On emotional straightjackets.

“Cool is an emotional straightjacket.”

It’s a quote by Brené Brown, via Caroline Donofrio’s great article. Brown is saying that if you spend all of your energy trying to be “cool,” you cut yourself off from your goofy, weird, messy, awkward, wonderful authenticity. It’s like putting your true self in a metaphorical straightjacket. It limits your ability to connect with others and do your best work in the world.

First of all: amen.

But second of all, it got me thinking about how many other emotional straightjackets we have. Here are some for me:

Success
Being well-liked
Not disappointing people

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On one hand, all of these are great qualities! Who doesn’t want to be a successful, well-liked person who never disappoints colleagues or loved ones?

On the other hand…it’s impossible to truly “have” these things. Even if you do your absolute best, you’ll still disappoint someone or have someone not like you. And, of course, there’s always somewhere higher to strive for in terms of success.

Yet, we still strive. And the process of striving often requires putting our deeper, messier, mushier needs or impulses in a straightjacket — locking them up and inhibiting their movements so we can do what we have to do, goshdarnit! 

The experience of having all these parts of ourselves put in a straightjacket…it isn’t fun. Most of us crave deeper authenticity, connection, creativity, or more sparkling energy, but we’re also afraid to let ourselves out of a straightjacket.

You probably know this, at least on some intellectual level. That you sometimes “straightjacket” yourself in the pursuit of things that might not be truly worth it. But do you know it in your core or your gut?  

Would it be helpful to remind yourself, when you feel yourself feeling tired or frustrated or anxious:

“Success” is an emotional straightjacket.
“Being well-liked” is an emotional straightjacket.
“Not disappointing people” is an emotional straightjacket.
Or ________ (you fill in the blank) is an emotional straightjacket.

(Of course, this is not to say that you can’t strive to do good work, or to be a good person. It’s more that the level at which we seek to achieve these things can be unachievable.)

Does that resonate? For me, it lands far more deeply than just saying, “you need to let go of trying to be well-liked!”

And I’m curious, what is your emotional straightjacket? Share your comment below!