The Gifts of Imperfection

Gifts of ImperfectionBrené Brown is a clinical researcher who has spent the majority of her career investigating the components of a “Wholehearted” life. Which she defines as:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” (page 1) 

  This definition was created from her years long research and story collection from thousands of clinical interviews into how people live fulfilling, meaningful lives. This same research was also the basis for her first book on shame resilience. Throughout her research and writing she learned much about herself and sprinkles this book with anecdotes from her own spiritual journey from alcoholism to shame magnet to nationally recognized researcher, author and speaker.

The book provides insights into what it means to be courageous and compassionate; the importance of vulnerability and authenticity. She writes about “Guideposts” on the journey to a Wholehearted life. She is an engaging writer using just enough humor and catchy phrases, supported by her research, to keep the topic interesting and personal.

So often I find myself searching how to speak of a connection I’ve made between my heart and my mind or how to express that insight which, internally, feels so right and illuminating. Ms. Brown is able to put these insights and soulful truths into simple and clear language. Yes! That is what I’ve been trying to express! was a common reaction I had to passages in this book.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” (page 6)

            She helped me bring into focus those inchoate ideas that seem to drift on the edge of my understanding. She is part scientist, part seeker and part spiritual guide. She has clinical research to back up her findings and the personal experience of applying them to her own life. I gained much inspiration from reading this book.

I enjoyed this book and gained some powerful knowledge from her work. I’ve discovered, though, that my journey is not about a spiritual program of study. It has to be  a spiritual program of action. I collect knowledge well. I can see patterns and connections in broad and diverse data sets…and none of that gets me closer to where I am going.

In the first year of my recovery I voraciously devoured books on spirituality and recovery. I remember one evening I was returning by bus from a 12 Step meeting. The woman sitting next to me saw what I was reading and asked about it. I regurgitated the knowledge I had collected feeling very proud of myself. But what is it going to change? She asked. I told her I didn’t understand what she was asking. What are you going to do differently tomorrow now that you have read this book? I didn’t have an answer. I learned much from that book but she taught me humility. I don’t remember the name of the book but I certainly remember her lesson of humility.

This book helped me put its ideas into practice. It offers concrete, practical guideposts with suggested changes we can make in our life. This isn’t a large book but it has many ideas that are all connected into a uniform and meaningful whole. I can’t swallow it in one bite but I can take one idea and incorporate it into my life tomorrow. With practice it will become part of me and I can then take another idea and do the same. That is the essence of my recovery: Growing spiritually one step, one idea, at a time.

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