Hi Peaceabl Friends,

In response to my last blog, Exciting New Answer #1 … for Curing Worry, a Peaceabl community member shared a quote that has been helping her when she feels anxious or ashamed. Shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brene Brown said, You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”

“Hustling for my worthiness” has been ringing in my ears since then and has turned into a new awareness and an inquiry for me. What does it mean to walk inside my story and own it? Where am I standing outside of it and hustling?

Walking Inside my Story

I interpret “walking inside my story and owning it” to mean that as a practice I am being honest with myself about the great and the not so great parts of my character or ways of being – with my eyes wide open.

It means that I am also honest with others about who I am, what I want, what I think, etc., without hiding the parts of me that I think will cause me to lose social desirability “points”. This keys right into my primal core need for belonging. Of course if I’m not honest with myself about my “flaws” and mistakes, I can’t be honest with others.

Empathic Communication Re-frame

I like the Empathic Communication recast of character flaws and mistakes because it makes them more understandable in a way that doesn’t trigger shame, and easier to respond to with positive action. In Empathic Communication flaws and mistakes are held as things I do that do not very well meet the core needs of others or of myself.

For example, one of my flaws is interrupting people. When I do that I don’t meet people’s needs for respect, ease, understanding and equality, and I also don’t meet my own values of patience, attentiveness and connection. This framework inspires me to want to meet these needs better and does not spiral me into shame, like my earlier self-conversations about interrupting used to do or like some of my loved ones’ past reminders have done.

Where is my hustle for worthiness happening?

As “evolved” in the practice of self love and self expression as I like to think I am, it is still easy for me to find examples of hustling.

It’s when I park my car farther from the building at a business meeting because it’s dusty or because it is an older model and I don’t want to be judged.

I hustled at the Alternative to Violence Project meeting, wanting to contribute more insightful observations of prison inmate culture, in a conversation with more experienced facilitators.

And sometimes it’s too subtle for me to catch, though my hustling for worthiness is probably pretty obvious to others:)

Like many women I am in the habit of over-apologizing to people I accidentally bump into or inconvenience in some small way. At some level this is part of the worthiness hustle – “See, I’m a nice person.”  

Last month I attended the NAWBO Bravo entrepreneur awards. Keynote speaker Marsha Bailey, founder of Santa Barbara’s Women’s Economic Ventures, was almost pleading for us, as women, to knock off being “nice” and instead take on being considerate, compassionate, kind, helpful, etc. It’s a fine line, but “nice” often means “suppressed”.

The photo

That’s Savannah, my daughter and I. We went backpacking together in the San Gabriel mountains last month. Mountains bring me peace and a sense of expansiveness, and if they also call to you that way, then I hope you will “allow yourself” more of nature’s peace too. Some of my favorite client sessions have been outdoors because I notice that part of the peace work is automatically done just by being there – relaxation, calm, alertness, and expansion of what is possible.

The photo has another tie in – Savannah was raised with a lot of love and empowerment tools and though I haven’t asked her about her worthiness hustle, my guess is that it is a more minor dance in her life.

What About You?

If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what owning your story and hustling for worthiness looks like for you, and how you are moving beyond the hustle.  

If you are in conflict, experiencing a #7 out of 10 or higher pain level, then I invite you to set up a complimentary session with me to explore your options for a cure. You can find a time that works for you here Breakthrough Conversation.

Peace and many blessings,


About the Author Catherine

Catherine Cooley is a mediator and a communication coach. She has worked in environments of extreme conflict including prisons, the court system and local communities teaching what she calls "Breakthrough Conversations." She specializes in helping people foster clear, respectful, warm, cooperative relationships at home and in the workplace.

  • I resonate. When I was young I overtalked, judged, and had very little space inside for others’ perspectives. I felt insecure inexperienced and suspicious.
    Thirty years later I have another choice: letting go of the past failures that cannot be changed. The shame of being this age and where I am instead of where it seems I ought to be. Knowing that I have been dropped into a life where there is a hustle – the sales profession requires that- and that the hustle Brown mentions siphons off so much of the fuel that properly applied would influence more folks to make decisions that are great for them.

  • I received from your story is a
    wonderful sense of being into right size of my story, open and okay with if I could have done it any other way i would have fine!
    Thank you! Jack

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