5 Rules for Becoming a Grown-up American

I recently heard Anne Lamott describe her friend’s 5 Rules for Becoming a Grown-up American:


  1. You must not have anything wrong with you or different about you.
  2. If you do, you really have to get over it and correct it as quickly as possible.
  3. If you can’t correct it or get over it, you have to pretend that you have, so that you can pass.
  4. If you can’t do any of this, you should at least pretend it’s no longer an issue for you. Maybe it used to be, but it’s no longer an issue. And, you should not show up, though, because it’s very painful for us because we can see right through you.
  5. If you’re gonna insist on the right to show up, you should have the decency to be ashamed.



5 rules

I don’t know about you, but the 5 Rules for Becoming a Grown-up American hit me pretty hard. We’re all born with our own personal screwed-up version of the human condition. We’re all doing the best we can to keep our wits about us. We’re all showing up every single day like it’s our first day of kindergarten all over again.




Desperate for a friend.

Hoping the teacher notices our special talents.


Like a fish out of water.

Longing for the comfort of our familiar surroundings.

We all arrive at grown-up status with something wrong with us or different about us. We can’t help it! It’s impossible to be a grown-up and not have something wrong or different about us.

As we progress through the 5 rules, we inevitably wind up at Rule #5—Ashamed. Most of us have people in our lives who suggest we at least have the decency to show up ashamed.

When it comes to the human condition and shame, Brené Brown is the leading expert on the subject. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she said this about shame:

Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable—it’s the total opposite of owning our story and feeling worthy. Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Shame is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling, or, believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring (sometimes it’s just as hard to own our strengths as our struggles).

Let me be the first to say it; I have a lot to be ashamed about. I have made enormous mistake after enormous mistake. I have spent many months and years ashamed and feeling unworthy. For several years, I poured myself into questioning and studying the religion I was raised with and that created dump-truck loads of shame for me. Walking away from everything I knew well was a very scary thing to do.

Eventually, I came to realize I was called into an adventure that only I could go on. I intentionally left my comfort zone and started my own heroes journey. In many ways, I am still on that journey and still feel alone much of the time. However, one thing I don’t feel anymore—ashamed.

I am no longer ashamed for trusting my gut.

I am no longer ashamed for seeking my truth.

I am no longer ashamed for knowing what is right for me.

People want you to have the decency to show up ashamed because that’s easier for them. Truthfully, though, it doesn’t do anybody any good for you to show up ashamed. The world is changed by those who show up with their power. The world is changed by those who are battle-tested and have the scars to prove it. Use what you have been through to make a positive difference in this world. Do whatever you have to do to lose your shame! It’s not helping you and it’s not helping others.

Peace my Friends!





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