A few notes from...

GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION 

 Written by psychologist Brene Brown, the book explores living from a place of deep self-understanding of ourselves allowing more meaningful connection with others. Let's start with the why.  

 

In a 75 year study conducted by Harvard on what constitutes the good life, Robert Waldinger, clinical professor of psychiatry and director concluded, "The clearest message is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."

 

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It all starts with being honest with ourselves. 

"If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about shame, fear and vulnerability."

 

Most people see worthiness as something to be achieved in the future, summed up in the statement "I’ll be worthy when ______ ." Without this sense of worthiness, there is no foundation of self-love to extend to other people.

 

"Love is not something we give or get, it is a practice that we nurture and grow. It manifests in a connection between people that can only appear when it exists within each of them. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves."

 

Compassion has to be cultivated before it can be given. The English noun compassion, meaning to love together with, comes from Latin. Compassion is related in meaning to the English noun patient (one who suffers)

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Some of B.B.’s patients are mothers with substance abuse problems. They often say they hate themselves, but they love their children. However, as their children watch their mothers slowly destroy their bodies & minds, the signal is sent that the vice holds more importance over their mothers than they do. 

 

The demonstrates why self-love is a prerequisite to practicing outward love. 

 

"Self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate to ourselves."

 

She asserts that addiction can be described as compulsively numbing or escapism and that people engage in behaviours numb themselves to take the edge of vulnerability, pain or discomfort. 

 

"We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we do for the negative ones, they will impact the positive emotions as well."

 

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There is a spectrum that lies between self-acceptance & self-improvement. At the extreme end of improvement lies perfectionism. B.B believes that shame is the birthplace of perfectionism. She defines it as 

 

"The belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame."

 

Shame is the painful feeling or the experience of believing we are flawed and unworthy of love and belonging. It is a social emotion that results from the comparison of actions or events that deviate with a self-standard, desired outcome or perceived social norms. 

 

B.B. makes a clear distinction between shame and guilt. 

 

Guilt: I did something bad

 

versus

 

Shame: I am bad. 
 

Cultivating shame resilience allows us to recognize shame and move through it with authenticity, developing courage on the way. Shame resilience requires 4 considerations:
 
1. Understanding of shame & recognising what messages and expectations trigger it

 

2. Reality check when the trigger of shame happens with the idea that we are imperfect. 

 

3. Reach out with stories of shame to their secure bases for a listening ear.

note: (our stories are not meant for everyone) 

 

Two similar questions yet asked with different intent captures the distinction further: 

 

"What will they think of me?" (Perfectionism)

 

versus  

 

"How can I improve myself?" (Healthy Striving) 

 

Looking at the statement "what will they think of me?", there is a cry for acceptance. B.B. carefully makes a distinction between fitting in & belonging. The former requires pre-requisites, while the latter is unconditional but is also dependent on how authentically we present ourselves. She defines belonging as:


"The innate human desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Trying to fit in can be a barrier to belonging. True belonging only happens when we present out imperfect selves to the world, and our sense of belonging can never be greater than our self-acceptance."

 

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B.B. asserts that authenticity consists of five daily practices of embracing who we are and letting go of who we are supposed to be. 

 

1. cultivate courage to be imperfect and enough


2. setting boundaries 
 

3. be vulnerable 
 

4. exercising compassion 
 

5. nurturing belonging 
 

We have to understand ourselves to better find our own boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. To become more compassionate people, we have to hold others to account when those boundaries are crossed in a firm, but kind way. Feedback must acknowledge one’s own shortcomings and explain one’s position in a way that is open to listening. 

 

Resources: 

 

The Power of Vunerability - TED Talk

 

What Makes A Good Life - TED Talk