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

Vulnerability and Shame

My friend Linda shared with me two TED talks by Brené Brown, one about vulnerability and one about shame. I listened to both while my daughter read in her room and my son pretended to nap and I baked cookies and prepared a casserole for a church potluck tonight.

Both talks are excellent and filled with great insights, but this piece from the one about shame really hit home for me:

“As much as I was frustrated about not being able to get my work out to the world, there was a part of me that was working very hard to engineer staying small, staying right under the radar.”

I was talking to another friend on the phone recently, and I said that as much as I’d like to be known and respected as a writer, I’m not sure I really want to be that well known because I don’t really want to feel like I’m in the public eye. I don’t want my face out there. I don’t want that fame or that scrutiny.

And—because she’s a very good friend—my friend said, “Yeah, I’m not going to let you go with that. I’m not going to let you use that excuse.”

I don’t have much more to say about this right now. I just like the talks and thought I’d share them and what was percolating for me (as a person who blogs under a pseudonym) and see what you all think about them.

If you’ve seen these TED talks, what struck you about them? What role do shame and vulnerability play in your life? Do you avoid vulnerability or do you lean into it? (Or do you do a little of each?)

If you haven’t seen the talks, I’ve included links to them in the first sentence of this post, and here they are again:

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown: Listening to Shame

Sunday Check-in: Cry Baby

Fine. I admit it: I’m pretty much not following my ROW80 goals at all.

I’m journaling every night and I’m working in 10-20 minutes of sitting meditation most (many? some?) mornings, but I’m not writing from the prompts in The Pen and the Bell. I’m not even writing about writing. Mostly I’m writing about how much I’m exercising and how annoyed I am that I’m not losing the 14 pounds I’ve gained since we moved to New England more than a year ago (and I how I feel like I can’t talk about it because my friends and family think I’m already thin enough even though it’s not about being thin, it’s about not making any worse the diastasis recti, stress incontinence, and varicosities I earned bearing and birthing two big babies) and about how excited I was to receive our homeschool supplies order last week (and how gratified I felt when my daughter said things like, “Wow! Look at this grammar book! This is going to be SO FUN!” and “Mommy? Can we start learning Latin tomorrow?”).

I’m also writing about these little epiphanies I keep having, like that I don’t need to get all POed at people in the grocery store and that my children have never seen me cry.

That last one came about when we were unpacking the Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving.

“Be careful where you’re stepping,” I cautioned my children. “If you step on one of those Christmas lights, the bulb might break and then I’ll cry.”

My children laughed. Why were they laughing? I wondered.

“Kids, have you ever seen me cry?”

They paused for a moment before they answered: “No, Mommy. Grown-ups don’t cry. Only children cry.”

This has been percolating at the edges of my awareness for the past two days, and then this morning I heard Krista Tippett’s interview with Brené Brown on the radio show “On Being.” Brown spoke about the mid-life crisis—or as she calls it, the mid-life unraveling. This is the time when we realize that, in order to have the closeness and authenticity that we crave in our relationships, we’re going to have to break down all of the defenses we’ve built up throughout our lives and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

I remember the exact moment in sixth grade when I made the conscious choice never to cry in front of people again. It was when our PE teacher accidentally backed into me while demonstrating some volleyball move and elbowed me in the nose. I stood there holding my nose. My classmates wavered in my vision as my eyes filled with tears, but I willed those tears not to fall. I knew I would be called names if I cried. I knew that because I was already the “new kid” and the “smart kid” and the “short kid”. I didn’t want to be the “cry baby,” too.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry,” I repeated to myself. And I didn’t cry. And, with a handful of exceptions, I haven’t cried in front of anyone since. When I was eleven years old, this would have seemed like a great success, but at nearly thirty-six, it feels like a real liability and something that I want to change but am afraid to change, even if I had a clue how to do it. I only know how not to cry (avoid experiencing or thinking about any situation that’s likely to make me cry, and cut myself off emotionally from other people who are crying), not how to let myself cry. Usually when I feel like I need to cry, I watch Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment, but I don’t think it’s practical to do that every day.

I don’t really have a conclusion for this blog post. I just thought I’d explain where I’m at right now and how it relates to my current and future ROW80 goals. My goals for next round had been to write at least one short story and to submit that story (or another, or a couple of others) to at least three publications. But I’m starting to think that this vulnerability piece is going to have to play a really big role in that process, and I’m wondering if I need to address it directly or just let it be in the background of my awareness while I try to do the main work of writing and submitting.

Is it even possible to address vulnerability head-on?