The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown (Book Summary)

A lot of us attempt to live our lives according to other people’s instructions. We try so hard to fit in: to do what we think we ought to do. We work very hard at our job because society requires us to do so; we don’t spend a lot of time having fun, because we believe that people would judge us and see us as playful.

However, what’s the outcome of all this? We end up living nervous and unhappy lives.

These chapters will show us another means. They emphasize the importance of us accepting our own uniqueness, our own little imperfections, and quirks – the things that shape who we are. It is by following this route of authenticity and individualism that we can hope to become happy.

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1 – Authenticity is a choice that needs courage, compassion, as well as connection.

A lot of people would like to live a life that is true to who they are; meaning, we’d like to be as authentic as possible.

Unluckily, some factors hinder us from doing that: for instance, a lack of self-confidence or pressure to fit in. Due to that, we feel we are inauthentic people, very weak to live honestly. However, this is simply false!

Authenticity isn’t a feature that you either have or don’t. Instead, it’s a choice, one that shows how we want to live. It’s the day-to-day choice, to be honest, accept our vulnerability and not care about what others think of us.

So because it’s a choice, we, therefore, have the decision to be authentic on certain days and less authentic on the days when we’re too tired.

But if you do, choose to behave with more authenticity, then you’ll have to practice courage and compassion.

You’ll need to have the courage to say your mind and let yourself be vulnerable in the presence of others. To do this in practice, think about when next you actually want something to occur maybe winning a contest or killing an interview. Endeavor not to play down your hopes in these circumstances. Acting like failure is not a big deal and it won’t make the pain that comes with failure any easier. On the contrary, being honest about your hopes enables it possible for you to get support when you really need it.

Also, practicing compassion makes you see that you aren’t alone, and as a matter of fact, everyone around you struggles with that same problem as you.

Compassion, in contrast with sympathy, is a connection between equals: for us to relate to the struggles of others, you have to accept your own, as well. By understanding that everyone around you has probably experienced what you’re experiencing now, you’ll find it easy to open up go them and finding support.

2 – Fear of shame conceals at the back perfectionism.

Are you a perfectionist? If so, do you see it as a positive quality?

Although perfectionism sounds positive, it isn’t worth pursuing. It’s different than struggling to be your best and it is not the same as self-improvement. Instead, it revolves around the central fear of shame.

In brief, perfectionism is the belief that, if we appear perfect and live and behave perfectly, then we’ll be able to protect ourselves from criticism, judgment or blame. Meaning, it is meant to protect us against shame.

But, life as a perfectionist is emotionally unhealthy, because it enables our own self-worth reliant on support or acceptance from others. Perfectionism isn’t only unhealthy; however, it’s also addictive and self-destructive. As a matter of fact, perfectionism is pointless, as perfection itself is deceptive!

However, the perfectionists’ belief doesn’t see these traps. Rather, whenever they unavoidably fail to accomplish perfection, perfectionists blame themselves for their incompetence and tell themselves to “do better,” irrespective of whether that’s really possible.

As a result, they become addicted to improvement.

Also, perfectionism can lead to life paralysis, which means the failure to put oneself out into the world, as a result of fear of imperfection. For example, people suffering from life paralysis might not be able to send that email to someone they appreciate out of fear that it won’t be received well or they might not publish their work due to fear of criticism.

Fortunately, we can avoid the limitations of perfectionism by just being honest with our fear of shame and by telling ourselves to do things for ourselves instead of for others.

For instance, when next you want to get fit, don’t let other people’s opinions of you and your body be your motivation. Rather, tell yourself that exercise and a healthy diet will make you feel better and healthier and that either your success or failure in getting fit won’t have any effect on your worth as a person.

3 – Develop purpose and perception in order for you to become resilient even when you encounter adversity.

How many of us have attempted to lose weight, but we rather give up at the first indication of trouble? A lot of us lack the resilience needed to attain our aim. Fortunately, that can be changed. Let’s begin by looking at where resilience comes from:

Resilience derives from practicing hope. While the hope is regularly seen as an emotion-based on situations beyond our control, researcher C.R. Snyder disputes that instead, that hope is really a cognitive process that can both be learned and practiced.

Hope arises from telling yourself where you want to go, knowing how you can get there and telling yourself that you have what it requires to succeed. You can make the light at the end of the tunnel seem nearer or brighter by separating larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones.

When next you encounter a frightening challenge maybe quitting nicotine, make a conscious decision to take it one day at a time. Thinking about your determinations for a day is much easier than thinking about it for a year or for the rest of your life. And once you understand the habit of not smoking, your resilience will build on itself.

Also, resilience can also be developed by embracing a critical, broadened view of the adversity you encounter. It’s very easy to feel awful when you have the camera zoomed in on you, and all you can see are your “imperfections.” However, if you pan out a bit, you’ll begin to realize that you are surrounded by people who share the same struggle as you.

For example, a lot of people who have issues with body image as a result of media pressure could gain from adopting a broader perspective.

They need to ask themselves: the pictures I’m seeing are they real or are they fantasy? Am I the only one who feels discontented with my body after seeing these pictures?

Answering these questions can assist people to remain critical, see that they aren’t alone in their struggle, and fight back societal expectations, instead of changing their self-worth.

4 – Work on being grateful for the normal moments in life.

It’s reasonable that you’re happier when you appreciate the things you have, instead of when you’re lamenting that you don’t have enough. This appreciation, like hope, is not an unintentional emotion; however, it is a mentality that can be consciously practiced.

While the majority of us consider gratitude as the feeling that comes after positive experiences, in reality, it is a practice that promotes happiness. This has huge effects on how we live our lives: this signifies that joy isn’t just the accidental result of external factors over which we have no control over. Instead, we actively see joy by practicing gratitude.

One method to actively choose gratitude is by saying to yourself that you have is enough – or more than enough –instead of considering all things in terms of scarcity.

We regularly fall into the bad habit of blaming ourselves for not having enough: we’re not rich enough, not thin enough, we don’t have enough time and etc. Rather we should concentrate on things we have already and realize that we could have less. With a grateful perception, you’ll soon see yourself feeling more grateful irrespective of how prosperous you might be

However, in particular, the fundamental of gratitude is to see value in the normal moments that consist your life, for instance, things like putting your child to sleep, sharing a good meal or walking home on a bright sunny day.

This is the way to have a grateful perception that assists people who have been through extreme trauma or sorrow. The people who have experienced severe, traumatic experiences, like the death of a child, violence or genocide, confirm that they have the tendency to recall tenderly the mundane parts of everyday life before the traumatic experience.

5 – In order to be a better decision-maker, you need to let go of the desire for certainty and trust your intuition.

One of your greatest means in decision-making is your instinct. But a lot of people struggle to trust their instinct.

It is partly because the majority of people don’t know what intuition is. They think of intuition as a “gut” feeling that doesn’t have anything to do with rationality or reason. But, in reality, intuition and reason are not mutually exclusive.

Instead, intuition functions like a rapid-fire series of associations that occurs unconsciously. How so?

Your brain goes through your records of memories when it makes an observation in order to discover important information. This information is gathered into the unconscious “gut feeling” that notifies your actions.

It is exactly this process of unconsciously drawing on former experiences that enables athletes, such as basketball players, for instance, to determine the exact angle and force they need to shoot a three-pointer without them having to first sit down to calculate.

Hence, we can’t consider intuition as the opposite of reason. Instead, intuition is a method of reasoning that creates an opportunity for uncertainty when making decisions.

By accepting your intuition, you simply put trust in both yourself and the experiences that have added to your knowledge. This makes you act with a degree of confidence even though you are not aware of how the event will turn out. For instance, the basketball player can’t be sure that the ball will swish through the hoop, however, he can guess based on his instinct.

So, why should you want to trust your intuition? In simple terms, by trusting your intuition, it can help overcome your fear of risk.

A lot of people avoid risk and uncertainty, which makes them act hesitantly and they make poor decisions. But, by learning to accept intuition, you’ll become used to taking action in the face of uncertainty, and therefore persist through the fear of making the wrong decision.

6 – Accept your own creative ability to do away with the need for comparison.

It is completely natural when we compare ourselves to others and it is something we all do. But, in our efforts to compare ourselves against our peers, we frequently end up really ridding ourselves of the actual abilities that make us interesting people.

Certainly, a comparison is the actual cause of conformity. At first competition and conformity might seem like polar opposites, they’re really inextricably associated.

Anytime we compete, we essentially compare ourselves to others through the use of very narrow criteria. Due to this, we won’t bother to compete with people from completely different traditions and backgrounds, however, we get irritated about very people who live next door.

Although we might not compare our homes to the mansions across town, it is possible to compete over who has the best-kept lawn on the block.

But, because we just compete with those who are alike to us already, we make sure that we will follow the route of conformity.

We need to begin by accepting our own individuality if we need to exceed these arbitrary comparisons. When we concentrate on our own unique abilities, it reminds us that the world contains people, each of whom makes unique and incomparable contributions.

However, in order to let your individuality shine, you’ll first have to develop your creativity.

What if you are not creative?

Gibberish! There is nothing like “creative types” and “non-creative types.” However, there is an obvious difference between those who make use of their creativity and those who don’t.

Therefore, don’t get caught up on whether you’re creative enough. Just go out there and create! It doesn’t matter whether you paint, cook, write, make music or any other thing. As long as you’re creating, you’re also developing your individuality.

7 – Playing and resting are as essential as work when it comes to your well-being.

If someone told you to leave everything and go and play now! Will you do it? Or would your other duties refrain you from leaving your desk? Creating time to play isn’t as easy as it might look.

Our society has a bad habit of associating self-worth to productivity. Due to that, we end up forfeiting things such as rest, play and our general well-being if those things seem to block and affect the way of our work.

When was the last time you said to yourself to stay up for only one hour more to get more work done, in spite of hardly being able to keep your eyes open?

People consider work and play as being polar opposites. People think that, by letting go of one (mostly play), they’ll have more of the other.

As a matter of fact, the opposite of play is not working, but it is actually depression. According to the author’s research, humans have been proved to be biologically programmed to take part in “purposeless” activities like play. For us to deprive ourselves of play we also do ourselves a great disservice.

As a matter of fact, cranking up the amount of play and rest you give yourself can really make you become more productive by bringing back excitement and originality to your work, and also developing empathy and creativity.

One method to do so is by playing with your coworkers. For instance, you could make it a routine to go out with colleagues to have fun after work every Friday. The exercise and fun will not only make you happier and healthier, but it will also create an association with your coworkers in your professional setting and develop your skill to work within your team.

This also goes for rest. If you regularly push yourself to exhaustion, then your work, as well as your well-being will definitely suffer. Therefore, listen to your body and what it needs!

8 – Learn to control your anxiety, instead of attempting to get rid of it.

Life in our fast-paced, stress-filled society creates a lot of anxiety. For the majority of people, maybe even you, the nervousness and restlessness that accompany anxiety can be nearly paralyzing.

We are mostly affected by anxiety when we unintentionally let it become an essential part of our daily life. This mostly happens when we attempt to balance a lot of things all at once without letting ourselves to take a step back and put the whole thing into perspective.

Remember those days when everything looks to come tumbling down around you: you need to plan for a forthcoming deadline at work while you are also thinking about what to make for dinner, when to take your child from daycare and how you’ll complete the writings of all those holiday greeting cards in time – all while attempting to maintain to your daily fitness regimen.

When we’re regularly reminded of everything we have to do within the short period we have, anxiety can become an ever-present part of life.

Nevertheless, dealing with anxiety doesn’t mean freeing ourselves of it, or even attempting to avoid it. Instead, we need to be aware of it so that we can prevent it from becoming a routine.

When next you feel anxious, try dealing with your anxiety with a broader perception. Breathe slowly and concentrate on the moment instead of on an unknowable future – besides, who’s cares if those holiday cards get a few days later?

By taking the time to think and accept your anxiety, its cause, and its ultimate significance, then your anxiety will change into something that is controllable, instead of something that defines your life.

9 – Know your own gifts and abilities so that you will be able to share with the world.

How many times did your parents or teachers tell you to stop spending your entire time on drawing, singing or playing and rather do some actual work? It’s time you disregard their advice!

We all have exceptional gifts and abilities that belong to just us, and we have to accept them, instead of disregarding them for the sake of getting “real work” done. For instance, some of us might be artistically gifted, while some of us might be good at conversation. Others might have a unique talent for recalling sports statistics.

These gifts, talents, and abilities are not necessarily the ones that pay our bills. However, by knowing the exceptional things that we can share with the world and integrating them into our lives even if it’s just a bit– we make our lives very meaningful.

Hence, don’t be scared to go after that hobby or activity that you’ve at all times wanted to choose that you thought might be a distraction from what you “really have to do.” The actual truth is: you can have your cake and eat it, too!

You can integrate your talents into your daily life by looking at your career in terms of “slashes.”

For instance, during the day if you work as an insurance broker and you also like to write novels during your spare time, you don’t have to denigrate your literary talents by presenting yourself as an “insurance broker who fiddles in writing on the side.”

Because your passion isn’t what you spend the majority of your time doing doesn’t signify that it’s any less a part of yourself. Rather, tell people that you’re an “insurance broker and a writer.”

9 – Don’t be scared of being uncool.

In this era of social media, the pressure to show ourselves as cool, relaxed types with adventurous lives and without a care in the world has never been stronger. However, it is exactly this wish to be “cool” that makes us isolated from others.

We have to be connected to one another, and the best method to do this is through laughter, song, and dance. These three things form an emotional and spiritual connection with those that surround us and it enables us to feel that we’re not alone.

Barbara Ehrenreich in her book “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy”, highlights that all through human history, we have shown a desire to share the joy with others by engaging in “collective ecstasy.”

Therefore, when we laugh, sing or dance, we’re engaging in the same ancient activity that confirms our place within the larger human community.

However, all these three things need us to let go in some way.

Accept it: we’ve all had that awkward experience when we’ve laughed a little too hard, sang a bit too devotedly or danced a bit too extreme for the tastes of those that surround us – and then felt the instant pangs of humiliation when we were told to “reduce a notch.”

Laughter, song, and dance all need a whole-body vulnerability that few of us want to risk, hence making us restrain those activities to the privacy of our own homes or amongst our trusted friends and family.

We need to tell ourselves that it’s normal and okay to be uncool; it’s part of the chance to promote a connection with others.

The only means to continue the façade of coolness is by putting away those who seemed to be “not as cool,” and to do so at the expense of real connection. However, by throwing caution to the wind and enabling yourself to passionately enjoy activities like laughter, song, and dance without reservation, you lose the need to criticize others and gain a chance for sincere connection.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown Book Review

Living a happier and more fulfilling life is easier to achieve than you can ever imagine. It requires practice, not miracles. Ultimately, it goes down to nurturing your courage so that you will be able to approach others, and yourself, from a place of genuine compassion.

Ensure that you create some time for yourself.

Regardless of anything, take some time today to do something you like. Regardless of the obligations you have,  if you don’t create time for yourself and what you love, then you will end up suffering.

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