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Book Review by Robin Widmar

The Gifts of Imperfection

I first heard of author BrenÈ 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. BrenÈ Brown has both a doctorate and a masterís degree in social work, and is an avid researcher of vulnerability and shame. Her lifeís 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 ìThe Gifts of Imperfection:î ìDaring Greatly,î ìThe Power of Vulnerabilityî and ìRising Strong,î to mention a few.In ìThe Gifts of Imperfection,î Brown offers different ìguidepostsî 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 ìgood enough,î and adamantly states that being imperfect does not equate with being bad or ìless than.îBrown 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.ìCourage, 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,î writes Brown.Brown also writes that when we are feeling ìexhausted, depleted and worn downî in our efforts to please others by living up to their demands, we should instead ìDIG Deep.î DIG stands for ìdeliberate, inspired and get going,î 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. ìI didnít force myself to start working or do something productive. Rather, I prayerfully, intentionally, and thoughtfully did something restorative.îThe 10 guideposts offered in ìThe Gifts of Imperfectionî are Brownís 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 Brownís work can best be summarized by this statement from the book: ìWhen we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that donít 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. ÖWe trade our authenticity for approval.îWhile ìThe Gifts of Imperfectionî 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 ìhippy-dippyî (to quote Sheldon Cooper from ìBig Band Theoryî). 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 ìGifts of Imperfectionî is certainly worth the time to read, and makes a lovely gift for yourself.

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