01. The Gifts of Imperfection

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

by Brené Brown

(image from brenebrown.com)

I’ve really struggled to get started writing about this book. Not because I didn’t like it. (Spoiler alert: I loved it.) But I’m finding it hard to adequately put into words just how much I appreciated what Brené Brown had to say. Doesn’t bode well for a book review blog, does it?

Maybe it’s the New Year and new beginnings. Maybe it was the end of a really meaningful relationship that made my introvert self want to look even further inward for answers. Maybe it’s because I’m in my 30’s and still don’t really feel like I know what the hell I’m doing. It was probably a little bit of all of the above (but ok mostly the breakup) that led me to the self-help aisle for my first book of the New Year. I’ve read quite a few of them over the past few months. They range from topics like setting boundaries in your life to why men love bitches (yes, that’s a real book). I’m only going to write about one of them though, and don’t worry, it’s not a breakup book!

In my introspective phase, I recalled a TED talk I had seen previously by Brené Brown called “The Power of Vulnerability”.  If you haven’t seen it, go here and watch it. Do it now. I’ll wait. It has over 13 million views for a reason.

From her bio on TED’s website:

“Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness.”

Brown’s TED talks led me to her books, which is where I discovered The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Her concept of wholehearted living really appealed to me. Simply put, wholehearted living means owning your own story. Being honest with yourself about your imperfections and your flaws, but knowing that those things are also what make you uniquely you and are part of why you’re so great. Yes, it’s technically self-help, but it’s not annoying. It’s not overly preachy or condescending in any way. If I had two words to describe it, they would be “real talk”. Brown just gets real with you. She levels with you that yes, life is hard, but it’s also really beautiful. And you don’t get to numb the pain of the hard stuff without also numbing the joy of the good stuff.

Brown starts with an introduction to Wholehearted Living, and then goes on to discuss things like courage, compassion, and connection. These are things that humans are hard-wired for and that we need for true happiness and meaning in our lives. So how do we embrace those while also navigating the tough and scary things life can throw our way? She gives ten “guideposts” of wholehearted living. These are things she has researched extensively and found to be the keys to living a wholehearted life. Things like self-compassion, gratitude, intuition, and creativity. She gives real life examples of roadblocks that come up and how to deal with them. I really appreciated how down to earth she was about everything too. This passage was one of my favorites, and accurately reflects the tone of the book:

“I think most of us have developed fairly sensitive bullshit meters when it comes to reading “self-help” books. I think this is a good thing. There are too many books that make promises they can’t keep or make change sound so much easier than it is. The truth is that meaningful change is a process. It can be uncomfortable and is often risky, especially when we’re talking about embracing our imperfections, cultivating authenticity, and looking the world in the eye saying, “I am enough.”

Good, right? The Gifts of Imperfection is one of the first self-help books I’ve read and actually highlighted passages to come back and re-read later. And I highlighted a lot of them. A few of my favorites:

“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 is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. So many of us run around spackling all of the cracks, trying to make everything look just right.”

“This work has forced me to see that it’s our fear of the unknown and our fear of being wrong that create most of our conflict and anxiety. We need both faith and reason to make meaning in an uncertain world.”

“Comparison is the thief of happiness.”

Any of those pique your interest? I probably highlighted at least twenty-five different passages in my Kindle to go back and read again later. So yes, as mentioned earlier, I loved this book. It was interesting enough to hold my attention and keep me wanting more, but also organized in such a way that you could easily put it down and pick it back up later if you only have a few minutes at a time to read.

TL;DR: Highly recommended, especially for people who aren’t afraid of a little self-evaluation and introspection every once in awhile. Also, Oprah loves Brene Brown. And Oprah rarely steers me wrong.

Happy Reading!


20 Books in 2014

You know how sometimes, you get in bed and start reading a new book, and you keep saying to yourself, “just one more chapter…” and then the next thing you know it’s 3 AM and you’ll be worthless the next day? I love that feeling. I love getting lost in a novel where I’m rooting for the protagonist or I’m biting my nails in suspense. I love reading a memoir of someone who used an ordinary life to do extraordinary things. I love learning something new or reading a quote so good you can’t wait to share it.

I’ve always loved to read. But it seems like as we get older, this thing called life gets in the way of the simple things that make us happy. Work, family, friends, relationships – they’re all important. But also important is making time for things you love, that are just for you. I want to rediscover my inner book nerd. I know she’s in there, she’s just been dormant for awhile.

So I have a goal:  20 books in 2014.

Could I realistically read more than that? Probably. I’m a fast reader. But I want this to be fun, not an obligation. And a book every 2-1/2 weeks or so seemed realistic and manageable to me. I’m going to mix it up too. Best-sellers, old favorites, memoirs, and even some chick-lit. I like it all, and I’m going to document it all on this blog. Here we go!