I recently finished reading, Dr. Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Perfection: Let Go of Who You’re Suppose To Be and Embrace Who You Are. This succinctly, yet poignant, self-help book holds so many little relevant ‘aha’ tidbits to support wholehearted living that I needed to possess.
After studying shame and shame resilience for years, Brown noticed a pattern among those individuals that seemed to embrace vulnerability and imperfection (yes, they are out there). Those at peace (most of the time) with letting go of who they think they should be. They were happier. They were more authentic. They claimed that there was simply more joy in their life. And who doesn’t want more joy?
From marketing to social media, our society tells us that being perfect is the goal. And why settle for less? The embedded mantra has become overwhelming: If we can only become perfect, that if we could only look perfect, lead perfect lives that we would no longer fee inadequate. Oh, this sounds so glorious. So simple.
Brown’s research (and those of her colleagues), however, reveals that letting go of the expectations, especially those that are driven by external influences (think keeping up with the Joneses), we actually attain a life of balance, joy, and authenticity. A better life. A wholehearted life, if you will.
A Guide (of sorts) to Wholehearted Living
The Gifts of Imperfection does not actually provide a how-to plan, but it does offer several nitty-gritty lessons that could (potentially) lead to long lasting, positive, mindful, personal transformations. While Brown’s guideposts, prompts, and directives are insightful and offer opportunity for introspection and self-reflection, it is not a what do to blueprint. Although the book is a succinct 126 pages, it might be the perfect companion for people who are ready to grapple with their supposed to’s. Those ready to live authentically. With joy. To be OK with being imperfect (whatever that really means).
After conducting hundreds of in-depth interviews with people that are living a wholehearted life, Brown summarized her findings into (more or less) 10 Guideposts:
Guideposts in the Middle School Classroom
As a middle school teacher, I have found many beautifully practical and applicable nuggets in The Gifts of Perfection that I intend utilize as the Guideposts as an integral part of helping to develop our classroom culture. To help develop my students. Our youth. Amplified by social media and aggressive marketing, our youth face debilitating pressure towards perfection while shunning (or at least repressing) vulnerability and genuineness (i.e girls editing their Instagram selfies before posting them to followers showing how perfect their life is; boys engaging in high risk behaviour for fear of being ‘less than’ and showing vulnerability). I won’t lie. I worry about the future of our youth. I even wonder if my grandchildren will have a grasp on this unhealthy predicament…
What I Am Cultivating?
Those who know me know that of paramount importance is to always walk the talk.
Firstly, I’m tackling the need to let go of what people think; case in point is writing and sharing this blog. I no longer care who reads it (or if it is even read at all). I welcome and publish comments (both sides). I know that I need to sharing what I think. To be genuine. Regardless of what others may intend.
I am also striving to release both the pressure of comparison and the need for certainty. This has been an uncomfortable exercise. Two steps forward, one step back. But it is process of freedom. And of release. The weight seems to be less. The load lighter. Even my shoulders and lower neck feel physically less burdened. I sense more joy in my life. Greater balance on the whole. And make no mistake. It truly are the small things that continue to reaffirm my quest for balance (i.e. healthier work/life/family balance; regular gratitude meditations; enjoying the stillness of doing nothing, etc.).
Wading Into Vulnerability
As I mentioned above, Brown really doesn’t offer a how-to fix of sorts, just lots to think about. Lots to reflect on. Lots to be mindful of. And lots to share. As a parent and educator, I do feel an obligation to shift. To embrace my gift of imperfection.
It has become clear to me that if we will our children to develop and possess wholehearted lives filled with authenticity, joy, and gratitude, we need to begin to walk the talk. No more waiting. I will start the conversation with my students on day one in September. I will share my ‘letting go’ of. I need to be vulnerable. Genuine. Celebrate joy.
Don’t I owe my students and ourselves the chance to do the same?