The gifts of imperfection

Brene Brown. So good I read it twice

This is more blog than book review. I process by writing and creating a narrative around my healing and growth. It’s a difficult story to write because I do not believe I’m entitled to write the story of others.

However, I feel, for those who use me as a guide or a coach, it’s important to show living examples of turning pain and difficult experiences into learning and growth opportunities.

I first read The Gifts of Imperfection at the start of the summer. Reading it, I kept thinking how the younger me needed this book. There was also someone in my life, at that time, who I could see in the book. I wanted to gift it to them. I felt like it could open them up to real healing.

Fast forward to the end of the summer. I went to finally write a review and realised that I didn’t remember enough about the book. It’s a short book so I decided to read it again.

It hit completely differently. At that moment this book was the best gift I could have given myself.

My summer was extremely overwhelming, made much more so by a toxic time with the person I mentioned above. The summer ended with me feeling manipulated, deceived and a bit of a failure.

People I care about were damaged in the fire of the persons extreme perfection and manipulation. “It’s not me, it’s you”, was the constant cry. Blaming and shaming, blaming and shaming – a toxic pattern forced onto the people surrounding them. I gave some feedback that the focus they put on how the world perceived them and their work was ruinous. It was not received well and the patterns became worse.

However, I felt like I had enabled the behaviour and didn’t see through it quickly enough, creating innocent casualties. The behaviour made me second guess everything and act against my core values for a protracted period of time. That was until I pulled the plaster off and the situation went nuclear.

“Shame corrodes the part of us that feels we can change and do better. It’s much more likely to lead to destructive and harmful behaviours than it is to be the solution. When we feel shame we feel disconnected and desperate for worthiness”.

This book deals beautifully with shame and shame resilience. I realised that the persons toxic behaviours and exaggerated attention seeking probably come from a deep well of shame. And, I was in a pit of shame too due to my feelings about how I handled the situation

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Shame resilience is the ability to recognise shame and move through it constructively while maintaining worthiness and authenticity”

Reading the book for the second time I had multiple Aha moments. I reflected and talked them out with a counsellor:

⁃ I’m ashamed I tried to fix that person;

⁃ I’m ashamed I didn’t realise that’s what I was trying to do;

⁃ I’m ashamed that my ego was big enough to think I could fix something so damaged;

⁃ I’m ashamed that I was so open and vulnerable and it was used against me;

⁃ I am worthy of forgiveness;

⁃ They are worthy of compassion and forgiveness, from a safe distance.

I have been reflecting a lot on compassion. I didn’t have enough for myself and that made me feel smaller. I also realised that what I was doing was not showing compassion but trying to fix a person.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded, it’s a relationship between equals”.

So, I have been embracing compassion and authenticity. It’s helping me become kinder, calmer but also my boundaries are clearer. I’m not going to try to fix you, because that’s not compassion.

“The thing that is really hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself” ⁃ Anna Quindlen

“When we are kind to ourselves we create a reservoir of compassion that we can extend to others”

Owning and naming my shame had a huge impact on me.

“The less we talk about shame the more we have it. Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives:




After a summer of sitting with and reflecting on the experience, I feel I have headed into the autumn settled and at peace with a new level of self awareness. Gratitude and compassion are at my right and left hand to guide me to the next stage. Thank you Brene.

Some other quotes that resonated with me are below.

“Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others”.

“When things get tough people who live whole heartedly dig deep:

Deliberate – thoughts/ pray

Intentional – thoughts and choices

Get Going – they take action”

“Technology has become a kind of imposter for connection making us believe we are connected when we are really not. We have confused being communicative with being connected. Just because we are plugged in doesn’t mean we feel seen and heard”.

“True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our sense of self acceptance”.

What is the difference between shame and guilt? I am bad vs I did something bad”

“We need to get deliberate about our response to shame.

1. who do you become when you are backed into that shame corner?

2. How do you protect yourself?

3. Who do you call to work through the people pleasing/ mean nasties etc.

4. What’s the most courageous thing you could do for yourself when you feel small and hurt?”

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege and we should always ask ourselves this before we share “who has earned the right to hear my story?”

“Concerned we are raising children who have little tolerance for disappointment and have a strong sense of entitlement”.

“The combination of fear of disappointment, entitlement and performance pressure is recipe for hopelessness and self doubt”.

“Power – the ability to affect change” – Martin Luther King

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