tall, sturdy, and empty fortress that’s also dark, lonely, and cold. I needed some warmth to light me. I needed some touch to ignite me, to show me it’s alright to be sad, to fail, to hope, to scream, to dream, to cry, to fly, to feel, and to love."

    Me, too.

  16. Here, here Xeno. I love how Sue put that as well. We sure can't "un-burn" the rice from our past. Thank you Sue for your thoughtful comment. While I totally understand, it makes me a little sad that you have to force a smile around your dad so he can feel better. I never had that experience with my dad, but I know the feeling of putting on a brave face. I'm so happy that you have other outlets in your life, other people who fill you up in ways he is unable to. Thank you again!

  17. Xeno, thank you for opening your heart and sharing pieces of your story. I could relate on several layers. I realize my mom did the best she could with what she had – as BB discussed in chapter 7.

    This weekend, I visited with my mom and her husband. I told her that I had started taking antidepressants again – that I believed I had a chemical imbalance in addition to dealing with some tough environmental pressures. She brought up a time in the past where she recognized had to have been difficult for me. She moved out of our 5 bedroom home to live with her "boyfriend" when I was 19 y.o. I was blown away that she actually brought that up – 34 yrs. later. It was a step towards me that was so unexpected and out of character. You never know…

    Susan, your comment "I had to raise myself emotionally" really hit a chord with me. That is exactly my experience. BB's work is helping me to continue raising myself emotionally.

    Tracey, I was in Atlanta the weekend before and had several opportunities of facing homeless people on the streets and being asked for $. Generally, I just give money and walk away. Several times, though, I was by myself walking the streets at night from my conference center to my hotel and was asked for money. One time I pretended not to hear the request and another time I was asked for $10 and just gave the change from my pocket while mumbling that was all I had. I felt like a fraud. Reading chapter 8 right after these incidences helped me understand my discomfort. I had "diminished the homeless person's humanity and my own". "I was so afraid of my own need that I couldn't look need in the eye." So much rumbling to do. Thankful for this platform!

  18. Tracey, you wrote: "I don't understand what Brene means when she says that it was not pain or hurt that made her look away, but that it was her own need."

    I don't get it, either. I may look away from a homeless person because I'm scared for my personal safety, or because I feel helpless when SO much needs to be done. I may look away because I hear stories of people "putting on a show" to look down-and-out, when in fact they are not, and this is just how they choose to make a living (by scamming people). If I am safely in my car and drive by someone with a "homeless veteran… will work for food… any $ amount is appreciated…" placard as I leave the Trader's Joe's parking lot, I am afraid to look him in the eye because:

    – I don't know if his sign is portraying the truth.
    – I wouldn't invite a stranger to my home, no less give him a ride.
    – I wonder why he doesn't go to a shelter to clean up and look for a "real" job (and I certainly know some people are not capable of that, with or without a lot of help).
    – Since I'm not handing over cash, will I get scowled at? I certainly don't expect a smile in return as I drive by with my windows rolled up. As I keep my head facing forward, I feel sheepish because I could and would help if only I knew this person's situation was as destitute as was being portrayed.

    It's so much easier to help from a distance – to donate money online to charities. Not that this is wrong, but writing this now makes me feel like a cop out.

    About giving and receiving… this is what I struggle with: It's so much easier for me to help a friend than to ask a friend for help. If a friend called to say her car just broke down and she needed a ride to a doctor's appointment, I'd be happy to help. The story in my head about that friend would be that she knows she can count on me, she knows I would want to help her. The story I tell myself about me is that I'm glad she called me, I want to help her, we are friends, through good times and rough ones. I'm a good friend, as she is a good friend. I'm happy to help. I feel good about it.

    But, if the situation was reversed, the stories change up. If I need to ask a friend for help, and I avoid this as much as possible, my thoughts are that I don't want to impose on anyone, everyone has something better to do than take time out for my benefit, maybe my friend will help me but she might need to rearrange her schedule and she may resent me for that. We are friends, through good times and rough times, but not so much my rough times. I may be overstepping boundaries and that's not being a good friend. I loathe to ask for help. I feel bad about it.

    Whoa! I sure hold a double standard. I know I shouldn't be. I'm nicer to my friends than I am to myself.

    But I will say that I reached out for help a couple months ago when my husband landed in the hospital for 4 days. I called several friends. I told them the situation. All I wanted was emotional support. I got that from everyone I called. Most of the local ones offered to visit my husband and I at the hospital and/or meet me for a much needed meal break. I took everyone up on their offers. I needed the connection. And I felt good about getting their support. I was, and still am, grateful to have amazing friends.

    It just shouldn't take a literal life & death crisis for me to ask for help.

  19. Wow, so much beauty and revelation in all of your posts, in this chapter, and especially in your story, Xeno! I second everything that's been said here and am grateful for your vulnerability and willing to be so raw and open here.

    My biggest takeaways for this chapter were around the human need to be seen. I spent much of my life in the shadows, because I was afraid of being seen, or more accurately, judged. I could show up for anyone in my life, drop everything to help them but I couldn't ask for help or allow myself to truly be vulnerable out of that fear of judgment or of being perceived as being selfish. I had the co-dependency thing down, for sure. 🙂 BB talks about the warm embrace of belonging, of being part of something you love or believe in. I felt like that was what I was experiencing in different relationships, but it wasn't a two-way street. It was me giving everything I thought others wanted and not letting myself be authentic. So I was stuck between false illusions of connection clashing with the paralyzing fear of judgment. And the fear of admitting my own needs because of not wanting to be selfish.

    This sentence summed it all up for me: "Giving help can occasionally feel vulnerable. Asking for help always means risking vulnerability." I recently completed a 10-day challenge with some women around how to be more gentle with ourselves and give ourselves permission to acknowledge need, and one of the challenges was asking for help. I left it wide open intentionally, and even then it was amazing how difficult it was for so many to ask for help, even for small things. We're conditioned from a young age that we shouldn't need help, we should be able to do everything. And that's such a pervasive and unhealthy expectation that I hope we can surpass.

    I'm still struggling with the concept "It wasn't the pain or the hurt that made me look away. It was my own need" as well. I'm not sure what she means. I struggle with helping homeless people, and appreciate how succinctly you were able to voice those conversations that go on in your head and your fears, Susan. That's exactly what I think. Every time. And I never stop, I never give them food, or money. I donate clothes to the women's shelter, I just sent 3 bags full of boots, jackets, hats, gloves, and long underwear to Syrian refugee camp. And I feel great about that. But I judge the homeless in my own town, and don't know if they're legit homeless or if I'm safe. And that frustrates the hell out of me and makes me incredibly sad. And I don't know the answer or a better way. I do understand what she means by trying to solve a problem by doing more of what we already do, what's not working. I'm grateful for many years of self-reflection and curiosity to be able to honestly ask myself where things are working and where they aren't, but it's easier to identify than it is to change.

    Lastly, I love the definition of connection she shared here:
    "The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship." It took me 10 years of an alcoholic and abusive marriage, 7 years of recovery and personal growth work to be able to finally understand what this actually means, AND to be able to experience it wholeheartedly. Wow, relationships are so much more rewarding and beautiful with this definition of connection!

    This was a big one. Thanks everyone for your curiosity and openness!


  20. Thank you, Tracey!

    One of the ironic things I found about the helping others (homeless people/beggars on the streets specifically) is forgiving myself for hesitating to help. I pass by a beggar and hesitate for a split second. I don't give a change and continue walking. I feel guilty. I think about it. Then comes the part where "I must forgive myself for that mistake. I can do differently next time. Old habits can be tough to change."

    Then I pass another beggar on another day and I hesitate once more. My mind thinks of that forgiveness thing. And the cycle never ends. Forgiveness is used as an excuse to not help at all.

    This is still my work-in-progress.

  21. Well said, Sue.

    You described it so well, the double standards we apply on ourselves. We try to be a hero but we end up hurting ourselves actually in the process.

  22. Thank you, Steph! I hope that your mom bringing that up 34 years later leads to better things between you two.

  23. Heather,

    Reading your post reminded me of this quote from Dr. Shad Helmstetter:

    "A lot of people have lived richer lives because someone who cared took the time to listen."

    The word "listen" is different from giving a change or food but for some reason this quote flashed in my mind. We can't fully help the beggars and the homeless, but maybe an act of kindness can do something great for them. Perhaps, make them realise "there's still good in the world but I need to help myself if I want to get out of this predicament." My thought is kind of off, but this just switched right now.

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