The Gifts of Imperfection

The Gifts of Imperfection

Review by Unity Ivongbe

Author: Brene Brown

Meet the Shame, fear and vulnerability expert. Yes, shame expert. Her discoveries over the years are quite telling and it speaks to our poverty of soul and how a lot of us have sabotaged our best self on the altar of unhealthy considerations for ‘what people would think’ before we make any move. In the way I see it, shame is why you act the way you do. It is why you are always standing in the way of your own self. It is that thing that started as being shy when you were much younger. To see more on this subject, you can consult another book by the same author, ‘I thought it was just me’.
Reading this great piece of work, I found myself laughing a couple of times, feeling sad & perplexed at some other time by how much of myself I was seeing in the book. It is one of those materials that looks like the author is speaking to you directly.
Chiefly, she spoke about the need to live a wholehearted life despite all of our human frailties. As humans, we are social beings who would rather be safe than be sorry. We fear actions that might make us stand alone. We long for love & more of it. At every point we want to be identified by a group or a cause that is bigger than us. That tribe that gives us societal meaning. But it turns out, our destiny requires us to be loyal to it first, before external considerations. To be ourselves a lot of times, when it is a cheaper option to assume different personalities for the sake of ‘belonging’. See, you and I can really live a fuller, richer and more meaningful life if only we care enough. Care enough to be courageous, compassionate and to make the necessary connections with the people in our lives, even when these virtues don’t come natural. These are the gifts of imperfection.
You are 3 Chapters and 10 Guideposts away from a transformational experience.
A few excerpts:
• “Wholehearted living is about engaging our lives from a place of worthiness… It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how 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”. To live wholeheartedly is to life full & free.
• The idea of being courageous sounds great, but the part that is hard is how it requires us to let go of what other people would think….
• The thing about Courage, compassion and making connections is that we master then by practicing them….in the way we learn to ride a bicycle by riding. Not by mere association with these words.
• “We have to own our story and share it with someone who has earned the right to hear it, someone whom we can count on to respond with compassion.”
• “Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it—it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy.
• That you have a lot of good friends does not mean that you can count on them to practice compassion when you are at your lowest ebb. Let people earn the right to hear your stories/vulnerabilities….. We need to honor our struggle by sharing it with someone who has earned the right to hear it.
• … speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.
• “I’ve learned that playing down an exciting expectation doesn’t take the pain away when it doesn’t happen. It does, however, minimize the joy when it does happen….”
• Courage has a ripple effect. “Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver”.
• The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become.
• Setting boundaries and holding people accountable is a lot more work than shaming and blaming. And it is much more effective. The latter is a petty way to manage people. The key is to separate people from their behaviors—to address what they’re doing, not who they are, to address who is going wrong & not what is going wrong;
• About the 3rd variable, connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. We need connection to thrive emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually.
• “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.” – Wholehearted living.
…. If connection is the energy that surges between people, we have to remember that those surges must travel in both directions.
• “…at the heart of Wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now”.
• “Fitting-in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are”.
• “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children”.
• “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us…. true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
• In talking about how to live more meaningfully, we must first talk about the things that get-in-the way (shame, fear, and vulnerability) before we talk about the ‘how-tos’….nothing else works other than this methodology… is our understanding of the darkness that gives my search for the light context and meaning.”
• Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough. And the key response is to develop some shame resilience— the ability to recognize shame and move through it while maintaining our worthiness and authenticity”. Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable—it’s the total opposite of owning our story and feeling worthy…. shame is the universal fear of being unworthy of love and belonging,
• “Shame resilience is the ability to recognize shame, to move through it constructively while maintaining worthiness and authenticity, and to ultimately develop more courage, compassion, and connection as a result of our experience….“ Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment. “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.
• “Guilt = I did something bad. Shame = I am bad.
Children who use more shame self-talk (I am bad) versus guilt self-talk (I did something bad) struggle mightily with issues of self-worth and self-loathing. Using shame to parent teaches children that they are not inherently worthy of love”.
• The four elements of shame resilience: Name it. Talk about it. Own your story. Tell the story.
• “Shame is about fear, blame, and disconnection. Story is about worthiness and embracing the imperfections that bring us courage, compassion, and connection. If we want to live fully, without the constant fear of not being enough, we have to own our story. We also have to respond to shame in a way that doesn’t exacerbate our shame. One way to do that is to recognize when we’re in shame so we can react with intention.
…. The easiest way to know shame is to cultivate an awareness of our physical shame symptoms.”. For me my heart races, I stutter, yawn and my knee starts to wobble.
• The opposite of authentic people are people who live in self-doubt & shame…they are often drifters; too concerned about what people would think for every action they take & always wanting to fit-in & people-please;
• “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. ““Staying real” is one of the most courageous battles that we’ll ever fight. “
• Modes of responding to a shame situation:
-Move away: you feel bad & withdraw;
-Move towards: you try to explain and appease;
-Move against: try to shame the person back in return;
• “….being true to ourselves is the best gift we can give the people we love”. Sometimes it makes them feel uncomfortable in the interim but it does work for their good & societal.
• Living intentionally. Don’t get small so other people are comfortable ….neither should you puff yourself into intimidating people.
• “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best….. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance Healthy striving is self- focused—How can I improve? Perfectionism is other- focused—What will they think?”
• Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others. It’s terrifying to risk when you’re a perfectionist; your self-worth is on the line.
• Having self-compassion is about practicing: kindness to self; understanding our shared humanity and being Mindful, i.e not suppressing or exaggerating what you feel. But acknowledging them.
• It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.
• …. practicing spirituality brings perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives. Is spirituality a necessary component for resilience? Yes !
• We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.
… there’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light.
• There are a few words that go in pairs: love & belonging; gratitude & joy…and they are necessary experiences that we trigger by the choices we make daily. Happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfullness is tied to spirit and gratitude.
• Gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works—it’s not alive….having an attitude about it is not enough. Practise it. Practitude!
• Joy and gratitude can be very vulnerable and intense experiences… I’m not going to allow myself to feel this joy because I know it won’t last. Wrong thoughts
• About Fear & Joy: The dark does (& cannot) not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.
• Intuition is not actually independent of any reasoning process… The brain makes an observation, scans its files, and matches the observation with existing memories, knowledge, and experiences. Once it puts together a series of matches, we get a “gut” on what we’ve observed. So the ‘hunches’ you have is a reflection of the quality of the content your data bank. Subconsciously, it is actually a logical process.
• “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty”.
• It’s easy to see how difficult it is to make time for the important things such as creativity, gratitude, joy, and authenticity when we’re spending enormous amounts of energy conforming and competing. …. 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 consciously or unconsciously start comparing myself to other people.
• “I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. 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.
• In today’s culture—where our self-worth is tied to our net worth, and we base our worthiness on our level of productivity—spending time doing purposeless activities is rare….and it happens that play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest. And the first attribute of play is that it is purposeless.
• Another hard pill to swallow: “The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression.” … In the long run, work does not work without play.”
• A part of self-love, part of living and loving with our whole hearts requires us to respect our bodies’ need for renewal. Resting, sleeping & reducing our sleep debts.
• “The believe that exhaustion is a status symbol of hard work and that sleep is a luxury is wrong”. It is a very skewed idea. To live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play even though it is counter-culture.
• Calm is the idea of creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity.
• “Sharing our gifts and talents with the world is the most powerful source of connection with God.”
• “….in many cases the meaningful work is not what pays the bills. Some folks have managed to align everything—they use their gifts and talents to do work that feeds their souls and their families;”
Sometimes life leaves you with only two choices: doing Work you love or work that supports the people you love.”
• Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection…Laughter is a spiritual form of communing; without words
• For many, of us, there is no form of self-expression that makes us feel more vulnerable than dancing. Next to this is being naked.
• Being “in control” (for many) isn’t always about the desire to manipulate situations, but often it’s about the need to manage perception — wanting to be in control of what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.
• However afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this: What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?
Finally, I choose Unity Ivongbe. I choose to be on his side. Everytime. Irrespective of what the world is saying & how they think I should live. I choose to love him wholeheartedly despite all of his frailties because if I don’t, I cannot love any other person. I understand that my mistakes are a part of my story and I own them. I call them what they are. Mistakes. I live above them by sharing it with others so they can learn and avoid same pitfalls. When all eyes are on me, I will never betray myself. Because if i do, I will betray others also (even the people I claim to be my family & closest friends). On whose side are you?

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