Recently I took a break from parenting books to read one about personal growth. I believe with all my heart that working on ourselves is the greatest gift we can give our children. Therefore, I found my recent reading extremely pertinent to parenting.
Sometimes I think I'm the only perfectionist on the planet. I get so wrapped up in my own self-conscious anxiety and people pleasing that I forget other people struggle with the same issues. Then I'll talk to someone who feels the same way, or I'll read something that proves I'm not alone. Nothing beats having my deepest worries articulated and challenged in a way that feels compassionate and entirely manageable. That's what The Gifts of Imperfection did for me last week.
What I'm Reading
In The Gifts of Imperfection, she explains the data from her research in a way that feels true down to my very core. I listened to this audiobook while following along in the paperback (that's how into this book I am). I would be folding laundry when I'd be struck by an undeniable truth about myself. I'd be so overcome that I'd have no choice but to exclaim to my empty living room, "Brene'! THAT'S IT!" as I slapped my couch for emphasis.
My favorite thing about this book is the tone. This wasn't a recitation of the data; this is a story about how Brown's research challenged her own perceptions about life and relationships. It's a story of her "Breakdown/Spiritual Awakening" on the path towards "Wholehearted Living." Somehow this makes the process of becoming entirely myself feel within reach. She did it, and I can do it too.
"Compassionate people are boundaried people...The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become. Well, it's difficult to accept people when they are hurting us or taking advantage of us or walking all over us...if we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior" (pages 16-17).
"Children who use more shame self-talk (I am bad) versus guilt self-talk (I did something bad) struggle mightily with issues of self-worth and self-loathing. Using shame to parent teaches children that they are not inherently worthy of our love" (page 42).
"Whenever I'm faced with a vulnerable situation, I get deliberate with my intentions by repeating this to myself, 'Don't shrink. Don't puff up. Stand on your sacred ground.' I think there's something deeply spiritual about standing your ground. Saying this little mantra helps me remember not to get small so other people are comfortable and not to throw up my armor as a way to protect myself" (pages 53-54).
"We are a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overscheduled children. We use our spare time to desperately search for joy and meaning in our lives. We think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning, but that pursuit could be the very thing that's keeping us so tired and afraid to slow down" (pages 101-102).
I've come a long way on my path towards wholehearted living, but this book gently shines the light on issues for continued growth. I'll return to it often, and I'll share it with my clients for years to come.