My first summer reading book for 2013 is The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. It was recommended to me by a friend who shared with me “I was in tears reading the first few chapters” and I knew I needed to get my hands on this one for sure. I wasn’t disappointed.
Brown is a researcher, writer, an active blogger (www.ordinarycourage.com), speaker, and TED talk star. She is most known for her work on shame, and her previous book is entitled I Thought It Was Just Me. This book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, is a profound and practical book for those in search of a “wholehearted” life and grows out of her work on shame. In fact, she’s hoping this book will help stir up a revolution of sorts among those desirous of a healthier way of being oneself and to break the bondage of shame that so often trips us up.
It’s not a distinctly Christian book, but it’s based on spirituality…with an openness to defining spirituality as one sees fit. But, as a Christian I found this book helpful in unpacking the meaning of the second commandment, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” She emphasizes early on that we simply can’t love another more than we are capable of loving ourselves. A radical thought in both our Christian community and in our wider world. It’s important to know and understand ourselves, but there is something even more essential: loving ourselves. With courage, compassion and connection as one’s foundation, she adds how love, belonging and authenticity bring life and light to those terms.
With shame as the primary deterrent to a wholehearted life, Brown describes how secrecy, silence and judgment fuel our propensity toward a shame-based existence. Confronting our fear, blame and disconnection is what builds shame resilience, and by sharing our stories of shame with trusted others we can indeed be set free. And, who among us doesn’t want to be free from living under the harmfulness of shame?
The hope that she offers in the book resides in her ten guideposts for practicing wholehearted living. 1. Cultivate authenticity: let go of what people think. 2. Cultivate self-compassion: let go of perfectionism. 3. Cultivate a resilient spirit: let go of numbing and powerlessness. 4. Cultivate gratitude and joy: let go of scarcity and fear of the dark. 5. Cultivate intuition and trusting faith: let go of the need for certainty. 6. Cultivate creativity: let go of comparison. 7. Cultivate play and rest: let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. 8. Cultivate calm and stillness: let go of anxiety as a lifestyle. 9. Cultivate meaningful work: let go of self-doubt and ‘supposed to.’ 10. Cultivate laughter, song and dance: let go of being cool and always in control.
As far as self-help books go, this is one of the finest. It integrates what Leadership Transformations believes about the gospel, with what we adhere to about the practice of healthy self affection that embraces the Jesus life we are seeking to live as leaders and teams. Open this one with an open heart, mind and pair of ears…and be prepared to prayerfully consider specific application to your own life with God. I’m going to see if I can convince Ruth to join me for dancing lessons!