While the title of Brene Brown’s helpful book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are might lead you to believe that it’s primarily about perfectionism, I found that it was more focused on letting go of people pleasing, although the two issues overlap in many cases.
“Most of us are trying to live an authentic life. Deep down, we want to take off our game face and be real and imperfect.”
I found a lot to think about in Brown’s discussion of how to break out of people pleasing and perfectionism in their various guises. She draws on her research as a sociologist for the book, but also adds her own experiences freely, which makes the book quite accessible and well-rounded. Brown includes thoughts on how children cope with these problems and tendencies, which I found especially helpful as a parent.
An aspect of the book that really helped me was Brown’s discussion of how people deal with painful circumstances. Most people, to some degree or another, resort to what Brown calls “numbing,” whether that be with harmful substances or escaping through TV, the internet, or constant busy-ness. In her research, Brown found that especially resilient and joyful people (versus people who are only happy when they are in good circumstances) tend to acknowledge when they are numbing, and limit that behavior, and that instead of running away from painful emotions they actually lean in and “feel their way through it.” Interestingly, Brown found that while people imagine that if you prepare yourself for the worst, it won’t hurt as badly. But what Brown found in her research is that preparing for trouble doesn’t minimize the pain of it, but it does minimize the joy you get if a good thing happens instead. I found that interesting.
Brown also contends that we need to let go of exhaustion and busy-ness as a status symbol. Instead, she advocates cultivating calm (this keeps coming up in books I read!) and defines calm as “creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity.” She says that in order to commit to practicing calm, we should identify things that make us overreact, and “practice non-reactive responses.” This is something I really need to work on!
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are is an interesting and compelling book, and I’d recommend it for people who struggle with perfectionism, people pleasing,or busy-ness, or who have children who deal with those issues.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.