“Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
A few years before, I came across a book called The Gifts of Imperfection and it immediately captured my attention and I wanted to learn more.
I had been grappling with recovering perfectionism and how to express my inner voice without guilt when Brené Brown’s remarkable work collided with my life.
Brené is a researcher on vulnerability, guilt and shame and her work is life changing to put it mildly.
Over the years, as I have embraced my own journey, I have time and again been guided by the wise voice and wisdom of Brené.
Have you had questions like these?
I am afraid of being vulnerable and I feel like a fake when I express myself.
I stop doing things because everything has to be perfect.
I feel guilty when I ask for more and feel like I need to run away from my genuine worth.
I am very concerned with what others think of me and act from that space.
These are all questions we may have all had at some point of our life or another.
I have found Brené ’s work to be very useful to shed light on some of the difficult questions.
Here are seven life tips from the work of Brené Brown:
1. Are You Allowing Yourself To Show Up And Be Seen
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
Showing up and being willing to be seen is one of the basic fears that many of us have deeply embedded in our consciousness.
You may wonder how people who succeed repeatedly have it different from those who do not allow success in their lives.
The major difference is the repeated ability to show up and putting themselves out there and allowing the world to see them and their work.
As Brené so wisely points out that the beginning of courage is showing up and allowing yourself to express yourself and be seen. I have found this to be very true in my own life.
Whenever I showed up with a resolute belief that I wanted to get started and was willing to be vulnerable, doors always opened for me.
2. Authenticity, Owning Your Story and Embracing Your Vulnerability
“Owning our 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 the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Owning your own true story can be scary and outright terrifying at times. But as Brené so eloquently puts it, the dangers of giving up and running away from them are more risky.
I have experienced this many times in my own life through synchronicities and messages that the universe is constantly sending us.
When I stubbornly do not allow myself to follow my true story, things that I am attempting to do with sheer motivation just do not work out.
The reverse is also true and something that you avoid doing begins showing up in your life in the form of subtle messages and hints because it may be your authentic story and purpose.
I had been avoiding writing for many years justifying that the time was not right and that I was not good enough in the skill of writing.
But the universe has a wonderful sense of humor and sends you messages if you are willing to stop and listen.
In my case, a friend who was a scholar was using this wonderful program called Scrivener and out of the blue decided to tell me all about it, even without me asking.
If you are interested in finding out more about Scrivener, check it out in the Resources page.
The discovery of my writing interest and the willingness to embrace something new was a defining moment for my story.
I was missing a framework to translate and write my work through. I just could not see myself writing in an endless word processing document. Enter Scrivener. Now I had no excuses from beginning to write.
Of course, putting my work out there every time still involves vulnerability and embracing myself at the deepest level.
“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”― Brené Brown
Questions to ponder:
Ask yourself if you are willing to explore the darkness and embrace your own brilliance and light on a continual basis.
Ask yourself if the risk of not owning up to your true and authentic story is worth the risk later on when you may have the regret that you never got started.
Are you embracing love, joy, happiness and belonging and other things that make you vulnerable or do you harden your stance and refuse to put yourself out there?
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough. Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving—even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
3. No Matter What, You Are Enough
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means 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. It’s 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.” -Brené Brown
When you engage your life from a place of worthiness as Brené points out, you are truly engaging in wholehearted living. You get a sense of the classic feeling of Aristotle’s eudemonia or basic human good.
This basic human wholehearted living is similar to a sense of flourishing as veteran positive psychology researcher Martin Seligman would put it.
I know the battle with worth very well. I have been there. I have travelled the lands of doubt and not allowing to amount myself to much.
I have travelled the hopeless journeys of shrinking up in front of others and settling for less when I felt “not good enough.”
And I masked it very well with smiles and fake confidence when deep inside, I was not allowing myself to value my work as good enough.
As I experienced and learned and imbibed ancient and modern wisdom from all over the ages including the work of Brené Brown, I slowly awakened to the brilliance and genius that lay buried deep within me and all other people.
You may have the habit of associating your worth with what you do, what others tell you or the results you get and you may feel harried through life like something is missing.
The truth is that even if you get a very small amount done or even nothing at all, you are still worthy of love, happiness and connection.
You may convince yourself that you are not worth charging more than a fixed range for your work but that does not change the fact that you may be worthy of receiving a lot more.
In most cases, you may be stopping yourself from taking the big leap into excellence and greater success.
But first, we have to embrace our deepest imperfections or perceived lack of worthiness.
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
People get firmly rooted with the belief that presenting a false, perfect self to the world is a sign of success and strength. They wonder why their life feels empty and unfulfilling.
When you present something to the world that you are not, it becomes easy to read through the mask.
Even if others cannot read through the front, they do not have a sense and feeling of who you really are and it becomes very difficult to connect deeply with them.
When you accept yourself and allow your imperfections to co-exist with your strengths, you become “real” in the view of the world.
You become more human and you develop many strings of connection with others because we are living the same human condition. Become aware that others are living through the same imperfections and judgments that you burden yourself with.
“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
4. The Roots Of Perfectionism
“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Delving deeper into the tyranny of perfectionism, we collide with the feelings of shame, guilt, fear and uncertainty.
We attempt to be perfect because we are afraid of getting judged and have never allowed ourselves to confront the vulnerable place of criticism and blame.
The truth is that if you have a solid foundation of self-definition and worthiness, you may feel bad after criticism but you realize and distinguish it enough to not take it personally as something is wrong with you.
Brené says that when you are excessively focused on what others will think of you and how they judge you, it is likely that you will attempt to be perfect.
When your focus turns inwards and you strive to become a better and more vibrant version of yourself, you are less concerned with perfectionism.
“Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve”, Perfectionism is other-focused:”What will they think”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
What can you do lessen the grip of perfectionism and other-centered focus in your life?
Here are a few suggestions:
Allow vulnerability in your life.
DO something to the best of your ability and feel great about it.
Strive to become a more vibrant and excellent version of you without the pressure, guilt and judgment.
Love yourself and approve of your work and who you are and keep reminding yourself of that fact.
Enjoy the moment and decide to feel great at that little achievements in your life.
Drop the comparison.
Feel good about your success and the success of others. Celebrate life.
Embrace what researcher Carol Dweck calls the growth mindset and let go of the fixed mindset.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
5. The Hopelessness Of Shame And The Possibility Of Guilt
“When we apologize for something we’ve done, make amends, or change a behavior that doesn’t align with our values, guilt—not shame—is most often the driving force. We feel guilty when we hold up something we’ve done or failed to do against our values and find they don’t match up. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but one that’s helpful. The psychological discomfort, something similar to cognitive dissonance, is what motivates meaningful change. Guilt is just as powerful as shame, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive. In fact, in my research I found that shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we can change and do better.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
I have learned from Brené that there is a key difference between guilt and shame. Shame feels like there is something wrong with you as a person. Shame is destructive and does not allow for much improvement of the situation.
When you resist the feelings of shame and the idea that something is wrong with you, it is likely that you are strengthening more of the same shameful feelings. After all, what we resist only persists.
Shame directs your unilateral focus on your mistakes and flaws without giving clues on how to snap out of it and begin the journey of healing and feeling better.
Guilt on the other hand gives you a re-take of the situation and allows you to make things better and eventually feel better. As Brown says, guilt can spark and fuel meaningful change.
When we feel guilty:
We can say sorry.
We can do something to make things better for others and ourselves.
We can change something and realign our focus and give ourselves a retake.
We feel bad but we can feel better by taking action.
Shame does not allow much of the above because it does not allow you to distinguish between the incident or event and yourself. You associate something that goes wrong or a setback or a failure with something fundamentally wrong with you. And therein lies the error of perception.
Shame erroneously clouds your judgment and convinces you that the event or situation is inextricable related to who you are and attributes blame to your most basic self.
“Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
6. Cultivating A Deep Sense Of Love
“Of this, I am actually certain. After collecting thousands of stories, I’m willing to call this a fact: A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Brené echoes the wisdom of millennia of the ancients and modern profound thinkers like Louise L. Hay that love and belonging matter more than we give them credit for.
When you deeply love and approve of who you are and feel a great sense of belonging in your circles, you thrive.
Alternatively, when you do not allow the self-love and approval, you disconnect yourself from the ocean of wellness and support.
The time is now and the need is immense. The power to love and allow love is squarely in your own hands. Begin now to love and approve of you on a very deep level. As you begin to express more self-love, your love and connection to others becomes deeper.
Now when you look at yourself and view your self-image, feel a sense of warmth and joy. Feel a feeling of radiance and deep flourishing.
Continue with self-love and make it habitual like brushing your teeth and like breathing. Love is a continuum and is perpetual.
Only when you embrace yourself and love yourself during your setbacks can you love yourself when you experience happiness.
“Those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. I often say that Wholeheartedness is like the North Star: We never really arrive, but we certainly know if we’re headed in the right direction.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
7. The Art Of Receiving, Giving And Connection
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Many people are good at giving but can be very poor in receiving. They inadvertently deflect praise, joy, happiness and celebration.
I really like Brené’s take on giving and receiving and the idea that you need to receive with an open heart in order for you to develop the capacity to give with an open heart.
Become deeply appreciative of all the praise and well-wishers of your life and allow yourself to glow in the light of their appreciation of you.
Next time instead of deflecting praise, say “thank you” with an open heart and feelings of joy that someone bestowed a gift on you.
“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
I think that Brown really scores the home run with her assessment of “going it alone.” I agree that every single one of us needs to give and receive assistance. No matter what, it is impossible to do it all alone.
And guess what, it is not necessary to do it alone either. It is so much more joyful to allow others to participate in your life and build value together instead of constricting yourself and doing it all alone.
When you refuse help, you are in effect saying that you do not trust the world and others. You are saying through your actions that you want to control everything even if it is not your own best interests.
“we also need to consider letting go of the myth of self-sufficiency. One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Success is always best when shared with others and celebrated with others.
Take the time to connect with others and shift your focus to building things in meaningful and relevant multi-disciplinary teams.
Allow the wise input of people unlike yourself to strengthen your progress and success.
Now over to you! Please let me know in the comments below if this post resonated with you. Which idea is your favorite one and why?
How do you deal with shame and perfectionism in your life and do you allow yourself to be vulnerable?
If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider sharing it and signing up for free-updates below!