Second Highlighted Book: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

Reading (and by that, I mean listening to) Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection may have changed my life. That probably sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it quite literally. Why?

At a base level, The Gifts of Imperfection — along with Mindset, which I discussed last month — was one of the first audiobooks I listened to. Digesting — and being inspired by — Brené’s words set in motion my daily “audiobook habit.” (I have since not only “read” three of her other books — Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness — but I have audio-read them all twice.)

At a deeper level, Brené Brown is a truly inspiring and remarkable human. Her thoughts are freeing, yet grounding. Her research is interesting, nuanced, and thought-provoking. Her work is transformable. Her words inspired me to embrace my vulnerability, to find glee in new situations, and thus to be lucky enough to experience the “beginner’s mind,” to be okay with being wrong, to be “all in” in life, and to be the best partner and person I can be. The remarkable part is, she didn’t simply inspire these “productive thoughts”; she simultaneously gave me the confidence to have self-compassion and provide self-care, often thought of as contradictory goals. She taught me to productively strive. I had to find compassion and self-worth — to stop hustling and start feeling worthy. To stop striving for perfection and be proud to “be.” In her honour, I have made my goal to “show up and be seen.”

A few of my “main take-aways” from Brené

  1. “Tell your shame story. Speak your shame.” Why? Because in her language, silence breeds shame; when one doesn’t “speak” a shame story, the unresolved feelings of shame will fester and shape everything one does — all choices, including food choices. For me, this means, create a world of people you trust — individuals who will not simply shame you further — and talk. For me, that is my therapist, my partner, James, or my mom.
  2. On a similar note to Dweck, embrace that all experiences are opportunities for growth and learning; the only people who don’t fall are the ones not stepping into the arena of life.
  3. I have always had a bugaboo with the concept of “perfect.” Brené Brown reinforced my frustration with the concept. Perfectionism, according to her, is the “great oppressor”; there is no such thing as the “perfect” anything, and the act of searching for perfection is the enemy of just getting crap done!
  4. Joy is not something you look forward after work … or when you retire … or when EVERYTHING else in life has been accomplished. Too often people — the old Kathleen included — understand fun and joy as the opposite of adult obligations like working out and working; this polarization sets one up for failure. Brené Brown says, “The opposite of play is not rest, the opposite of play is depression.” In Kathleen-speak that equates to “fun and joy don’t happen only after chores — fun and joy are like breathing; they exist knitted into the fabric of everything.” The more pockets of joy you can find, both at work and while working out, the happier, more energized, and more fulfilled you will be — and the more likely you will be to make healthy choices.
  5. Being “too busy” is not a badge of honour. Being too busy means you are out of balance. Yes, exercise and work and eating well are all important, but so is recovery, sleep, and stillness. Find balance, not perfectionism.