Practicing courage, compassion “ and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. The key word is practice.” This book is a practical guide to implementing practices that change the way we see and feel and share experiences, by living The Gifts of Imperfection. For those of us recovering from perfectionism, it’s a challenge, a look in the mirror and a helping hand.
The Gifts of Imperfection, Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by Brene Brown Ph.D., L.M.S.W., came out in a 10th Anniversary Edition last year. Along with the 10th Anniversary Edition of the book, online resources, a podcast and webinars support The Gifts of Imperfection community.
Brene Brown celebrated 25 years of sobriety in May of 2021. A self-described shame researcher and storyteller, Brene has earned the trust, the following and the first name status of Oprah. She is widely known and well trusted and is wildly popular. While her sobriety isn’t what made Brene famous, all that fame was made possible first and foremost by the fact that she is sober, as she shares with her trademark directness in interviews and in her books. For many, she gives us permission, encouragement and an example of how to turn what has been hardest in life into our greatest gift to the world.
A short book with a long subtitle, The Gifts of Imperfection is organized into ten guideposts for cultivating Wholehearted Living by Letting Go of what gets in the way. For each guidepost, the practice or perspective to cultivate and the one to let go are paired.
Guidepost #1: Cultivating Authenticity, Letting Go of What People Think
Challenges us to see authenticity— ours and everyone else’s—as a practice we chose every day, with the courage to be imperfect. It sounds so simple! It also sounds messy, bumpy, and lots of other not-so-perfect words and scenarios come to mind. But by seeing this as a practice, rather than a completed task, check-box ticked, once and for all, I remember that the point is to keep trying, remembering that others are practicing, too. Brene encourages us, “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand on your sacred ground.”
Guidepost #4: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy
Encourages readers to go beyond just an attitude of gratitude, by practicing gratitude daily. Gratitude lists, shared daily with others, a gratitude jar filled with gratitudes throughout the day and a gratitude share at the evening meal reinforce gratitude and create joy. For many in recovery, finding gratitude in the everyday can be a new and simple practice that keeps us in the moment and present with what is good in our lives today.
My partner and I share a daily gratitude practice. We end each day by looking at one another, taking turns telling each other what we are grateful for that the other did or said. Often these are small, sometimes funny, and always appreciated acts—a smile, a meal, a small kindness—and they remind us that our life together is good, today, and filled with opportunities to experience joy.
Guidepost #10: Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance
Encourages us to let go of being cool and always in control. Wow. Talk about a tall order. I remember as a teen wanting nothing more than to be seen as cool. This included several dangerous habits and some very questionable hairdos. In adult life, Brene says this can look like covering up our goofy, passionate or heartfelt expressions of self for the sake of being accepted, and in turn betraying ourselves. When I think of the ways and times I betrayed myself over the years, it’s no surprise that the cool activity of drinking turned into a coping mechanism for numbing pain. Brene suggests we sing, dance and laugh instead. Maybe you loved Hip-hop in the 90’s or you’ve downloaded TikTok to watch the funny cat videos? Go for it!
Before I got sober, a friend recommended Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability. Speaking openly and honestly about a tender topic, with courage and vulnerability, Brene showed me that truth telling has the power to heal the storyteller as well as others listening. In Brene’s words, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” In sobriety, owning my story is no longer a scary prospect, but a welcome and reassuring daily practice. Thank you, Brene Brown, for this gift.