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Book #3: The Gifts of Imperfection

I stopped reading The Gifts of Imperfection somewhere down the middle and I moved to Daring Greatly. But it was a great read.

It introduced me to the concepts of shame, vulnerability, fear, and courage. I’ve always heard of them from self-development books. But never did I internalize them until I came across this book.

The idea of shame was totally new to me. The fact that we all have it, and the fact that it grows when we don’t talk about it, have made my head spin.

And as I’ve said above, the most important lessons I’ve learned were about perfection and numbing emotions to avoid vulnerability.

I’ve never thought of perfection as a form of shame. Never have I thought that perfectionists are afraid and ashamed. I’ve always praised myself for being a perfectionist.

But when you look at the motives behind perfection, you’ll quickly realize that it sucks. Shame is the ultimate motive behind perfection. I’m not trying to be perfect because I want to excel or do a great work. I’m trying to be perfect to avoid criticism and not upset anyone and get people to like me. To avoid shame, basically.

As Brene stresses out, “Perfection is about performing and pleasing.”  It’s not about improvement or doing great work. It even doesn’t exist. What we are trying to reach is not perfection itself –we know it doesn’t exist.

We are trying to be perfect according to the people around us and get their approval or avoid their resentment.

And it’s pretty scary to let our “imperfect selves” be seen. Because we are risking being seen as vulnerable. The opposite of perfection, I believe, is practicing vulnerability.

When you risk being vulnerable, you are basically telling the world that you don’t give a whoop whether they approve of you or get upset. That’s courage.

And because being vulnerable is not a pleasant emotional experience, we do our best to numb it. The sharp, strong emotions of vulnerability are not easy to tolerate. And that, in and of itself, is another vulnerability.

So we numb.

We have our own different addictions and distractions. They make us avoid vulnerability, and that’s not a good thing by the way.

And it’s not only about the bad emotions. We end up numbing all the strong emotions, positive or negative. We, sooner or later, dread joy and run away from it and numb it.

In my case, this was absolutely true. I fear vulnerability. And I also fear joy and fulfillment. And I numb both of them.

When we numb, we numb all the strong emotions. Vulnerability is number one on the list. But also joy is a strong emotion and therefore it’s included.

Brene says that we can’t just select a few emotions and say, “I don’t want to feel these!” When we numb, we numb everything.

We end up living in a circle of performing and pleasing and numbing our sharp emotions and true desires. When I think of that cycle, I picture a sad, lonely person who lacks the heart to step up to the life and show up.

Being vulnerable, to me, is equivalent to being courageous. And courage is about feeling the fear, not numbing the fear.

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