Today’s book club book is another fairly popular one that you maybe haven’t gotten to yet or you may just really need to look at a second time. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown has been a bestseller and has spurred a popular TED talk as well as many conversations amongst women who are more interested in thriving than talking about all the ways in which their neighbor isn’t.
Brene Brown is a researcher in the field of shame. It’s an icky word that pulls up icky feelings in all of us, but exploring the roots of it can sometimes help in managing self-destructive habits and patterns that arise in our lives, sometimes at a very early age, due to feelings of shame that may in fact be unwarranted.
Looking at why do I feel this or that way and what am I doing as a reaction to it can help you shape your life for the better if you take the time to be honest with yourself.
Brene explains in her book that shame frequently comes from a desire to fit in with the tribe you are part of. It’s a primitive protective force. If your community disproves of a behavior or mindset then we may bubble up with discomfort. What was once a helpful mechanism is now frequently a little out of hand. We may feel afraid that people may find out about whatever problem we have or even feel actual pangs of fear if you don’t have the right shoes or car or hairstyle. These feelings can get so out of control that people turn to addictive behaviors that will temporarily numb the pain, not just hard drugs, but compulsive behaviors, eating disorders, bad temperament, you name it.
Actually, a lot of gossiping is rooted in an individual’s own internal discomfort with the way in which they themselves don’t feel they fit in to what is expected of them from the group. Bullying or gossiping about someone else so that this other person is actively ostracized somehow from the group can serve as a temporary distraction from that individual’s own problems, real or perceived.
I’ve witnessed this first hand in many communities where how much money you have is how you are assessed to be of value. A lot of people masking their lack of wealth will peacock their false wealth, claiming to be cousins with someone very wealthy, and then go on to be abusive towards more openly poor people in their community. The root of shame they feel turns them into abusive people towards others and themselves, even when they shouldn’t need to be so ashamed beneath the surface. We all want to be thriving, but the hard truth is most of us aren’t filthy rich. That’s just the reality of life for the bulk of the population. And yet so many people pretending to be part of the wealthiest class express contempt and disgust for the unemployed and struggling, and then in some instances do some volunteer work at a shelter once a year just to tell people how charitable they are. Raise your hand if you’ve met people like this and know what I’m talking about.
We all have our own problems. We’ve all experienced shame. But sometimes the community you are in is making you feel shame over something that is not your fault or isn’t actually shameful.
How many women are shamed for being exactly the age they are? Not for being immature, but for being exactly who they are. How many physical characteristics are shamed? Why would God (or whatever you want to call the powers that be) have made you like this if you weren’t supposed to be exactly the way you are? How many women undergo the knife out of self-shame? This is not a small thing to do to yourself. I’m not trying to shame anyone who has decided to get plastic surgery here, but let’s just realize that cutting yourself up and attaching plastic parts out of shame for not being this or that enough is a little extreme.
Living with your parents is so maligned in the US. It’s like a gross joke. But if you’re not a trust fund kid or things weren’t easy for you for whatever reason, making the decision to save money and live in the basement is shamed. Why? One in four people in my state don’t know where their next meal will come from and yet living with your parents is shameful. Can we get a little more real here, people.
If you’re parents were in perfect health and oh so loving and had steady jobs, then going after an advanced degree that gets you that high paying job right away is challenging but a real option for you. Reality check – that is not how most people’s lives are. If you won the lottery of life stop putting the ones who didn’t down. If you’re IQ is so damn high then solve problems for the people who are having a hard time instead of mocking them.
Fill in the blank shameful thing here too. Were you in an abusive relationship? Do you not want people to know? Sexually assaulted? Over weight? Under weight? Too this too that? Do you get angry at people who seem to have it all just because they have that one thing you feel inadequate about? Is that helping you and your community in any way at all. Usually not even slightly.
Too many grown-ass-adults with the mindset of a bratty teen in my opinion. Don’t let their weird values break your spirit. Connect to your people that will support you as you shift your life towards the better externally and internally.
Ok, that’s a little emo tangent there… but this book is amazing for anyone that is a human and wants to understand their own feelings of shame, how it holds you back, and how to overcome it to get your life on the right track and connect to others that may be experiencing similar forms of shame in their life and would like to help lift out of this unnecessary and crippling judginess that is so pervasive in especially American culture.
There are a lot of great takeaways and lessons inside.
One more takeaway I’ll mention is the importance of cultivating gratitude as a way of being. I work to keep a daily Love List which helps me stay authentically positive, not sugar coated. It helps me stay strong through the rough stuff and content with what I have in my life that is going right. It may seem like such a little thing but it really keeps my spirit stronger.
Let us know what your favorite part was or what shift your made in your own life. I’d love to hear.