The Gifts of Imperfection: Q&A #2

UPDATE: Here are links to the first and third discussions of The Gifts of Imperfection:
Discussion #1
Discussion #3

Welcome to the second virtual meeting of our book club to discuss The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown! (If you don’t know what’s going on around here, read this post and visit Brené’s web site.) The discussion in the comments of Q&A #1 from last Monday is brilliant. I’m touched by how brave everyone was in sharing their thoughts and getting personal with us. That is beautiful and courageous and exactly the point of The Gifts of Imperfection. Well done and thank you, everyone.

I’m delighted that the Guideposts pages of my book are now covered with asterisks, underlining, and exclamation points. I love when I read something that confirms a belief I already hold — Don’t we all?! — and I love it even more when Brené’s words are like a slap to the forehead, knocking new ideas into my sometimes rock-like noggin.

If we were all sitting together in my living room, I’d ask you some questions to get the ball rolling. I’ve shared a few of my thoughts below, but didn’t want to chime in too strongly until y’all have a chance to speak from our hearts. Take a look at the questions below and share your thoughts in comments. Don’t feel pressure to answer all the questions; feel free to respond to the ones that inspire you — and be sure to add questions of your own if the spirit moves.

Our Discussion

Guidepost #1: Cultivating Authenticity (p. 49)
I loved the quote from E.E. Cummings in the book: “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight — and never stop fighting.”

I was also really affected when Brené wrote her fears of the audacity of authenticity:  “What if my friends/family/co-workers like the perfect me better… you know, the one who takes care of everything and everyone?” When I was in the midst of a crisis a few years ago, I spent a lot of time flopped on my friend Stef’s couch, crying and talking and sometimes, just sitting there, quietly. I remember telling her that I felt DIFFERENT. That there was the “old” me before The Thing Happened and the “new” me, after The Thing Happened. I felt mournful that the naive, un-hurt me was gone. Stef said the sweetest thing anyone could have said, “I like this you. It’s real.”

Have you had a moment where you felt painfully real? How did you feel about it?

Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion (p. 55)

Full disclosure: I had big reaction to this statement: “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception — we want to be perceived as perfect….” Holy shmoly, that smacked me upside the head. I have to admit that a big part of my desire to be leaner and stronger is because I want to be perceived as lean and strong by others. My ego wants me to be admired for that, which is totally separate from how I feel about my body.  That is definitely something I’ll be gnawing on this week.

Brené clarifies that perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best, and perfectionism is not self-improvement. Do you feel like you seek perfectionism or are you striving to be your best ? How do you understand the difference?

Guidepost #3: Creating a Resilient Spirit (p. 63)

I’ve written in the past about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable in the physical sense, and am attracted to the idea of doing that in the emotional sense, too. I was struck by this statement on page 69: “When I interviewed the participants whom I’d describe as living a Wholehearted life… they consistently talked about trying to feel the feelings, staying mindful about numbing behaviors, and trying to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions.” I love that: leaning into hard emotions. I also really responded to this (p. 73): “When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy.”

Brené talks about admitting to her desire to numb vulnerability with “an apple fritter, a beer and cigarette, and spending seven hours on Facebook.” It made me realize that I sometimes “numb” myself with to-do lists and strict plans, instead of living with the discomfort and vulnerability of letting life unfold. Do you find that you unkowingly numb yourself with distractions or unhealthy habits?

Guidepost #4: Cultivating Gratitute and Joy (p. 77)

Dave read this book about a year ago and shared the ideas of keeping a gratitude journals and practicing gratitude. Since then, I’ve been actively working on expressing and living with gratitude every day. I’m really please to say that it’s definitely increased my feelings of joy, well being, compassion, and generosity.

Do you buy into this idea? What are some ways you can practice gratitude?

Not a question, but…

On page 82, Brené says, “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”

This, too, walloped me for two reasons:
(1) it reinforces what I learned during my crisis: life is light and dark, pain and joy, and denying the “negative” diminishes the “positive”

(2) it echoes what Kim, our Saturday morning yoga instructor, has told us on a few occasions: There is nothing wrong with the sun on a cloudy day.


Hit the comments and let us know what you think!

Future MeetingsPages 1-48 (intro to the beginning of Guidepost #1) – Monday, February 13Read the Discussion
Pages 48-85 (Guidepost #1 though Guidepost #4)– Monday, February 20 – Done!
Pages 86-130 (Guidepost #5 throrugh the end)– Monday, February 27If you’re new here, you’re welcome to join us! Just get a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection and chime in on the discussion anytime!

The Gifts of Imperfection: Q&A #3

UPDATE: Here are links to the first two discussions of The Gifts of Imperfection: Discussion #1 Discussion #2 Welcome to the third virtual meeting of...

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Gifts of Imperfection: Q&A #1

UPDATE: Here are links to the second and third discussions of The Gifts of Imperfection: Discussion #2 Discussion #3 Welcome to the first virtual meeting...

Read More


  • Melissa says:

    I may have to get the book after all, been putting it off. Brown had a column in the Washington Post’s On Leadership series this past Sunday, with a great quote from Madeline L’Engle at the end. (I collect quotes like squirrels collect nuts – and also forget where I put them!) Love the quote from your yoga teacher. The “leaning into discomfort” sounds a lot like some of Pema Chodron’s teachings, which I love.

    • Mel says:

      Highly recommend the book. It’s a fast read, and it’s great for reinforcing good habits you might already have — and for poking holes in some thinking that’s maybe less beneficial.

  • Ann Marie says:

    What in this book hasn’t knocked me upside the head? I finished the book in about five days, over a week ago. Somehow I missed the fist discussion.

    I’m a recovering perfectionist! Over the last couple of years I’ve really learned to let things be a little messy. To cut myself slack when I don’t get something done on time (my own self-inflicted schedule) or realize that it isn’t “perfect.” Diving in to my art really was a catalyst for letting go of perfection.

    And yes, to the question of numbing with distractions. I do this some, especially in times of extreme stress of a personal relationship nature. I’m learning to allow pain, hurt and sadness to run their course. To allow myself to feel these very real emotions and not beat myself up for being vulnerable. Not easy, but well worth the effort in the long run.

    Great discussion! Thanks.

  • pamela says:

    I didn’t realize until I started to comment just now how reluctant I am to put some of this into words. It’s as though letting my thoughts and feelings almost form and then ignoring them keeps them from being real. At least it keeps me from having to acknowledge them.

    I know I have a very definite fear that who am I is not enough for those closest to me. The comical part is that when I’m being honest with myself, I’m pretty sure they see right through my fake strong and capable facade. I have spent much of my life trying to please. I did not use the word “no” except with my kids and pets. I was always a bit envious of my younger sister, Bev, who seemed to just do as she pleased and did not cater to anyone, best I could tell. I was startled beyond words a few years ago when a fairly new friend who knew my sister and me asked, “So is Bev the nice sister?” She was serious. Her take on me was that I was outspoken, didn’t take anything from anyone, and didn’t mind pissing them off or having them angry with me.

    As for numbing behaviors, to avoid my feelings, I plan and make lists, though I am neither a planner or list maker naturally. It’s completely artificial and a means of escape for me. When I’m comfortable, I never, ever do those things.

    • Mel says:

      Yes, I’m realizing that you all are very courageous for sharing your thoughts here. This book brings up really personal stuff. Good for you for looking at your feelings — and for letting us have a peek, too.

  • Tricia says:

    I was very glad to see Pamela’s post. I also struggle with wanting to ignore things until they go away. They rarely do, which of course causes other problems. I also use numbing behaviors. Like Pamela I make lists and organize (which you’d never know if you see my house). I primarily find TV, food, and hobbies to be most numbing in a I’m-so-engrossed-in-this-I-don’t-have-to-think-of-anything-else way. I knew I used these as a means of avoidance, but never really thought of them as numbing. I see now, they are. I also never really thought about numbing the good emotions, but after reflecting a little, I see that I do that to. During happy moments I often get bursts of fear about the bad things. By tamping down the good, the bad don’t pop up as much. I don’t think I numb the good as much as the bad though.

    I actually made a list yesterday after reading the section (I’m pretty sure this wasn’t an avoidance list though). In one column I made a list of what I want to address or want to accomplish in my life and in the other I made a list of all of the ways I avoid or numb myself that keeps me from dealing with them or being able to achieve them. Interestingly I had a couple of items appear in both lists. For example, I would like to spend more time working with my pottery (I am a potter/sculptor as a hobby) because I find it very relaxing and emotionally rewarding. However, in the past I have used pottery as a means of avoiding other things by completely immersing myself in a project.

    I’ve been struggling working out these issues, but this book is really illuminating them for me even more. I’m not sure I like it.

    With regards to gratitude — I do believe you can practice it and I think that after a while it becomes habit and a more or less permanent mindset.

    • Mel says:

      I think it’s really interesting that we (myself included) tend to make lists in times of stress/strain. Definitely seems like a control/numbing mechanism when I look at it this way. I’m realizing I made about a dozen different lists — that all say essentially the same thing — while going through the experience of quitting my job. It’s like brain chatter spewed on the page. What I should have been talking about instead is how scary it is to go out on my own, without a corporate paycheck. I will now explore the feelings around THAT bugaboo 🙂

  • Jamie says:

    –I weave in and out of moments where I allow myself to be raw (painfully real) but then it become so uncomfortable, I step back. These moments (both in and out) can be as fleeting as a few seconds or even as long as several days.
    –I struggle with wanting to be seen as having it all together, perceived as perfect. I want to embrace my imperfection and get over myself and perception. I think this is attainable
    –And yes oh yes oh yes….I numb with food, television, shopping, and so much more 🙁
    –The whole gratitude thing….I remember back years ago when Oprah taught us to do this…and I have heard testimony after testimony of this from folks who see it as life changing. However, this is the first time I really “got” the why behind it. I know I have had times when I’d try to list things I’m grateful for but it would fizzle. I definitely want to make this a practice!

    This book is absolutely amazing. I will read it again. It is so much more than a self help book. It is a practical guide and I am love, love, loving it! Thank you so much for leading this book club!!

    • Mel says:

      I think we all have several numbing habits, but now we can identify them and start to manage them. YAY!

      I agree: I’ll probably re-read 1-2 times a year, just to stay on track. It’s such good advice in manageable nuggets.

  • Angela says:

    I must admit that I am struggling a little with this book. I find it incredibly hard to analyse myself and am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I am as shallow as a puddle. I do try to practice gratitude after reading “Simple Abundance” years ago and I do find that it helps to remember the good things when life gets difficult. Joy is trickier! I am by nature a pessimistic and dour person and I am not quite convinced that everyone is ‘made’ to be joyful!

    • Mel says:

      You totally made me laugh with this: “am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I am as shallow as a puddle”

      Um. I think that’s a sign you need to treat yourself with more compassion and gentleness. And yea, it can be hard to analyze ourselves. Keep plugging away at it!

    • Jeni says:

      I, too find it very difficult to analyze myself. It’s not just you 🙂

      I discovered that talking this book and it’s ideas through with my partner who has known me for 13 years helps me to see myself and my behaviors in an objective and constructive way… like sort of a “truth mirror”? Is that weird? It made sense in my head anyway. Hahahaha.

      I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I hope you found this book helpful. And just know that not everyone is so good at self-analyzation. I’m right there with you!

  • Faith says:

    I definitely have struggled with perfectionism in the past (and still do). I am a (recovering) people pleaser and have found that sometimes I must do what is right for me at the time and not care about everyone else’s reaction. Again, I think as I get older, I am more comfortable at doing MY best to become MY best, which is nothing at all perfect. We are all human, all make mistakes and should give grace to others and our self when we make those mistakes.

    In regards to gratitude, I found a great idea on Pinterest over the holidays and actually have implemented it. I call it my “4P journal”–Peaks, Pits, Praises and Prayers. I use a small moleskin journal and just take 1 page each night before I go to bed to record those 4 things. I don’t over-think it, and only allow myself that one page as to not get too wordy or analytical, but to really think, what was awesome, what was not so awesome, what am I truly grateful for and what are things that I need to be in prayer about. I have really been challenging myself to do this every day and it’s been very helpful and I feel has directed my gratitude process quite a bit and made it much more meaningful.

    I’m with everyone also saying this needs to be a several times a year book. I’ve been raving about it to friends, but it’s one of those that I’m afraid to loan out, knowing I’ll never see it again. 🙂

  • Faith says:

    And one more thing—I have been inundated with quotes and thoughts on the light vs. darkness this week. I definitely think this is something that I need to latch onto and learn what I’m intended to learn here…

  • Amanda A says:

    I’m loving this book and am glad to see that I’m not the only one who plans to re-read it several times to remind myself of all these thought-compelling truths and practices, which are so easy to forget in the daily grind before they become habit.

    One of the parts that struck me the most is her discussion and dissection of scarcity and how that mindset has infiltrated so many aspects of our daily lives. “Our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it.” (p. 83)

    That passage and the following thoughts on sufficiency have really caused me to examine the thoughts that run through my mind all day. I need to stop automatically feeling like I don’t have enough, whether it’s time, energy, patience, etc.

    Another quote that is related is “I realized how many of us have bought into the idea that something has to be extraordinary if it’s going to bring us joy… Our culture is quick to dismiss quiet, ordinary, hardworking men and women. In many instances, we equate ordinary with boring, or, even more dangerous, ordinary has become synonymous with meaningless.”

    I am definitely one who enjoys the ordinary moments in life, but have sometimes wondered if that makes me “boring.”

  • Dania R. says:

    Sorry I’m a little late to the party this week… Not until I read all these responses did I realize I was actually involved in numbing activity. The lesson comes when the student is ready, right?

    This book is getting a little more challenging to read… introspection is certainly painful, uncomfortable, and awkward. It’s easy reading about the author’s experiences, but when it comes time to really think about how it relates to me… not so much fun.

    1) Moments of feeling painfully real – I’ve probably experienced more of these than I care to remember. And they are always when I am at my lowest of lows. Perhaps this is when I have nothing else to hide behind, to cover up with… the feelings are pure and raw and I can do nothing else in those moments when I’m curled up, bawling like a baby but face the real me. Those times are sickeningly hard and I am convinced always carry a lesson.

    2) I sincerely struggle with perfectionism and the quest to be my best. I think I become more aware of the difference as I get older… that my actions and intentions should be for me, for striving to be the best possible me in my own eyes and no one else’s. But I will often let environment/location supersede my best efforts. It is an on-going pendulum swing, one that I battle with every day. Cliche, perhaps, but CrossFit and eating Paleo have really helped me learn more about HOW to work towards being my best without being perfect. They have both played a huge role in wrapping my mind around being a better me FOR me.

    3) The keyword was “unknowingly”… until I read the Guidepost and then followed up with all the responses on here – I had no idea what I was truly doing. I am the poster child of numbing. I got married three years ago and gave up fast paced city girl life to go live in the middle of the slow paced, isolated desert – and for the past three years, have spent much of my time “numbing” the pain that is associated with the unhappy feelings of my different lifestyle. I didn’t realize it until this morning, reading through everyone’s comments… I am an incessant list maker. I obsess over planning everything I can possibly plan. I like that false sense of control, I suppose. And when I’m not making lists, or planning, I’m THINKING about them or the “what can I possibly do next”… some of the ideas being completely unfeasible and impossible. Honestly, I have to say – at this moment in time… I am more paralyzed than numb. Daily. I look back and I feel I have lost months, perhaps, years of my life trying to avoid dealing with issues I really need to face. And I’m sure in the wake of all of it – certainly missing out on the true joy and gratitude that is within. Ugh. I feel like going and crying now. I suppose I’ve just looped back to Guidepost #1 – I feel painfully real at this moment. I would like to thank Tricia for her mention of the list comparing her desired life’s accomplishments against the numbing behaviors. I will be borrowing this… not for the sake of making more lists (as mentioned), but to really DIG deep on this topic.

    4) I LOVE the idea of the gratitude journal. What a fantastic concept. I, personally, make it a point to give daily prayers of thanks… for the abundance in my life. I may not be where I WANT to be – location, career, pant size – but I have a husband who loves me deeply and takes incredible care of me. We have amazing (Well Fed) food on our table every night. I am healthy. Active. There are so many things for which I CAN be thankful for and I make a conscious effort to thank God for all of it. I once read a very thought provoking question “What if you lost tomorrow what you didn’t give thanks for today?” I think about that every single day.

    My take away for the day comes from the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross quote on page 74: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

    Thanks for the ‘therapy’ this week ladies! I’m truly enjoying all that I am gaining from this book and all your insight.

  • Mel says:

    Oh, friends! I had an “experience” this morning.

    I’m struggling with my attitude about my weight right now, and today — after a kickass workout and a great yoga class — I was being really hard on myself about my body. Internal monologue was HORRIBLE — and I was lashing out at the world: angry, snippy, stompy, stabby, filled with rage. I could feel tears stinging the back of my eyes, but I refused to let them out.

    Then I thought about this book and the idea of vulnerability and gratitude. It took me a few hours — and a nap — but I finally got there and admitted to myself and Dave that I’m SAD not MAD. As soon as I did that, I started to feel better.

    Yowza. Good stuff going on here, but not easy, right?!

    • Jeni says:

      Wow, Sad… not mad…?

      Yes. Thank you for saying this! I do this all the time! I feel less vulnerable when I express my feelings as anger instead of sadness. Holy cow. Mind. Blown.

  • CSan says:

    I am really interested in your discussion and have noticed that the link to discussion #3 is not working. I would really like to read it.