Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Gifts of Imperfection

We finally had book group tonight and got to discuss Brene Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are."

Can I tell you - I really loved this book!  (In fact, if you are a close friend of mine...  Don't go buy it if it sounds intriguing...  There may be one in your mailbox soon!)

I loved it.  There were so many things in this book that rang true in my life - and so many things that keep coming back to me in certain moments of my day...  The author is funny and down to earth - and so easy to relate to.  I thought I'd share a few of my favorite insights with you:

1)  "Men and women who live Wholeheartedly (meaning they engage in their lives from a place of worthiness) DIG deep... when they are exhausted and overwhelmed."  They D: become deliberate in their thoughts and behaviors through prayer, meditation, or simply setting their intentions.  I: are inspired to make new and different choices.  G: They get going.  They take action.  In other words, we have control over our lives even when we are feeling like we don't - it's just a matter of taking a moment and taking inventory of what is really happening, and then making intentional decisions to move forward in a way that is life-giving to ourselves.

2)  The gifts of imperfection that Brene focuses on throughout the book are Courage, Compassion, and Connection.  When we practice these daily in our lives, we begin to feel worthy through love, joy, and gratitude.  So true!

3)  One of the key topics is the courage to be vulnerable.  When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable within relationships, we more fully live out courage, experience compassion, and develop connections.  I feel like this has been the theme of my last year!  At one point Brene says, "Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.  In today's world, that's pretty extraordinary!" 

4)  The chapter about Compassion spoke VOLUMES to me.  She says, "The heart of compassion is really acceptance.  The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become.  Well, it's difficult to accept people when they are hurting us or taking advantage of us or walking all over us...  If we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior."  Boundaries + Accountability + Acceptance = Compassion.  Great lesson.  Great chapter.  It goes on to say, "When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated...  It's impossible to practice compassion from a place of resentment."

5)  Another eye-opening lesson - about giving and receiving.  "Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart.  When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help."  Light bulb!  I have had so many discussions lately with people, encouraging them to ask for help when they need it...  And I've never thought about it this way.  Beautifully put!

6)  Brene Brown's main research over the years has been in Shame and Vulnerability.  And what she writes on these topics is very well done.  She talks about shame being the fear that we am unlovable - but that when we have those special people in our lives who can listen to our shame stories - the shame loses power.  She says of "the people who own and share their stories - I realize they are also people who practice shame resilience" (the art of living without shame).  Once again...  It all comes down to being able to share our stories - this time for our own health and well-being.  She continues saying, "Shame is about fear, blame, and disconnection.  Story is about worthiness and embracing the imperfections that bring us courage, compassion, and connection."

7)  Wonderful chapters on Authenticity, Perfection, Hope and Spirit, Joy and Gratitude, Intuition and Creativity, Play and Rest, Calm and Stillness, Meaningful Work, and Laughter Song and Dance.

8)  "Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism.  Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection."

9)  "Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we're all in this together.  Imperfectly, but together."

10)  "Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power that is greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.  Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives."

11)  "Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions.  To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn't come with guarantees - these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain.  When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy."

12)  "People were quick to point out the difference between happiness and joy as the difference between a human emotion that's connected to circumstance and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that's connected to practicing gratitude."

And with that, my friends, I give you the things I am thankful for today:

1.  Lots of reading today - for work and pleasure.
2.  Peppermint tea.
3.  A great (and fun) workout.
4.  A big group for Book Group tonight!  So fun to have new people join the conversation!
5.  Lots of laughter - good for the soul.
6.  Being able to pray for so many friends.
7.  Keeping perspective.
8.  My hubby.  He's great.  And he puts up with me and my crazy ideas.
9.  Sharing a chocolate bar.  A special treat.  (Vosges Caramel Blood Orange - delish!)
10.  Feeling blessed.

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