#1 – The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
Summer 2017 I was feeling lost.
I needed inspiration. My maternity leave was coming to an end and I had just made a HUGE decision. I was a social worker who had just put in her resignation to stay home with my aaaamazing daughter for at least another year. Things were just starting to get interesting with Miss Dot! Plus… my social work career wasn’t fulfilling me like I wanted it to in the past while… I needed to reevaluate my career and what truly fed my soul. A social worker with no work. Uh oh.
I thought – “Who, in my life, is rocking it right now that I could learn from?” The answer came to me in a flash – my personal trainer and good friend Nicole (Stay Inspired). Nicole truly was ROCKING it. She picked herself up after heartbreak, quit her job, soul-searched, and started her own fitness/nutrition/wellness business! I sent her a message saying “Please… recommend some feel good reading material. I need a boost”. She did even better than that. She lent me a pile of books.
My first book on this journey for insight and motivation was:
“The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life” by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.
First of all, I felt it was a sign that the first book I picked up was written by a social worker. What were the chances? Read more about Brené here. Second, the idea of perfection has froze me or discouraged me at many turns in the past. I struggled with writer’s block throughout my education, as well as professionally. Papers. Paperwork. The bane of my existence. Once I complete my tasks, I did well! But man, getting past that initial anxiety and my good’ol avoidance tactics was TOUGH work (my apartment was always SPOTLESS during term paper crunch.) So, I sent out a silent plea to Brené for help because for some god forsaken reason I decided to start a blog summer 2017 determined to use WRITING as a path of self-discovery… and this post had me trembling in the knees and totally nauseous.
Living a Wholehearted Life
Brené (I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her such) is a qualitative researcher who, through many years of interviews, found certain people to be living “wholeheartedly”. These people tend to share characteristics.
They DIG deep –
- Deliberate in their thoughts and behaviours through prayer, meditation, or simply setting their intentions;
- Inspire to make new and different choices;
- Going.They take action.
The book goes on to discuss the ten guideposts of living a wholehearted life. The guideposts are about what to embrace, but also what may hold us back. Shame and fear are huge themes, which I totally get. I had a little breakdown with my partner JW where I shared that I just wasn’t feeling like a competent person… I wasn’t doing enough… I was a sham. He meant well, but he actually laughed (I hope not AT me) and said – “oh Amanda… everyone feels like a sham.” I’ll be honest, it wasn’t overly validating or helpful in the moment – but he was right (Damn him LOL)!
I enjoyed the book’s structure and how concise the guideposts were. Brené shared just enough of herself to illustrate her points. Having an extensive clinical background myself, I was reminded a lot of the material I have facilitated in addictions therapeutic groups. I truly feel I was in therapy myself for the years that I facilitated a 21 day treatment program – walking the talk. I didn’t learn anything “new” through this book, but it definitely got me fired up to DO BETTER (not in a kicking myself in the butt kind of way, but in a being kind to myself kind of way… haha)
I won’t go through each guidepost, but here are a couple that stood out for me:
Guidepost #6 – Cultivating Creativity, Letting go of comparison
Oh boy. This is a tough one for me. I have joked many times that I’m not overly artistic, but consider myself more of a muse. I know this is just my cop-out. I’ve always wanted to be musical (piano lessons growing up were hell)… I can sing… I have rhythm and can dance decently… But my anxiety gets in the way of just embracing music. JW is a musician. A true, has recorded albums, won awards, toured musician. He says he’s just always been smart enough to surround himself with musicians more talented than himself. He admits to not being naturally gifted to music, but had to teach himself and practice, practice, practice (“It’s math”). I think JW’s greatest asset was that he just doesn’t get embarrassed… he goes for it… Forgot the words? Who cares. Off key? Keep singing joyfully. When I tried to learn ukulele last year, I would get so anxious about getting it just right that my neck would hurt from the tension I was holding. My heart would beat faster. I felt like I couldn’t breath. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t joyful. I gave up.
As a Christmas gift to myself last year, I bought myself Estelle Thomson’s 21 Day of Creative Leaps “Under the Sea” booklet. The booklet was great because it wasn’t just about paiting, but embracing mindfulness as well. Find more of her workshops here – I adore her. I dabble in watercolour. Though I still felt “stressed” painting every night, it got easier and easier as the nights went on. I was proud of my paintings. I was finding a voice. Then my attention was focused on an online course, so painting went to the side… again… I’d like to bring it back into focus. Throughout 2017 I would come back time and again to my painting… this holiday season really embracing it, painting “cards” as gifts for family and friends. It’s getting easier to just enjoy the process, probably because I’m genuinely getting better and embracing the product as well! My goal for 2018 is to continue painting, hopefully on a weekly basis, allowing myself to get lost in my creativity. Feel free to send requests, friends and family! xo
Guidepost #9 – Cultivating Meaningful Work, Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
As I have mentioned before, I’m at a crossroads. My daughter is 10 months old and I decided not to return to work. I love motherhood. I love reading and researching about child development and parenting. I love just living in the moment with Dot day to day. Perhaps THIS is my meaningful work… for now… but I can’t help but worry about what I will do in a year or two. In this guidepost it’s written “squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives”. I’ve been feeling SO guilty about parenting not being enough for me… for needing ‘more’… so THIS idea of distress was a huge relief. I have gifts. Gifts outside of my household and my daughter, that I still want to use… NEED to use… Ok! Yes! Awesome! Sooooo… could someone just tell me what my gifts are? Sigh.
I love to facilitate groups. I love to teach. I love to help. I love working in the community. My goal over the summer was to explore what meaningful work may be for me at this stage of my life. I am so lucky to have been in contact with the Roots of Empathy program this summer and asked if I would be interested in becoming an instructor. YES! I was TOTALLY interested! I completed the training and started facilitating weekly Roots of Empathy sessions with an adorable, interesting, and engaged grade one class in the fall! I’ve been engaged in meaningful work and it feels GOOD!
I’m doing ok!
I’d like to think I’ve been living a wholehearted life for some time – with courage, compassion and connection. If I’m scared of something that’s meaningful to me… I tend to move towards it. I love myself while accepting my flaws, attempting to rise above them. I work hard to maintain my friendships, my connections, as well as make new relationships. Thanks to The Gifts of Imperfection, I was reminded that I’m doing ok! It helped me frame my goals in such a way that I was able to achieve great things this year too! Continuing to pursue my creativity in painting and writing was scary… facilitating the Roots of Empathy program was outside of my area of expertise, but SO rewarding! Turns out I “AM” a competent person and not a “sham” after all. PHEW!
So readers! I’d love to hear from YOU!
- Have YOU read this book? If so, what spoke to you? Did you make any goals? How’s it going?
- For those who haven’t read this book, are you intrigued? What books have inspired you?