In “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”, author Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. shares how she went from hard driving, fact-checking academic to being able to embrace a softer, ”Wholehearted“ side of life.
I dove headfirst into this book the moment I received it, ready to tear into what it had to offer me.
This book is thin, a mere 135 pages. Which is great for two reasons:
One, it’s not an intimidating read, a manual through which to change your life.
Two, the content is distilled down to the essentials, and allows you to quickly get to what what you need, apply the principles, and live your life. Which is the whole point, right?
Brown opens ”The Gifts of Imperfection“ by sharing her own story of what she coins her ”2007
Breakdown Spiritual Awakening“, a year’s journey in which Brown released a negative, isolating, exhausting drive and replaced it with openness, love, calm, and, ironically, power. A journey towards more wholehearted living, in which we embrace ourselves as fallible humans, and redirect the wasted energy we spend trying to “look good” into living a rich life.
The Guideposts to Wholehearted Living
The Gifts of Imperfection are stories and definitions built around 10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living.
Reading the titles of each of the 10 Guideposts starts to open the possibilities for what else is possible in the realm of giving up fighting your “imperfections” and really living life fully.
These Guideposts are:
#1. Cultivating Authenticity – Letting Go of What People Think
#2. Cultivating Self-Compassion – Letting Go of Perfectionism
#3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit – Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
#4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy – Letting Go of Scarcity and FEar of the DArk
#5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith – Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
#6. Cultivating Creativity – Letting Go of Comparison
#7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
#8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness – Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyl
#9. Cultivating Meaningful Work – Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
#10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance – Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”
My Favorite Guidepost
I loved the way Brown paired a positive, powerful quality with its counter, negative quality that needed to be released. Many of the connections I’d never thought of as being in opposition or a hindrance. For example, as a designer, I’d never thought that Cultivating Creativity required the letting go of Comparison, and yet, my most crippled, “creative-blocked” periods were exactly when I was comparing myself to someone else or comparing myself to a false set of expectations set in my head. On the contrary, when I recount my times of creative lucidity, I was mentally free to create – no rules, no standards, just pure joy and connection. These are the times when I’ve designed spot-on masterpieces in a matter of just a few minutes, versus the times I labored and stressed out over a “pretty good” piece of work.
To anchor in the new concepts, each guidepost was accompanied with practical ways to apply the concepts to your life. To this end, Brown creates is her DIG methodology.
In her pre-crisis school of thought, “digging deeper” was her way of creating more, doing more, and forcing her way through situations. Dig deeper, and it will all work out, right? Yes, and no. Yes, some things were taken care of, but she was left more and more tired, more and more drained. “Digging deeper” in this sense was highly depleting.
On the other hand, her new DIG methodology is about getting things done while rejuvenating and generating both energy and results. “DIG” stands for Get Deliberate, Get Inspired, and Get Going.
Your Friends – Helpful, or Hurtful?
Another distinction I found particularly useful is Brown’s breakdown of which friends can help build you up, or tap into and trigger a shame spiral that will send you down the wrong path.
She outlines six specific friend types, only one of which can truly help us when we fall down into that shame spiral. It’s not the our friends don’t care, she points out, but that they may not have the tools or wherewithal to offer the kind of support that will dissipate the negativity we’re feeling.
There are times in the past where I’ve shared sadness or pain with a friend, only to have their response go horribly awry and make me feel worse. Brown’s distinctions helps me to see how, though my friends may have the best intentions, they also have their own set of problems they filter through that can result in a non-ideal response. No harm, no foul – just be aware of the kinds of friends and responses to expose yourself to in times of vulnerability.
“The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” is a good, quick read with many of interesting concepts and practical applications.
There were times I would have like a greater depth of explanation. I would have like to see more ”before and after“ examples of each of the pillars. But that is also the charm of this book – that it is slim and non-threatening.
I definitely recommend this book as an addition to your library.
Come with an open mind, ready to apply your own life experiences to the concepts. You won’t find a litany of explicit instructions or descriptions, but there are many sparkling gems to be found and polished for your own use.