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The Gifts of Imperfection By Brene Brown

Do you ever secretly worry that you’re not really good enough? Do you find yourself hustling to prove your worthiness by trying to win that next big promotion, lose those extra few pounds, or make it look as though you are effortlessly juggling work and family commitments? Are you losing sleep over what others would really think if they knew how much you were really struggling inside?

But what if you didn’t have to feel this way? What if you didn’t need to constantly perform, prove yourself or try to please others?

In her best-selling book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go Of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are, Dr Brene Brown from the University of Houston suggests that the truth is no one has it all figured out or has it all together all of the time. Instead we are each wired for struggle, learning and growth making us good enough, just as we are right now, of being respected, valued and loved.

And yet it seems we all experience moments of shame when we feel small, flawed and not good enough.  Left unchecked shame gets in the way of how we live, love and work but when we learn to recognize shame, be honest about the fears it stirs in us and accept the fact that we are still learning it is possible to emerge from these moments believing that we are still loveable and worthy.

Learning to embrace our imperfections, to let go of the things that are holding us back and to live and love from a place of worthiness is the focus of this book. Brene describes this process as wholehearted living. She explains it is about 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”. And 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”.

Suggesting this approach to life requires the courage to be imperfect and put our vulnerabilities on the line, the compassion to accept ourselves and others’ strengths and struggles, and the connection to give and receive without judgement, Brene offers ten guideposts to help us:

  • Guidepost #1: Cultivating Authenticity – Let go of who you think you’re meant to be and embrace who you are. When you feel vulnerable don’t shrink, don’t puff up, stand your ground.   Instead of seeking acceptance and approval keep it real and remember you are good enough.
  • Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion – Let go of perfectionism and remember that showing up, being open to learning and giving yourself room to grow is the purpose of life. Measure your levels of self-compassion and use the guided meditations and tools at self-compassion.org.
  • Guidepost #3: Cultivating A Resilient Spirit – Let go of numbing your vulnerability (be it with eating, spending, gossiping, perfectionism, busyness, or saving the world) and powerlessness. Instead practice spirituality (in whatever form is meaningful to you), cultivate hope, keep a check on your expectations and reality (particularly the never good enough gremlins) and resist numbing the pain and the joys of life.
  • Guidepost #4: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy – Let go of fear and scarcity by practicing daily acts of gratitude (it can be keeping a journal, praying, meditating or anything that helps you connect with all you have to be grateful for) and make space for joy. When you’re flooded with fear and scarcity try saying: ‘I’m feeling vulnerable. That’s okay. I’m so grateful for ___________” and notice how it increases your capacity for joy.
  • Guidepost #5: Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith – Letting go of the need for certainty. Instead hold space for uncertainty and trust the many ways you’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith and reason. When you’re craving certainty try reciting the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Guidepost #6: Cultivating Creativity – Let go of comparison and the need to fit in or be better than others. There’s no such thing as creative and non-creative people, just people who use creativity and those who don’t. But the only unique contribution you will ever make in the world will be born out of creativity so if you want to make meaning you need to make art. Cook, write, draw, take pictures, dance, decorate, sing, rebuild an engine, take a class – it doesn’t matter as long as you’re creating, you’re cultivating meaning.
  • Guidepost #7: Cultivating Play and Rest – Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. Researchers have found that play helps to shape our brain, helps us to foster empathy, helps us to navigate complex social groups and is at the core of creativity and innovation. But as much as our bodies need play, they also need sleep, at least 7 – 8 hours a night for most of us. Make down time a priority in your life, add play and rest to your daily list of activities.
  • Guidepost #8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness – Let go of anxiety as a lifestyle. Don’t worry about being anxiety-free instead try to be anxiety-aware by cultivating daily practices of calm and stillness. Experiment with different forms of still and quiet until you find what works for you.
  • Guidepost #9: Cultivating Meaningful Work – Let go of self-doubt and “supposed to”. We all have gifts and talents and while squandering these brings distress into our lives, sharing them creates a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Doing meaningful work takes commitment – as it doesn’t always pay the bills – so take some time to figure out what ‘meaningful’ means to you, what inspires you and what you love. Then based on what’s right for you, right now, find small or big ways to do meaningful work each day.
  • Guidepost #10: Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance – Let go of being cool and ‘always in control’. Laughter, song and dance create emotional and spiritual connection, they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we’re searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration or healing: we are not alone. Make sure that you have space in your life to laugh until you cry, sing at the top of your lungs and dance like no one is watching.

Grab a copy of Brené’s book, or learn more by watching one of her TedTalks,  The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame, or checking out the resources on her website.

What can you do believe more in your worthiness and adopt a wholehearted approach to life?

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