“Owning our own story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy- the experiences that make us most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
The quest for betterment and self-reflection often comes at a breaking point, or ‘unraveling.’ when you are seeking out opportunities to live the life you want, not the one you are ‘supposed’ to live. In The Gifts of Imperfections, Brene Brown defines this as living in a wholehearted way, and embarking on a journey that doesn’t have room for quick fixes or how-to’s, but rather a deep and meaningful commitment to vulnerability, self-love and ingenuity. The book is a real, honest and genuine approach to the often fluffy ‘self help’ genre that inspires even the most critical reader to expand their definitions and to challenge themselves in new ways.
The Big Idea
"The Wholehearted journey is not the path of least resistance. It’s a path of consciousness and choice."
Simply put, Brown shares that living wholeheartedly involves embracing where we lack and seeking the courage, compassion, and connection needed to live a life that is inspired and fulfilling. It is about asking for more out of life, more out of our community and more of ourselves. It is about putting in the work, sifting through the insecurities, assessing the roadblocks, and asking for help.
Throughout the book, Brown shares very personal stories of her own journey with wholeheartedness, a transparency that inspires readers to be kind to themselves, while also encouraging a lifelong commitment to the quest. She advocates for establishing a fail-safe, leaving room for growth and development, and establishing a new norm of vulnerability. Wholeheartedness feels scary at first, but can be nurtured and developed over time.
Courage, Compassion & Connection
"To practice courage, compassion and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, ‘I’m all in.'"
Brown explains that embracing your imperfections and working towards a wholehearted life is founded on courage, fuelled by compassion, and supported by connection. This means having the courage to be yourself on a scale of vulnerability, exercising compassion towards yourself and others while maintaining firm boundaries and the freedom to depend on others and allow others to depend on you. These three principles open the door to wholeheartedness and help you step outside of your own, likely limiting, expectations.
Brown redefines courage as, “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart” (12). Rather than putting one’s life on the line, she encourages readers to put their vulnerability on the line. To be vulnerable is to be open, honest and real with your community, to seek support, to cast away ego, to grow. “Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And our world could stand to be a little kinder and bravers.” (15)
“The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become.” (16-17) Brown shares that to be compassionate, we have to be in tune and available to ourselves, and those around us, while imposing real and honorable boundaries. She shares research that clearly illustrates the importance of holding people accountable for their actions, whilst also being compassionate to their shortcomings. Kinder, but firmer. Less blame, more accountability. Fewer blurry lines, more clarity.
Connection is defined by Brown as, “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from relationship.” (19) As humans, we are hardwired for connection, and as a result we often take it for granted. Our dependency on others has become a sign of weakness or a damper on success, with a heightened importance placed on those that offer help, versus those the seek help. In a beautifully succinct and empowering way, Brown flips the table with “until we receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attached judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.” (20)
Things that Get in The Way
"Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives; secrecy, silence, and judgment."
Equipped with new definitions and a deeper understanding of wholehearted living, the reader is encouraged to put a microscope on the things that may hinder their new journey. Specifically, Brown points to the tough stuff; the baggage and insecurities, the things no one wants to talk about, in short, shame.
While it may sound cliché, the only thing holding you back from living the life you want to live (rather than should be living), is you. Your shame, fear and vulnerabilities speak so loudly within you that they have the potential to drown out the best intentions. Brown identifies as a shame researcher, and shares considerable insight into the power shame can have, specifically making or breaking the wholehearted journey.
Shame also loses power when it is spoken, when we find connection in our community and we share, but only with someone who has earned the right to our story, and we admit, wholeheartedly, that we are worthy of that confidant.
By redefining important foundational concepts, such as courage, compassion and connection and adding such clear and relatable stories, Brown creates a level playing field for the previously enlightened and the newly intrigued. Both parties can sit at the same table and reap the same benefits of her research, analysis and suggestions. This book is both valuable, encouraging and inspiring, what are you doing today to live the life you want?