The Gifts of Imperfection

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Keep calm and let go – how to be imperfect and love it!

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown sets out to find the secret of wholehearted living. By wholehearted living she means: “engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness.” Wholehearted living, explains Brown, is “about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

There are many barriers to living a life of worthiness, love, connection and authenticity, however, Brown explains, like fear, vulnerability, and shame, which can lead us to betray ourselves and those we love by pushing us towards behaviors such as violence, aggression, depression, addiction, eating disorders and bullying.

Therefore, she says, “If we really want to live a joyful, connected, and meaningful life, we must talk about the things that get in the way.”

Brown gives ten guidelines, that she calls guideposts, in her book to help the reader cultivate wholeheartedness.

Authenticity, self-compassion, resilience, gratitude and joy, faith, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, meaningful work, laughter, song and dance. In other words, be true to yourself and your principles, be kind—to yourself first and foremost—be grateful and not complacent, have hope, create, take time off, meditate or just be still, enjoy your work and laugh, sing and play.

“The answers included sleep, working out, healthy food, cooking, time off, weekends away, going to church, being present with the kids, a sense of control over our money, meaningful work that doesn’t consume us, time to piddle, time with family and close friends, and time to just hang out. These are our ingredients for joy and meaning,” says Brown.

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The Gifts of Imperfection is a small book and not a difficult read, yet it is full of little gems that are sure to convince any reader to let go of judgment and what people think, let go of the need for perfectionism, the need for certainty, exhaustion as a status symbol, let go of anxiety, self-doubt and the need to “always be in control.”

Below are some quotes from the book that most resonated with me and that I would like to share with you, either by Brown or others whom she quotes herself.

“How would our lives be different if there were less anger and more accountability?”

“Setting boundaries and holding people accountable is a lot more work than shaming and blaming[…]When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. We need to understand that it’s dangerous to our relationships and our well-being to get mired in shame and blame, or to be full of self-righteous anger.”

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”

“When we go against the grain and put ourselves and our work out in the world, some people will feel threatened and they will go after what hurts the most—our appearance, our lovability, and even our parenting.”

“Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand on your sacred ground.”

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” – Christopher K. Germer

“Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.”

“The new cultural belief that everything should be fun, fast, and easy is inconsistent with hopeful thinking. It also sets us up for hopelessness. When we experience something that is difficult and requires significant time and effort, we are quick to think, This is supposed to be easy; it’s not worth the effort, or, This should be easier: it’s only hard and slow because I’m not good at it. Hopeful self-talk sounds more like, This is tough, but I can do it.”

“Whether we’re overcoming adversity, surviving, trauma or dealing with stress and anxiety, having a sense of purpose, meaning and perspective in our lives allows us to develop understanding and move forward. Without purpose, meaning, and perspective, it is easy to lose hope, numb our emotions, or become overwhelmed by our circumstances. We feel reduced, less capable, and lost in the face of struggle. The heart of spirituality is connection. When we believe in the inextricable connection, we don’t feel alone.”

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

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“Comparison is the thief of happiness. I can’t tell you how many times I’m feeling so good about myself and my life and my family, and then in a split second it’s gone because I unconsciously start comparing myself to other people.”

“If what matters to us is what we’re concerned about, the play and rest is important. If what matters to us is what other people think or say or value, then it’s back to exhaustion and producing for self-worth.”

“Don’t’ ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”– Howard Thurman

“When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love.”

“When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others. We put them down, make fun of them, ridicule their behaviors, and sometimes shame them. We can do this intentionally or unconsciously.”

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