Earlier this year, I finished reading my very first Brené Brown book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I had previously listened to her popular TED Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability," and was instantly moved by her wit, candor, and, well, vulnerability.
I'm not one to jump on the popular books bandwagon, but every once in a while, a good book comes down the pike just screaming to be read. And The Gifts of Imperfection was that book.
One of the reasons I was drawn to Brown is because of her passion for research and storytelling. She weaves both together to put readers on a quest to evaluate themselves and understand humanity in the process.
While it's uncomfortable to talk about shame (who aspires to be a shame researcher?) and equally awkward to talk about vulnerability, we've all been there. Being imperfect and actually embracing it as who we are, however, isn't always seen as a part of the path to success.
Here are five lessons we can learn from Brown about living and leading imperfectly with our whole hearts:
1. Living and leading wholeheartedly requires a long, honest look at the tough stuff
If we look for success without pulling back the covers on shame, fear, and rejection, we leave out significant parts of our lives that make us who we are.
Wholehearted living and leading requires us to embrace the big picture, to own us, and to celebrate these parts of our life story.
2. Living and leading wholeheartedly requires that we choose authenticity
The word "authenticity" is often thrown around like a disease waiting to be caught. Really, what authenticity is is a decision to live honestly. Brown writes, "It's about the choice to show up and be real."
Leaders often struggle with being real, especially to the people who follow them, because they don't want to come across as imperfect. But good leadership is made up of imperfections.
3. Living and leading wholeheartedly is not defined by busyness
This is the point that really etched itself in my brain. Mere action does not equate to being important, having meaning, or living a full life.
The call to stop the busyness is more than meeting every expectation. It's about adding sleep, play, relaxation, and fun into our lives so much that we look forward to really living.
4. Living and leading wholeheartedly urges us to first cultivate self-acceptance
Belonging is a basic human need but it is not the same as fitting in. Sometimes, however, we isolate ourselves by comparing our accomplishments or lack thereof to someone else's.
We change who we are to fit in with a group. Belonging is simply showing up and allowing ourselves to be who we are.
Cultivating self-acceptance begins with embracing our vulnerabilities, believing we are enough, and engaging in experiences that make us vulnerable. Doing this induces courage and guides us to owning our story.
5. Living and leading wholeheartedly means that, at the end of the day, you are enough
Breaking through the voices of "not good enough" can be difficult. But pushing past that to a place of worthiness takes courage. "Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line," Brown writes.
We are not perfect. We do make mistakes. Imperfection is a part of who we are. It is what makes us human.
When we take that step of courage, we open ourselves up to connect with others on a deeper level and to express compassion to ourselves and those around us. Brown believes that courage, compassion, and connection can be cultivated in our lives, and I believe she is right.
All of these lessons play a role in how we ultimately live our lives. They are the pieces that help to create the whole. As the title states, imperfection is really a gift. It's "a path of consciousness and choice."
The only question now is: Will you be willing to give and receive this gift to yourself?