Inspiring Quotes from Brene Brown's book "The Gifts of Imperfection"

Have you read this book yet? The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown? I can't recommend it enough if you have any struggles around vulnerability, worthiness, authenticity, shame, doubt, or "shoulds" in life. Her approach is a beautiful mix of academic research, personal insights, and humor. Here are some of my favorite inspiring quotes from her book:

“Courage sounds great, but we need to talk about how it requires us to let go of what other people think, and for most of us, that’s scary.” (5)

“Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story.” (10)

“I realized that only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their worthiness.” (23)

“The majority of shame researchers and clinicians agree that the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the differences between 'I am bad' and 'I did something bad.'” (41)

“It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.” (61)

“But this work has forced me to see that it’s our fear of the unknown and our fear of being wrong that create most of our conflict and anxiety.” (90)

“We convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough and keep moving, reality won’t be able to keep up.” (108)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexologist, Sexuality & Mindfulness Speaker

Do you know HOW to be a good friend?

Are you the kind of friend, partner, or family member who others turn to, to share a story about how they felt ashamed? What I mean is, do you provide a sounding board of understanding and compassion when a loved one feels humilated, shamed, or embarrassed? Or does your reaction to their shame further accentuate their pain and discomfort? This can be a tough situation to know how to respond to properly, because we can feel very uncomfortable ourselves.

Consider this situation: a close friend or relationship partner calls to tell you about how their boss talked down to them during a meeting and they started crying. They tell you that they feel humilated by how their boss spoke to them in front of others and feel ashamed that they cried publicly. Brene Brown, in her wonderful book, The Gifts of Imperfection, writes about six ways that are NOT supportive responses. See if you find yourself in here:

1. The friend who hears the story and actually feels shame for you. She gasps and confirms how horrified you should be. Then there is awkward silence. Then you have to make her feel better.

2. The friend who responds with sympathy (I feel so sorry for you) rather than empathy (I get it, I feel with you, and I've been there)....

3. The friend who needs you to the pillar of worthiness and authenticity. She can't help because she's too disappointed in your imperfections. You've let her down.

4. The friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that she scolds you: "How did you let this happen? What were you thinking?" Or she looks for someone to blame: "Who was that guy? We'll kick his ass."

5. The friend who is all about making it better and, out of her own discomfort, refuses to acknowledge that you can actually be 'crazy' and make terrible choices: "You're exaggerating. It's wasn't that bad. You rock. You're perfect. Everyone loves you."

6. The friend who confuses "connection" with the opportunity to one-up you. "That's nothing. Listen to what happened to me one time!"

Did you recogize yourself in any of these? Or did you think of a loved one with whom you shared a shameful story, only to have them respond in such a way that wasn't comforting? It's an act of courage when we share an embarrassing story, or when someone shares with us, but few of us learn how to provide a space of compassion and support. Brene Brown writes that speaking out about shameful experiences keeps them from growing and becoming even worse inside of us.

So what's the best way to respond? Listen deeply. Express empathy. Don't blame the person but also don't try to fix the situation. Make it clear that you are standing with them and let them talk. It may require heightened awareness to manage your response, but I believe it's worth the effort.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexologist, Sexuality & Relationship Speaker