“Brown explores how we can cultivate 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 to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”And I knew I had to read the book. I cannot tell you how often I stress about the things I’ve left undone, not to mention feeling paralyzed by my own perfectionism. Brown is a researcher who has dedicated much of her career to studying shame, empathy, fear and vulnerability; in listening to people’s stories, she started to identify what she called wholehearted research participants, i.e. people who were leading amazing lives by “living and loving with their whole hearts.” This prompted her to ask “What did these folks value? How did they create all of this resilience in their lives? What were their main concerns and how did they resolve or address them? Can anyone create a Wholehearted life? What does it take to cultivate what we need? What gets in the way?” To answer these questions, Brown came up with 10 guideposts to wholehearted living: cultivating authenticity (letting go of what people think); cultivating self-compassion (letting go of perfectionism); cultivating a resilient spirit (letting go of numbing and powerlessness); cultivating gratitude and joy (letting go of scarcity and “fear of the dark”); cultivating intuition and trusting faith (letting go of the need for certainty); cultivating creativity (letting go of comparison); cultivating play and rest (letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth); cultivating calm and stillness (letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle); cultivating meaningful work (letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”); and cultivating laughter, song, and dance (letting go of being cool and “always in control”).
Here are some of the things that stuck with me:
1. Brown talks about writing a blog post on the “‘dig deep’ button,” which she defines as “a secret level of pushing through when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed and when there’s too much to do and too little time for self-care” (p. 3). She turns this concept on its head, explaining that when wholehearted people get exhausted, they get:
- Deliberate in their thoughts and behaviors through prayer, meditation, or simply setting their intentions
- Inspired to make new and different choices
- Going: They take action
2. Brown talks about how “one of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable” (p. 16). As she points out, “When we fail to set boundaries . . . we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who [a person is], which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice” (p. 19). This makes sense to me and yet I find it very hard to practise. (Why is it so scary to set limits?)
3. According to Brown, “the . . . one thing [that separates] the men and women who [feel] a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it . . . is the belief in their worthiness” (p. 23). This finding is a bit depressing because for those of us who struggle with feeling worthy it’s such a catch-22: I feel like I don’t belong because I feel unworthy of belonging; I feel unworthy of belonging because I feel like I don’t belong. Although there are no easy answers, Brown does offer some hope: it is possible to cultivate a sense of worthiness by sharing our stories and letting go of our attachment to what other people think.
4. Brown describes herself as a “take-the-edge-off-aholic,” a concept that resonated for me. She says she can definitely say “today I’d like to deal with vulnerability and uncertainty with an apple fritter, a beer and cigarette, and spending seven hours on Facebook” (p. 72). My own numbing tools of choice (some of which veer towards addiction) are food, the Internet, television, sleep, lack of sleep, book buying, reading and busyness. And the funny thing is that in the middle of writing this review, when I was feeling stuck and vulnerable and my negative self-talk was starting up with the How could you leave this to the last minute again?, I procrastinated by watching Brown’s TEDxHouston talk, and it was only when she said “We numb vulnerability” that I realized that I was avoiding my own feelings of vulnerability by watching this video! (Listening to this talk is a great introduction to the concepts she discusses in this book and will give you a very good idea of whether this book is for you.)
5. Brown’s research shows that, “Without exception, spirituality—the belief in connection, a power greater than self, and interconnections grounded in love and compassion—emerged as a component of resilience” (p. 64). She also found that, “Without exception, every person [she] interviewed who described living a joyful life . . . actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice” (p. 77-78). I’m still at the point where I have what she calls “an attitude to gratitude”: it’s something I think about, but not something I practise (at least not yet).
My only complaint about this book is that I wish it was longer (it’s only 130 pages excluding the endnotes): I wanted more stories and more details about who the wholehearted were. I also found that her final chapter about the research process was a bit short on details: it didn’t satisfy the sociologist* in me. Having said that, if any of the concepts she discusses resonate with you in any way, I highly recommend this book!
Thank you to Hazelden Publishing for sending me this book to review.
*I have a BA in sociology.
The Gifts of Imperfection was on blog tour with TLC Book Tours in September and October. Visit these other blogs for reviews:
Silver and Grace • Simply Stacie • evolution you • Patricia’s Wisdom • Living Outside the Stacks • this full house • overstuffed • From Marriage to Motherhood • Rundpinne • Cynthia Lou
Read an excerpt from the book: Sober 24
To practise some of the things Brown writes about, participate in her Perfect Protest (watch the Protest Dance on the Being Joy blog for inspiration) and/or confess something imperfect about yourself on Karen Walrond’s Chookooloonks blog.
Visit Brené Brown’s blog: Ordinary Courage
Would you like to win a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection? Hazelden Publishing has offered to send a copy to one of my readers. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only (no P.O. boxes). I will accept entries until 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Thursday, November 18, 2010.
For one entry, please let me know why you are interested in reading this book.
If you are a follower or subscriber, let me know and I will give you another entry.
Make sure you provide me with a way of getting in touch with you. Entries without a blog link or email address will be disqualified.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.