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"If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get."
– Frank A. Clark  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 11 November 2018  

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Janice Tollini

  The Gifts of Imperfection
  By Janice Tollini

   I first heard of author Brené Brown when a friend sent me a link to her Ted Talks on Shame. It seemed an odd topic for Ted Talks (a media organization that posts talks online for free distribution), but; I confess, I have been a fan ever since. Brené Brown has both a doctorate and a master’s degree in social work, and is an avid researcher of vulnerability and shame. Her life’s work is helping people to fully embrace who they are and in that find happiness. In addition to her numerous presentations and appearances, she has published several books besides “The Gifts of Imperfection:” “Daring Greatly,” “The Power of Vulnerability” and “Rising Strong,” to mention a few.
   In “The Gifts of Imperfection,” Brown offers different “guideposts” to letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and learning to fully embrace who we are. Warts and all, as the expression goes.
   Throughout this book, Brown boldly and openly shares her own experiences in accepting her imperfections and how facing these have allowed her to reach a deeper and truer happiness with herself and others. She challenges the self-imposed view that we can only find love and acceptance through being “good enough,” and adamantly states that being imperfect does not equate with being bad or “less than.”
   Brown asserts that this quest for our genuine selves is a life-long process. She suggests making daily choices to not succumb to shame, but rather to experience fully and share with others. Through that sharing, we build genuine and nurturing connections, which further strengthens us in our efforts to accept and give love.
   “Courage, compassion and connection seem like big, lofty ideals. But in reality, they are daily practices that, when exercised enough, become these incredible gifts in our lives,” writes Brown.
   Brown also writes that when we are feeling “exhausted, depleted and worn down” in our efforts to please others by living up to their demands, we should instead “DIG Deep.” DIG stands for “deliberate, inspired and get going,” suggesting that when times are tough, we need to focus our energies not on achieving perfection but rather self-restoration. Brown shared her own experience in feeling utterly worn down by the demands of life. She was working on one of her first books, teaching college classes and trying to be the model wife and mother. She found herself woefully lacking the energy and motivation to finish a paper she was writing. Instead of trying to soldier on, she chose to recognize her struggle and take time for herself to rest and recover. “I didn’t force myself to start working or do something productive. Rather, I prayerfully, intentionally, and thoughtfully did something restorative.”
   The 10 guideposts offered in “The Gifts of Imperfection” are Brown’s roadmap to fully experience love and belonging. The first of these is to let go of what others think of us and to abandon our desire for perfection. Other guideposts are to let go of our need for certainty and our tendency to compare ourselves to others for a measure of our self-worth.
   The essence of Brown’s work can best be summarized by this statement from the book: “When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we are supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for worthiness by constantly performing, pleasing, and proving. …We trade our authenticity for approval.”
   While “The Gifts of Imperfection” might best be classified as a research-based self-help book; it reads a bit more like a bibliography, as Brown shares many of her own life experiences. On the first read, it seems almost a bit “hippy-dippy” (to quote Sheldon Cooper from “Big Band Theory”). But digesting the message and giving it a second read, I felt a twinge of fear in truly letting go, followed by a sense of relief. The “Gifts of Imperfection” is certainly worth the time to read, and makes a lovely gift for yourself.
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