Monday, September 26, 2016

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown


Lately I feel a resistance in my life—who I was and who I am and who I am becoming—in conflict with one another. 

Who I was:  someone who openly shared herself online until she was cyber-bullied and even stalked, more than once, and even by people I knew in real life culminating in my words/experiences being used to attack my loved ones.  

Who I am:  someone who is scared of being online, who defines this past experience as traumatizing, and who balked when her husband handed her a stack of college ruled notebooks and said “You can write until your hand falls off or you run out of ink, whichever comes first” because she stopped writing years ago. 

Who I am becoming:  a woman who has a story and wants to share it, if not with the world, at least with her granddaughter. 

Who I am becoming would have to be vulnerable enough to release the trauma (and I am not using this word lightly) of the past.   This, and listening to my mother talk about herself in hurtful and hateful ways, led me to ask the people I know online if they know of any resources I could share.  One author’s name came up more than once and I would have started with her, immediately, but her book was unavailable at my public library and I had to wait to read it so I read another book in the meantime.

The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown is not a self-help, per se.  The author is a researcher who has, in the past, focused on shame and how it informs our lives, creating disconnections within our true selves and our communities.  This book builds on that research to explore how we can create those connections that shame breaks.

The author provides stories from her own life, while also exploring the results of the many stories she used to create her theory of how to live a wholehearted life.  (At the end of the book, she explains her methodology-Grounded Theory.)   From her own experience, balanced with the data she gathered to support her theories, she invites the reader to be vulnerable and then offers ten “Guideposts” without simplifying things into a checklist.  You won’t close this book and tick off items and be done done done.  No “do this” and you’ll be happy.  Instead, she suggests that these Guideposts are not goals but practices. 

How?  Well, this is where the reader will have to find their own way to practice the deceptively simple concepts of living authentically, having self-compassion, developing a resilient spirit, etc.  Now, she does come from a position of our being body/mind/spirit so there are allusions to a spiritual component to some of these things but she doesn’t define this spirituality specifically, although she herself clearly believes in God.  Nor does she get overly New Age feel good warm-fuzzy.  (In fact she suggests at one point that she dislikes how some spiritual teaches are dismissive of painful experiences.) 

This is a book that I would love to read along with others.  I found myself thinking about people with whom I would like to share this book—friends and family.  In fact, my whole reason for wanting to read this book is that I wanted to find a resource I could share with my mother, who is not kind to herself.  I wanted to find a resource I could share with her because I don’t want to carry this self-abuse into my own life.  This book comes close to what I wanted to find.  Is it a perfect fit?  Is there a perfect fit?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I want to read more books by Brené Brown because her message resonates with me.  I copied quite a few quotes that I will share in my personal and professional life.   

Pet Peeve Alert:  The author erroneously shares a Mark Twain quote that is clearly not a quote from Twain.  Anyone who has read Twain would recognize that the tone of the quote is simply not right.  I know this seems petty (and no doubt other readers have confronted her with this already) but I find it annoying when writers and their editors and their publishers do not take the time to do a simple google search to verify a quote before sharing it. 

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