The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Divided into ten “Guideposts,” The Gifts of Imperfection combines Brown’s research on wholehearted living with insights from her personal life as she tries to implement what she’s learned.

This book is somewhere between self-help and memoir, which makes it a bit tough to categorize. I appreciate that Brown avoids the rah-rah optimism of many self-help books. That kind of crap really annoys me, and I would have dropped this book with much haste had I detected that kind of thing in it. Read More

Swearing Off Inspirational Stories

I’ve read a fair number of opinions and suggestions about how to be happier, and I’ve discovered a basic theme.

Each person starts out not appreciating their life enough, wanting something they don’t have. Then at some point (usually in their mid-20’s or in mid-life or in some other period of great transition) something clicks. They wake up one morning and realize that they have control over how happy they are and what direction their life takes. From then on, their perspective changes and they are happy no matter what happens in their lives.

These accounts piss me off.

It’s like if my 6-foot-2 husband wrote an article about how to reach items on the top shelf of our kitchen cupboards.

“I wasn’t always able to reach items on the top shelf,” he might write. “I used to beat myself up for not being able to get to those top shelves. I would be angry when I saw other people who could reach those shelves so easily. What was their secret? But then one day just before I started college, I looked up at that top shelf and realized that all I needed to do was reach for what I wanted and I could grab it. The secret was the wanting. Once I realized I could obtain items on that shelf if I really wanted them, it was easy. I’ve been able to reach items on high shelves ever since.”

This sort of inspirational story would work well for someone else who’s over 6 feet tall. But for someone who’s 5-foot-2 like myself, it’s ignoring the fact that he can reach one whole foot higher than I can. It’s ignoring the fact that his ability to reach that top shelf was influenced by something more than just will. No matter how much I want that item on the top shelf, I’m going to need a stool to reach it.

There’s this, “If I can do it, you can do it,” idea that these motivational/inspirational types try to impart. But why on earth would this be true?

So, I’m going to stop reading these kinds of books, articles, blog posts, and interviews. These people aren’t me. They don’t know me. And their oversimplifications simply serve to plunge me into despair of ever attaining the happiness that I desire.

On Being Good Enough

I’m leery of motivational language. So often it’s slogany and I feel sold to.

At the same time, I find myself drawn to the intensity and self-assuredness of motivational speaker-types.

And every now and then one of them says something that I think is particularly eye-opening.

Danielle LaPorte published a blog post entitled “Why Self-improvement Makes you Neurotic,” in which she suggests that the actions that we do for the purpose of self-improvement are all valid, positive actions, but we often do them for disempowering reasons. When we engage in self-improvement activities, we generally do so from an assumption of brokenness in ourselves that needs to be fixed. LaPorte suggests that, instead of looking at ourselves as needing tinkered with to make us better (or even acceptable), we look at ourselves as good enough as we are. We’re doing these things not to improve ourselves but to “access our power.” [note: The links in the quote below are from Danielle LaPorte to other posts by her on her blog]

You show up at your therapist’s office to access your power.
You go to church to access your power.
You put on your heels, or your power suit, or your lucky charm to access your power.
You call your friend for advice to access your power.
You pray, dance, let go, breath [sic], unplug, run, bend, drink smoothiesgo on retreat, clear the air, ask for help, get enough sleep, get up early, train, set goals, affirm, chant, rock out, climb, hike, sweat to…

access your power.

I read this and thought, “Wow.”

This is an idea I like and that I try to keep in mind, but all too easily I fall back into the old patterns of mental self-flagellation.

Where do so many of us get that idea that we’re fundamentally flawed and that the only way we can improve ourselves is by beating ourselves up?

I hope to internalize the idea that there is already enough good inside me and that the resolutions I make for myself are simply for the purpose of clearing a path to that awesomeness through the things that obscure it. If this is true, then the reason to work towards meeting my resolutions is because I’m worth the effort, not because I totally suck and need to do these things as penance for my suckitude.

Even as I write this, I’m doubting my worthiness for such an endeavor. I’m thinking, “If I can’t do this for myself, maybe I can at least do it for my kids so they can learn to be self-assured.”

While acting for my children’s wellbeing is a worthy pursuit, in this case I suspect that it’s yet another way of saying, “I’m not good enough, but my kids are. So I have a responsibility to act like I’m good enough as an example to them.”

I want more than that. I like doing things for my kids, but I think accepting myself as good enough simply for them is beyond my abilities. I need to do this one for myself, or I’m not teaching them the lesson I hope that they’ll learn.

When you’re feeling “not good enough,” what do you do to help remind you of your inherent self-worth? If you never have times when you feel “not good enough,” how on earth do you manage that feat?

Book Review: Be Happy Without Being Perfect

Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Break Free from the Perfection DeceptionBe Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Break Free from the Perfection Deception by Alice D. Domar
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maybe if this had been one of the first books I’d read about happiness, I might have a different opinion about it. I ended up skimming most of it. It was written in a casual, upbeat tone, began with a quiz, and was set up like a typical self-help book. The recommendations in each chapter also seemed a bit repetitive.

The book isn’t bad, but as I seem to have moved into a more inside-out approach with my happiness project, the simple “try these 5 techniques” style of this book isn’t really what I’m looking for.

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