Book review - The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
May 26, 2020
“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are - your guide to a wholehearted life”
This is a gem of a book that is SOOOO applicable to teachers - both in how they live their own lives, and also in regards to how we should be teaching our students.
Brown goes through the findings of her research regarding what it takes in order to live a ‘whole-hearted life’ - if we are to help to develop ‘the whole person’ in our students, then the wisdom that this book offers is very relevant.
If we are to guide our students to be their true selves and to follow their dreams and their passions, and to fulfil their purpose, then the guidance in this book is very relevant.
If we are to teach our students to embrace failures, to learn from their mistakes and to take risks, then this book is very relevant.
If we are to help our students to develop a growth mindset, so that they can become resilient life-long learners, then this book is very relevant.
And if we want to develop empathy and compassion within our students, then this book is very relevant.
Brown goes through 10 ‘Guideposts’, briefly summarised here:
Cultivating Authenticity - letting go of what people think: in order to be our true selves, we cannot let other peoples expectations, standards or judgements influence us. We need to have the courage to be imperfect and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We need to let go of any shame that is associated with not living up to another person’s expectations. It’s about believing ‘I am enough’. Brown says: ‘Whenever I’m faced with a vulnerable situation, I get deliberate with my intentions by repeating this to myself: “Don’t shrink, don’t puff up. Stand on your sacred ground”.
Cultivating Self-Compassion - letting go of perfectionism: do not strive for perfectionism as it is self-destructive - there is no such thing as perfect. It brings on feelings of shame, fear, judgement. Self-compassion means having self-kindness (being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we fail), common humanity (recognising that suffering is part of the shared human experience - everyone goes through it), and mindfulness (a balanced approach to negative emotions).
NOTE: this is not the same as trying to improve a students self-esteem by over-praising and rewarding, as this can erode resilience and lead to entitlement.
Cultivating a resilient spirit - letting go of numbing and powerlessness: resilient people are resourceful, good problem solvers, seek help, can manage their feelings and cope, have social support, connected with others. They have hope (belief in own abilities, perseverance to pursue goals). To learn hope, children need relationships with boundaries, consistency and support. Resilient people do not numb or take the edge off difficult emotions.
Cultivating Gratitude and Joy - letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark: joy and gratitude are connected. Practicing gratitude is an important part of finding joy. Joy is different to happiness - Joy is more from within, happiness depends on external factors.
Cultivating intuition and trusting faith - letting go of the need for certainty: this is essential when we decide to live and love with our whole hearts. It makes it possible to take risks without the certainty that it will all work out.
Cultivating Creativity - Letting go of comparison: comparison kills creativity, as it is all about conformity and competition. Everyone is creative - it’s just that some people don’t use it. Unused creativity can have very negative outcomes - resentment, fear, etc. Brown says, “the only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity”. To be creative is to make meaning.
Cultivating play and rest - letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. Brown says that “the opposite of play is depression”. Play is critical to living a whole-hearted life, to finding joy and meaning in the everyday. We need to slow down, cut things off the ‘to-do’ list, and stop constantly wanting more and more. Be happy with what you have.
Cultivating Calm and Stillness - Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle: ‘stillness is not about focusing on nothingness: it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question’.
Cultivating Meaningful Work - letting go of self-doubt and ‘supposed to’: we all have gifts and talents that are meant to be shared - not doing so causes distress to our lives. Meaning is unique to each one of us.
Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance - letting go of being cool, and ‘always in control’: laughter song and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: we are not alone. It is universal to human nature, as we all have a strong pull towards rhythm and movement.
Which of these guide posts stood out to you most and why? Share your thoughts on my Instagram post here.