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A Review of Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection”: being imperfect is actually perfect

As I write this review, International Women’s Day is approaching – March 8th – and I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman today. There is so much happening in the world that I don’t even have the full capacity to comprehend it all without feeling like I am going to spiral into despair. But I feel hopeful when I look at the slow and steady changes that are happening day by day.

There are so many diverse voices being amplified now more than ever. Yet, I still ask myself – Who’s voices are not being heard? For every book we read by a cis or trans woman, by a genderqueer or non-binary person, by a woman of colour, how many thousands of experiences and stories are still not being told and heard. The work is never done. And I don’t know that it ever will be, but I am happy to keep fighting for it.

Today, I wanted to talk again about mental health. As some of my regular readers would have seen, my last post was on 5 Great Books About Mental Health and I wanted to keep with that theme today by talking about some of Brené Brown’s work and The Gifts of Imperfection. Especially on International Woman’s day, we need to allow ourselves to be perfectly imperfect.

Brené Brown’s work centres a lot on shame and how it affects our lives. Her book is definitely a self-help book for anyone really because everyone is affected by shame. She has a great way of breaking down complex problems and giving easy-to-follow solutions that you can apply in your daily life.

So let’s have a break down of her book.

First of all – Shame:

  1. Everyone has it.
  2. We are all afraid to talk about it.
  3. And if we don’t talk about, shame grows.

And what is shame? Brown argues that at its core, shame is about the fear of being unloveable. It is that little voice in your head that says, If people knew who I really was, they wouldn’t love me. This happens in every aspect of our lives. I repeat – EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES. It can be from body image, weight stigma, our relationships, family, religion, schools, the workplace, friendships, sports. If there is a human involved – there is shame.

Brown says that shame needs three things to grow:

  1. Secrecy
  2. Silence
  3. Judgement (either from ourselves or others around us)

Shame loves a perfectionist, and honestly, how dare Brené Brown call me out like that!?

Brown also states that it is important to differentiate between guilt and shame. For Brown, guilt is “I did something bad” and shame is “I am bad”.

Shame is about who we are, guilt is about our behaviours.

Brené Brown

Shame can lead to really self-destructive behaviours and it proliferates loneliness, worthlessness, and fear. It can make us feel stuck because it makes us believe that we are the problem. We can’t do something different because the fault lies within us. And this is just not true.

Brown has come up with a really helpful theory called “shame resilience” and she talks about it extensively in this book. The main ideas behind shame resilience are to be able to:

  • recognise shame
  • move through it constructively
  • maintain worthiness and authenticity
  • develop more courage, compassion, and connections with yourself and others

Shame resilience is ultimately about acknowledging that we all experience shame, but that it doesn’t have to control our lives. It is about being authentic and combating the desire to be liked by everyone. It is about being true to who you are and being vulnerable with yourself and the people you trust – not everyone will earn the right to hear your story.

On International Women’s Day, I ask you to invest in yourself, your story, your worth, your self-love, your passions, your dreams, your desires, and your inner child. I hope that you can find a way to shame resilience and unlock your new superpower. Dear reader, you are seen, you are loved, and you are powerful. As always, share the reading love.