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The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

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Written by a researcher who has previously researched shame and then has moved into researching acceptance, there are lots of thought provoking definitions contained and have summarised the main points.

To become compassionate and accept others the key is to separate people from their behaviours. Address their actions, not who they are. If we talk ourselves into disliking someone so we’re more comfortable holding them accountable, unintentionally we are priming ourselves for the shame and blame game.

Love and belonging go hand in hand. We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known. Spiritual connection grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them. The key is that we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Fitting in is changing to a situation, this differs from belonging which is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. We yearn for belonging so often try to acquire it.

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. It can be described as that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough. We all have shame, we are afraid to talk about shame, the less we talk about it the more control it has over us. To develop shame resilience firstly recognize shame and move through it while maintaining our worthiness and authenticity.

Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about the fact that we want to be perceived as perfect. There is no way to control other people’s perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying. Book suggests that perfectionism is an addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgement, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. Often rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.

Perfectionism actually increases the odds that we’ll experience painful emotions and often leads to self-blame. Perfectionism is a scale and everyone is on this scale. To overcome perfectionism, we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgement, and blame; then develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion. When we become more loving and compassionate with ourselves and we begin to practice shame resilience, we can embrace our imperfections.

Suggests that it is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection.”

Self-compassion has three elements:

  • Self-kindness: Being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
  • Common humanity: Common humanity recognizes that suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience— something we all go through rather than something that happens to “me” alone.
  • Mindfulness: Taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. Mindfulness requires that we not “over-identify” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back and thrive under difficult circumstances, here are the five of the most common factors of resilient people:

1. They are resourceful and have good problem-solving skills.

2. They are more likely to seek help.

3. They hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope.

4. They have social support available to them.

5. They are connected with others, such as family or friends.

To be truly wholehearted you need resilience and practice spirituality.

Spirituality: recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.

Practising spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives. Building on this, three other significant patterns emerged as being essential to resilience:

1. Cultivating hope

2. Practising critical awareness

3. Taking the edge off vulnerability, discomfort, and pain

Hope is not an emotion; it’s a cognitive process that can be learnt. Emotions play a supporting role, but hope is really a thought process made up of what Snyder (an American psychologist) calls a trilogy of goals, pathways, and agency.

In simple terms, hope happens when we have the ability to set realistic goals so can therefore know where we want to go. We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (being persistent, tolerating disappointment and trying again). We believe in ourselves.

Those who live a joyful life actively practise gratitude. They tend to attribute their joyfulness to their gratitude practice. Note gratitude requires practice. Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us. Joy is a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practising gratitude, whereas happiness is a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances.

Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty, the opposite of faith is certainly.

Comparison is energy draining, the comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of “fit in and stand out!” It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity; it’s be just like everyone else, but better. It’s easy to see how difficult it is to make time for the important things such as creativity, gratitude, joy, and authenticity when we’re spending enormous amounts of energy conforming and competing!

Play is essential, the opposite of play is depression. Calm and stillness; calm is creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity. Calm people can bring perspective to complicated situations and feel their feelings without reacting to heightened emotions like fear and anger. Stillness is about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.

Mind gremlins are constantly there to make sure that self-expression takes a back-seat to self protection and self-consciousness, this type of thinking is identified as:

1. “What will people think?”

2. “Everyone is watching—calm down!”

3. “You look ridiculous! Get a hold of yourself.”

Suggest dance as a child we all used to want to dance, then we learn not to, in part due to mind gremlins.

Wanting to be perceived as cool is really about minimizing vulnerability in order to reduce the risk of being ridiculed or made fun of. We hustle for our worthiness by slipping on the emotional and behavioural strait jacket of cool and posturing as the tragically hip and the terminally “better than.” Being “in control” isn’t always about the desire to manipulate situations, but often it’s about the need to manage perception. We want to be able to control what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.

Grounded Theory research is to start with as few preconceived ideas and assumptions as possible so that you can build a theory based on the data that emerges from the process. The author refers this to as Wholehearted Research.

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