Ashton: Hi, I'm Ashton Gustafson, and welcome back to lesson two of the Loveable Mini-Course. For those of you that joined us in lesson one, we discussed the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. And in this second lesson, we're going to unpack the first essential: worthiness. This lesson is entitled "Worthiness: It isn't earned, it's remembered." So let's now go join Dr. Kelly Flanagan.
Ashton: Okay, Kelly. So first of all, let's talk about what we're calling this lesson: "worthiness isn't earned, it's remembered." What exactly do you mean by that?
Kelly: I think last lesson I mentioned a conversation with my agent as I was forming the book Loveable. Another conversation comes to mind, this one was by text, actually. It was in the midst of the writing process, and she was getting back to me about a draft. And she said to me - I can remember it almost verbatim - she said, "Great, great. We're all worthy, Kelly. It's great work if you can get it, Doc, but how do we become worthy?" And I was reading that text, it was a Friday evening, I remember my wife was cooking dinner and I brought it over to my wife. I said, "Can you believe what Kathy just sent me?"
Ashton: You just wanted to throw the phone.
Kelly: Yeah. Sensitive little author-man that I am for the first time, I said to my wife, "Can you believe what she just said? Worthiness, you don't become worthy. You are worthy. The problem is that we've forgotten it and we need to remember it." Then, of course, my wife in her wisdom said, "Well, you probably need to tell her that. And you need to write about that." And so really, that became the foundation of Loveable. And really, the beginning, the seed of this Loveable Mini-Course and this journey of transformation is this awareness that we don't have to go out and do anything to become worthy.
Ashton: A total gift.
Kelly: Total gift. From day one, we came in worthy, we've remained worthy.
Ashton: We came with the packaging.
Kelly: That's right. We came with the whole deal, all the ingredients, you know, and nothing's up for grabs, there's nothing to lose. What's interesting about it is we struggle with that as adults who have been banged up by life. But, you know, any parent, when that kid arrives first in the world, is there any question that this kid is worthy of love and belonging? No, right? So what was the point at which they stopped being worthy of love and belonging? Was it the first time they pooped their diaper? Or was it the first time they woke you up at night? And in reality, we recognize: no, none of those things change the fact that they're worthy of love and belonging. And kids, too. You see them early on. They know. They're not questioning this. But at some point, something happens to us that causes us to start questioning it.
Ashton: Yeah. I mean, so if it's something that has to be remembered, if worthiness is something that we have to remember, then that means at some point we forgot it. So I guess my question to you would be, Why do we forget, what happens?
Kelly: What happens? What's that moment? You know, it's a big word. And so maybe I can say the word, and then we can just unpack it and demystify it a little bit, but at some point, shame happens to all of us. And shame is really just the message that we take on intentionally or unintentionally from any number of people or situations that we're not worthy of love and belonging, that we're not good enough the way that we came in the world. The whole packaging that we came in the world with, all the ingredients? Somehow there's something missing in you and you're not quite worthy of love and belonging, the way that you are. And over time, as we accumulate those messages, it turns into this experience that's called shame, that is essentially just a tape that plays over and over again in our head: I am not good enough. I am not good enough for love and belonging. And that becomes the new reality that becomes the new sense of identity, the new self-image. And the original self-image - the original self, the true self that we came into the world with - that gets slowly forgotten as we begin to sort of resonate more with this new self-image that is so influenced by our shame.
Ashton: It's a case of looking for love in all the wrong places. Right? We go on this external pursuit, right? It must be out there. It's in another person. It's in a job. It's in a social platform. Fill in the blank for whatever your potion is. And you and I high-5 through the microphone on this topic all the time, that it's an inside job.
Kelly: That's right.
Ashton: It's inside of us, so instead of going on that external pursuit, realizing that it is this total gift, totally given. So, what do we do instead? There's so many phrases. "Excavating our essence" is one that I love. So, what do we do instead?
Kelly: It's such a great question. There are so many metaphors. I mean, I feel like I see metaphors for this truth everywhere. One of them that comes to mind is, I remember the day that we were searching for my daughter's library books, and we were convinced that they were in one of the cars. And it wasn't in the car that was at home. So it must be in mom's car at work. So we drove over there and it wasn't in mom's car at work, and we come back home. I was like, well, then they must be in your bedroom. They were sitting next to the back door the entire time, but because we weren't looking there - because we assumed it must be harder to find the library books - we were missing them. We weren't seeing them. And so, what you just described: that search everywhere outside of us. And it's understandable. It makes sense. If what is inside of me isn't worthy of love and belonging, then I'm going to have to go outside of me to find it.
Ashton: If I haven't discovered it here, surely it's out there.
Kelly: That's right. So then we search for it, I think, in two places primarily: like everything you just described distills down to relationships and a sense of needing to be significant, to have an impact, to make a difference. And these aren't bad things. But when we believe our worthiness rides upon these things, they're just too loaded, they're too loaded with expectations and burden to be life-giving in a way. We go on the search outside of us for our worthiness, and we're not looking in the one place that we can find it, which is inside of ourselves.
Ashton: So, what would you say - leave some bread crumbs for us here - what would you say are signs that one is actually rediscovering their sense of worthiness? What does the state feel like? How do the eyes see in the world? Talk to me about that.
Kelly: Yeah. I think there's a couple of things. So, one of the questions is okay, what do I do? How do I go on this inner journey?
Ashton: If it's about recognizing being, how do I do that?
Kelly: How do I discover my true sense of being by doing something? And the answer is, you don't. So, one of the first things you see in this remembering process of our worthiness is you see people beginning to cease a lot of the doing that they do in order to achieve a sense of worthiness. You see, like, taking a hiatus on this thing that you do. Try to not do this thing, create a little bit of space in your morning to just be with yourself instead of jumping right into proving yourself again today. So that's the first thing, I think, is just a cessation of a lot of the frantic doing that we're engaged in to try to prove our worthiness. And then the second thing is that into that space that we create speaks a voice. It's what I call the voice of grace. And it is always surprising, especially at first, it's this voice that says something about our worthiness that we never would have said to ourselves. I remember a time, and this was a little ways down the road for me where I'd come to trust the voice of grace now, that if I can create space for it and listen for it, it'll show up. I had at that point written Loveable. I had an opportunity to go on a huge, sort of really big podcast, and my publisher was super pumped about it - like, dude, you're going to reach a lot of people with this podcast. One of the things I know about my shame is the form it takes is: you're not interesting enough. People are just going to get bored by you and lose interest and walk away, right? So I get myself in, I think, a centered place, rooted in my true self and my worthiness, prepared for this podcast that's such a big deal to everybody. And in the initial prep, the interviewer, the host gets on, and the very first thing he says to me is, "Okay, you have to be really interesting." I'm not kidding you. He says, "You've got to come with your best stuff, your punchiest stuff." And I felt my shame just overcome me, right? And so I did what I do when my shame overcomes me, which is, I try to project a sense of worthiness through expertise rather than humanity. So I sort of became the good doctor for the rest of the episode. And I hung up the phone and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I blew that. I know, I blew that." And I was anxious, and I felt a shame sort of coursing through me. And I was like, okay, I know what I've got to do now. I've got to listen. I've got to create space, and I've got to listen for the voice of grace. And it took 72 hours this time for me to hear something. I was sitting on a dock on a foggy morning, had created a little bit of space, and you know what I wanted to hear from that voice of grace within me was, "Dude, they didn't notice. They're not your audience, so they don't know your A-game. They probably thought this was your A-game." You know I just wanted some, I expected some reassurance that I'm being too hard on myself, right?
Kelly: The voice of grace says to me on this foggy dock, "Kelly, you did blow it. But I'm proud of you for getting up there. It takes a lot of courage to learn on a big stage. Keep getting up there." And instantly that burden you talked about in lesson one just lifted, and everything was light and easy again. And it was like, okay, the voice of grace delighted not in what I did, but in who I am: brave, you keep getting up there, you're a learner, you're learning. And all of a sudden, that's what I was identifying with again. I've had people reach out to me - we're going on years now since Loveable was published - and I had someone reached out to me about a year ago, and say, "I've been listening for the voice of grace for three years and I heard it yesterday for the first time, and my life will never be the same." And so my encouragement is, number one, get still. Quit doing as much. Listen for that voice of grace. And one of the hallmarks of a sense of worthiness is that you begin to see the worthiness in everyone and everything else.
Ashton: That's right. That's right. The separation fades.
Kelly: The separation fades. You got it. If your sense of worthiness is, I'm pretty great, and it makes more angry at those people, or it makes me dislike those people, no, that sense of worthiness will knit you to other people, and you'll be able to see that worthiness just emanating from them as well. And now you know you're in it. And as you said earlier today, when we were just chatting, you've entered an enchanted universe. That is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Ashton: I think if I could put a bow on this lesson, it is who you are is not up for negotiation.
Ashton: And who you are not is not interesting, right? It's who you are not is not interesting. Talk about the narrative that we all battle all the time. I'm not this. I'm not this. I'm not this. And you find these ways to carve out practices of being still, and you get that awareness of where we become addicted to what's just not working for us, right?
Kelly: That's right.
Ashton: And I think that's a whole another gift in itself.
Kelly: That's right.
Ashton: Is that awareness.
Kelly: I love what you said about it's not interesting, because the irony is we think in trying to develop these other ways of proving our worthiness, that we're becoming more interesting to people. And the reality is there's nothing more interesting than you and the way you came into the world.
Ashton: And that is not a narcissistic statement. It sounds like it at first glance, but it's not.
Kelly: Yeah, it's only narcissistic if you went out and created that thing, and now you're really proud of this interesting thing you created.
Ashton: Right. Self-made.
Kelly: That's right. You didn't do anything to come in the way you are. And there's some beauty and really being able to settle into that gift. And so I think that's as we head into lesson three about belonging, I mean, I think that's why worthiness is so important is that you can go out and try to prove your worthiness to people, get their attention in various ways, but until you're ready to show up as you and see who gets excited about the way you're showing up like that, you're not really finding true belonging. I mean, you and I are sitting here together because I put Loveable out in the world and said, "This is who I am," and you said, "Hey, I dig that. Let's talk." And I'm so grateful for the belonging that we have. So I'm excited to get into belonging in lesson three.
Ashton: Right on. Perfect segue. I hope you guys come back and join us in lesson three: Belonging, don't find your people, let them find you.