My therapist recently recommended a book by Brene Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection, which was published in 2010. Brown is revered for her work in studying shame. I was recommended this book because I am constantly comparing myself to others around me. Friends my age are married with kids in houses they own. Other friends have great careers, or they are working on the right track to a good career. When I look at myself, I see someone who is behind in life. After reading this book, I cannot believe how much my eyes opened.
Brown’s book focuses on Wholehearted living while embracing who you are. She redefines ideas such as courage, compassion, and faith. And I promise, it is an easy book to read.
She splits up her book into ten guideposts that help break down each component of Wholehearted living. She comes up with this term of DIG deep. She explains that initially, she believed it was simply finding it somewhere inside you to keep powering through whatever you are doing…homework, work, chores, etc. However, she redefines DIG deep as something completely else through her research:
“Deliberate in…thoughts and behaviors through prayer, meditation, or simply setting…intentions;
Inspired to make new and different choices;
Going…take action” (p.5).
At the end of each guidepost, she uses examples from her personal life on how she uses DIG deep to manage her Wholehearted living. Her personal life examples make the concepts she discusses or the situations she introduces feel more real, more relatable.
She discusses compassion and courage in her life as well. She explains that people should connect with others, but only share their stories with people who have earned the right to hear them. She states, as my therapist has told me over and over, that humans are wired biologically for connection to other humans. However, your stories should be shared with someone who will support you instead of creating more shame to the situation. She breaks down the six types of friends that should be avoided….
- The friend that feels the shame for you, and who you have to cheer up after sharing your story with them.
- The sympathetic friend who is not empathetic.
- The disappointed friend.
- The friend who scolds you because they are uncomfortable with vulnerability.
- The friend who refuses to acknowledge mistakes.
- The friend that tries to beat your shame story with one of their own.
We all know someone like this. I can name at least one person I know for each category. I can only say, with certainty, I have one friend who does not fall into any of these; she is always there, and she has earned her right to hear my stories.
Her first guidepost is on authenticity. I won’t go through them all, but this is one that has me re-thinking who I am. She discusses authenticity as not someone being insincere/sincere, but someone who is showing their true self. Instead of trying to fit in, you simply be yourself. Wear those comfortable clothes you want to wear instead of those high heels and a dress. Do the things you want to do, but you are afraid of not fitting into the group if you do it. In my mind, I compared it to wearing a mask in public. I am great, fantastic at wearing a mask. Unless I was so worn down, so exhausted, so depressed that I could not keep it up… you will never know there was something wrong. I may not smile all the time (my brother claims I have a resting bitch face), but I am always wearing a mask. I feel like I have become so used to wearing it that I am not certain who I really am without it.
When I am out with a friend, I am absolutely not myself. Last night I went to a movie with a friend I have not seen since earlier this year. I can talk her to death through text message, but I am absolutely different when I am with her in person. I am quieter. I am shy. I am uncertain of myself. I have a problem where I tend to misspeak, I say something I do not mean, or I pronounce something wrong. It makes me feel horrible when I am speaking to someone I admire and I make mistakes like that. So, I tend to stay quiet instead.
Reading about being authentic made me want to know who I really am without the layers, the masks, and what I do to keep from feeling vulnerable. I have decided to start examining my true self. I intend to sit down and write who I really feel like I am, what makes me who I am, and so on.
Another issue she discusses is how we speak to ourselves. Unless we are very brazen, we tend not to speak to those we care about in a negative way. We wouldn’t tell a friend they are an idiot to their face, but yet we seem to call ourselves that. My therapist and I have always discussed changing how I speak to myself. When you call yourself names, you are hurting yourself in the same way it would hurt someone else to be called that. Changing how to talk to yourself can help change situations, how you feel, and how you look at things.
I have to actively try not to call myself names after I experience something shameful. I remember meeting with one of my professors my last semester in her office to discuss my paper. I never had her classes before, but I felt like I needed to make a good impression as a good student. As I sat in her office, I misspoke several times, or I said the wrong word when I meant something else. I felt embarrassed that I was not making such a good impression. I beat myself up all the way to the library, calling myself names, and thinking how ignorant I am. It hurts yourself to do that, and now I can understand that.
This applies to how you speak to yourself as well, aside from the name-calling. I found myself saying, “I can’t do this” or “I can’t handle anymore.” It was a mantra I would say when I was stressed out, breaking down, and having a horrible day. This mantra was not healthy. I can do it, and I can handle it. I have survived the worst days in my life, so that must mean something. I actively work on changing how I talk to myself. When my USB drive that had my life on it died, after a minor crying fit I told myself that it was not the end of the world. I found that speaking to myself more positively helped how I thought about the situation.
Another important guidepost she discussed was making time for play. We are so used to running around constantly, trying to stay busy. We need to make more money. We need to do more things. There are only 24 hours in a day. One individual can only do so much. Sleep is detrimental to humans, and as someone who has sleep troubles… I know when I lack sleep, I break down more easily and more dangerously. We need to make time for sleep, but play is also important. Brown discusses how we need to set aside time for play. It can be anything that helps us de-stress. It can be coloring, reading, doing art, playing a sport, etc. It may feel like it is not accomplishing anything, but doing something like that for ourselves accomplishes a lot for you rather than your to-do list. I set aside time to draw. Since Friday, I visited the lake once a day every day. Saturday morning, I sat at my private little dock I discovered for two hours. I engaged in photography, but just sitting there observing the lake was peaceful. It gave me the time I needed.
This short post does not do her book justice. However, I would rather not spoil all of it for you either. It is an incredible read. It has given me so many things to think about. I need to learn more about myself. I want to learn more about myself. I need to set up boundaries, and I need to learn to be more vulnerable. Writing this blog sets me up for vulnerability, but there is still safety because it is online rather than face to face. Maybe one day I will learn to truly open up to someone, other than my therapist, and be vulnerable.
Check out her website and other books at: http://brenebrown.com/
You will not be disappointed.