The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Once I discovered that perfectionism was the root of a lot of my anger I did what I always do I found a book on how to help me deal with. The book that I came across was ‘The Gift of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown and I thought WOW that sounds like an awesome book so I downloaded the audiobook and haven’t looked back since. I finished it months ago but never got around to writing the review. There were so many elements that truly touched my soul, made me begin to understand the root of my Perfectionism. The irony is that my own remnants as a recovering Perfectionist stopped me from sitting down and sharing this amazing book with you. So I decided to share my own insights combined with others who reviewed the book.

Brene’s key idea is Wholehearted Living which is knowing that you are enough as you are, not when you lose weight or get your degree but now in the present moment. So many of us are putting off loving ourselves because of our to do list, which is never ending. Brene is a researcher and when she interviewed people who lived Wholeheartedly she found they did something unique, DIG Deep:

Deliberate in their thoughts and behaviours through prayer, meditation, or simply setting their intentions;

Inspired to make new and different choices;

Going. They take action. ” (pg4)
She also says that even in your imperfection, you are worthy of love and belonging. This ties in with Authenticity, being who you are despite all odds and speaking your truth.

The three components of wholehearted living are Courage, Compassion and Connection.

Extracted from By Your Effortless Business’s review of The Gifts of Imperfection Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves
Courage, compassion and connection are daily practices.
Courage to do the right/compassionate/vulnerable thing. Courage to show ourselves as less than perfect.
Compassion involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The heart of compassion is really acceptance

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear and vulnerability.

Here are the first 3 things you need to know about shame:

  1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection.
  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame.
  3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.”

I have discovered through dealing with clients in the last year focusing on Childhood Emotional Neglect that guilt and shame, no self- compassion, feelings of emptiness are very common and once we understand where it stems from, heal and grow from our pain we are more in touch with our core selves. You cannot love a fake version of yourself, it’s exhausting to pretend to be something others expect and then accept this as your true self. I help my clients unpack the layers that aren’t theirs and rediscover the parts that are – this is how you find your JOY!

In the book review by Naomi Arnold, she lists the 10 guideposts to Wholehearted living which is not a once-off choice, but instead a lifelong process or journey.

1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

Brene says that authenticity is “a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves to be seen.” It is something that we need to consciously practice, and sometimes involves stepping out of our comfort zone and being hurt in the process.
2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

“It is the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection.”
In this chapter, Brene refreshingly busts some of the myths about perfectionism. She explains the necessity for understanding the difference between perfectionism and healthy striving to do your best. She also emphasises that in order to overcome perfectionism, we need to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and practice self-compassion.
3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

“Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat a list like that is the belief that we’re all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives.”

Brene outlines the five common factors of resilient people – those who have the ability to overcome adversity – as including:

  1. resourcefulness and problem-solving skills;
  2.  likely to see help when needed;
  3. a belief in managing their feelings;
  4. access to social support and a connection with others;
  5. that spirituality was commonly the foundation of resilience spirituality, ….she doesn’t mean religion or theology, but a “belief in connection, a power greater than self, and interconnections grounded in love and compassion”.

She also found three other significant components of resilience: hope; critical awareness; and letting go of numbing behaviours.
4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go Of Scarcity and the Fear of the Dark

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
In her research, Brene identified that every single person she interviewed who described a joyful life, claimed to have an active gratitude practice. This tended to involve keeping a gratitude journal, gratitude meditation or prayer, making vocal declarations of gratitude, and even creating gratitude art.
She also talks about how fear of the dark and scarcity can get in the way of gratitude and joy. She suggests acknowledging the fear when it appears, and transforming it into gratitude which in turn can increase joy.

5. Cultivating Intuition: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

“We need both faith and reason to make meaning in an uncertain world”

Brene discusses the need to cultivate intuition in order to live a Wholehearted life and explains that our need for certainty is what often silences our intuitive voice. She mentions that we will often start polling or surveying people before making a decision because we don’t trust our own knowing. She says that personally ‘surveying’ has become a ‘red flag’ for her and indicates that she is feeling vulnerable about making a decision. She says that sometimes trusting our intuition is about allowing it to let us know when we don’t have enough information to make a decision and need more data. Brene explains that personally, when she’s finding it heard to let go of certainty and listen to her intuition, that she has to find a way to slow down and be still in order to hear what she is saying.
6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
“There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.”
Brene noticed in those who live a Wholehearted life that creativity was a priority. She also found in her own life, when she carved out time for creativity, that her life flowed better. She also discusses how comparisonitis can get in the way of cultivating creativity – and that letting go of our inclination to compare ourselves to others takes constant awareness and attention.
7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self Worth

“… True play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work does not work without play.”

Brene has come to realise through her research that play and rest are essential to our health and functioning. She argues that if we want to live a Wholehearted life, that we need to make a conscious effort to make time for rest and play. In order to do this, we need to let go of our ‘busy’ and ‘exhausted’ labels, and make sleep and play a priority. She explains that in order to prioritise rest and play in her own life, her family wrote an “ingredients for joy and meaning list” to start instigating in their everyday lives.
8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

“That silence thing can be effective. It’s a pain in the ass, but nonetheless effective.”

Brene explains that the men and women she interviewed in her studies were anxiety-aware and were committed to a way of living where “anxiety was a reality but not a lifestyle”. She says that they did this by consciously cultivating calm and stillness in their lives. It takes practice. Brene suggests some methods for doing this, including breathing, and some questions that you can ask yourself to give you a moment to collect yourself before reacting. She also challenges some of the misconceptions around what stillness involves in order to be beneficial, and provides examples for how she finds stillness in her own life (e.g., walking, swimming and cutting caffeine).
9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”

“There’s nothing that says you have to quit your day job to cultivate meaningful work. There’s also nothing that says your day job isn’t meaningful work – maybe you’ve just never thought of it that way.”
In her research Brene quickly found that living a Wholehearted life involved engaging in “meaningful work”. She talks about the “gremlins” that get in the way of us finding and experiencing meaningful work. This includes self-doubt, ‘supposed to’, and difficulties with defining ourselves and what we do.

10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”
“I’m convinced that there’s a song, a dance, and a path to laughter for every human emotion.”
Brene argues that laughter, song and dance are essential to living a Wholehearted life. She understands that engaging in these activities often requires vulnerability and letting go of control and encourages us to think of how we can hold space for them in our lives.

If anything in this book is resonating and sounding some alarms for you, I suggest you beat a copy and read it cover to cover, go for Counselling or just get going like Brene said and take action.

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