This was the first time reading this book even though the first edition came out 10 years ago. I had to puck up the 10th anniversary because I’m such a fan of Brene Brown. I agree with her research, and I’m still trying to implement it even though it’s so hard. No one said the work would be easy.
It’s difficult because we are taught to live our lives according to others and not our authentic self. We do what we think we ought to do in hopes that we fit in. It becomes stressful that we feel the need to live up to someone else’s expectations. Right now, I’m anxious because I have a meeting with my boss, and I have no clue what we’re going to talk about. I’m not afraid of disappointing him because I’m going to say what I believe needs to be said. It’s just the anxiety that comes with waiting.
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene gives us an alternative. The pages of the book encourages us to be ourselves. Again, easier said than done. It’s about accepting your quirks on the way to being more authentic. This type of individualism can help lead to our happiness.
Courage, Compassion, and Connection
Brene does a great job in telling us what hinders us from living our most authentic self. We want to be our true selves, but our self confidence, among other factors, can be at play. Authenticity isn’t a feature that we turn off and on. Just about everything else in life, authenticity is a choice. It’s a choice that we have to actively take. I have to make sure that I don’t care about what other people think of me (including my boss). Situations change, but the reaction has to stay the same. It’s a practice.
In order to be more vulnerable with yourself and choose to be authentic, you must practice courage and compassion. You have to be strong enough to say what’s on your mind, even if others don’t agree. It’s about voicing your needs and being communicative regardless of the situation. Being honest about your intentions only helps you get what you need.
When we talk about compassion, we’re talking about compassion towards yourself. You have to look outside of your bubble about your situation. You’re not the only one going through what you are going through. We all struggle. When others make mistakes, we can become the most compassionate people, but when we make the same mistake, we say the worst things to ourselves. In order for us to accept the shortcomings of others, we have to accept that we aren’t perfect. If you find that someone has experienced what you are going through, don’t hesitate to meet up with him/her.
The Definition of Perfectionism
Most people see perfectionism as a positive quality, but it could be a way to hide from shame. Perfectionism ultimately means struggling to be your best rather than self improvement. Those who practice perfectionism inherently have the belief that if they are perfect than it shields themselves from criticism, judgement, or blame. Perfectionism isn’t healthy because it’s dependent on the acceptance of other people. It could be a trap that never fulfills the person trying to be perfect. It’s really hard to find compassion in perfectionism because a person will inevitably fail and when that happens the perfectionist sees themselves as incompetent. We avoid perfectionism by simply being honest with our fear of shame. We also make sure that everything we do is for self and not for others.
The Importance of Purpose and Hope
As I said at the beginning of this post, being authentic is a practice. The important question to ask is how do I keep this going? It’s good to read a book and practice for a couple of days, but what makes us resilient? Practice comes from a hope for a better future. We exercise and eat healthy with the hopes of having a healthy body (and six pack abs, let’s be real). Hope is probably seen as esoteric thing that people can’t grasp, but Berne defines it very easily. She writes that hope is knowing where to go, knowing how to get there, and having the strength to know that you can succeed. We do the hard things because we see the light at the end of the tunnel, so we do what we have to to make sure that we can reach it.
You can have hope by also knowing that others are going through the same thing you are going through. Like before, it’s easy to be microscopic on our issues, but if you were to broaden your perspective, you can probably find others going through the same situation. If someone can make it out of that situation, what makes you feel as though you can’t?
An Attitude of Gratitude Even Through Normal Events
It’s very easy to be happy when things are going good. To be even more direct, it’s easier to be happy when we appreciate what we have instead of lamenting on what we do not. Appreciation, just like authenticity, is an active choice. If we need outside sources to fee gracious, then we are slaves to outcome. This has a huge impact on our lives once we realize that external factors shouldn’t be controlling our happiness. In order to be good at being gracious, you must practice.
A way of practicing gratitude is reiterating to yourself that you are enough. That’s so difficult to do when you know you have flaws. It’s very easy to look at all of our deficiencies. We aren’t rich enough, or we aren’t good looking enough, or we’re not respected enough. We wake up saying we didn’t get enough sleep and end the day saying we didn’t have enough time. Our lives are made in the realm of scarcity. Instead we can focus on the things that we do have with the gratitude that we could have less. That type of thinking is so foreign. I’m definitely not trying to preach because I’m not close to this, but I hope to someday be.
The thing that tells us the truth the most is the least thing we trust. We have a hard time trusting our instinct. People don’t trust their gut feeling because they believe it’s something that’s irrational. The truth is, intuition is a combination of feeling and experience. It’s an unconscious drawing of your past to make a future decision. You may not know why you want to do something, but that feeling is there because your body remembers the experience. When we accept our intuition we believe in ourself and our experiences. This is key to making decisions while facing uncertainty.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Telling you to not compare yourself to other is a tall task. It’s not a bad thing to compare until we get into the habit of discrediting our accomplishments based on what we see from others. When you compare yourself to another person, you are actually conforming to the standards of that person. If you do it frequently, you’re conforming to the standards of everyone else. The standards of comparison are narrow. So it’s easy to compare yourself to someone who is ahead of you financially, or on the corporate latter, but it’s very difficult to compare yourself to someone trying to figure out where he/she is going to live tonight. Brene makes the point that we don’t compare our houses to mansions across town, but we make sure our lawn looks better than our neighbors. If we only compare ourselves to people we are like, then we are all the same. That simply isn’t true. In order to combat these comparisons, we have to embrace our own individuality. When we focus on our own abilities, we start to realize that everyone is unique.
One way to embrace your individuality is to be more creative. This is where people become a little anxious because they don’t believe they don’t have an ounce of creative blood in them. No one said that it had to be good. Just do something that is impossible of having the same effect as if someone else did it. If you paint on your own, you’ll never have to worry about someone else’s painting looking like yours. It really doesn’t matter what you do. Write music, or cook a meal. Do anything you can proudly say is yours.
Make Time for Rest and Play
This is something I continue to struggle with. I can’t tell you the last time I took a vacation. We are trained to put our self worth in productivity. That’s not even considering work. Even with a full time job we feel the need to also have a side hustle, or something that will help us get wealthy. It puts a lot of time and stress into work, without the benefit of having rest. People need purpose, but it’s also good to balance that with purposeless activity like play. Again, something that I’m still trying to learn. I can’t even watch a comedy without some underlying meaning to it. I’m trying to get better.
People believe that play takes away from productivity, but in fact, taking time to play actually increases productivity by bringing back excitement to the work. If you think being sleep deprived is actually making more productive, check the mistakes you’re making just because you didn’t put in the time to rest. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Anxiety is Not Your Enemy
To tell the truth, I didn’t know what anxiety was until it was defined. It’s really hard to keep up in a fast paced world. It usually comes when we put our thoughts onto everything we have to do without looking at it from a holistic perspective. When we think of all we have to do with all the little time we have (scarcity), anxiety ensues. We can’t get rid of it. Trying to get rid of anxiety just brings more struggle. The best thing to do is to not let it control us. A good mindfulness practice works here. Instead of thinking about the future, take deep breathes and try to be present to the moment upon you. Once you can then accept your anxiety and the cause for it, it’s starts to be something that is controllable.
Share Your Gifts to the World
This blog is exactly why I have a blog. It’s not to make money. It’s to share my thoughts with the world. I think my gift is thinking. I hope I can think and then have the courage to communicate the thoughts that I have. You have gifts as well. Most times we disregard our gifts because we have real work to do. These aren’t the gifts that will necessarily pay your bills, but it’s good to keep these skills and share them to the world. They bring balance to life. That means you have permission to go after your hobbies and never think of them as a distraction. Also don’t downplay your hobby. If you are a lawyer by day, but love to do concert photography at night. You’re not a lawyer that takes pictures. You’re a lawyer and a photographer.
The Fear of Being Uncool
This is probably the only chapter where I feel at home. I don’t care about being cool, but going to back to the comparison piece, being cool is relative to someone else. It gets worse when we scroll through Instagram and we see people we envy living their best life. This type of comparison disconnects us from other people because we care more about one upping them.
I do have to work on “playing it cool.” Sometimes I feel too cool to just let go. Laugh, dance, and sing to my hearts content. It could be shyness. It could be shame. It’s more likely shame. I shouldn’t have to feel scared to express myself in ways that make me happy. Sometimes we have to dance more, laugh more, and sing more. Will that create weird experiences? You bet… but who cares?