Imperfect is the New Perfect #3: Vulnerability, Shame and Courage


Masked (Photo credit: .Andi.)

When social work researcher BrenĂ© Brown discovered the crucial importance of vulnerability for human wellbeing and connection, she had a breakdown. Well, she says in her 2010 TEDx talk, ‘I call it a breakdown, my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening.’

She was a perfectionist who wanted to clean up messes of all kinds. She was in research so she could ‘control and predict’ (and get straight As).

Then she realised what her research was revealing. That vulnerability – ugh, what a yucky feeling! – was actually a good thing. A necessary thing. And that pretending to be perfect wasn’t going to work anymore. Cue the ‘spiritual awakening.’

Sound familiar? Or really not?

You may like to watch the whole TEDx talk below (it’s about twenty minutes long). It’s had 6,672,421 views as I write this.

Brené Brown then gave a follow-up at TED this year, which you can find here. It includes some thoughtful reflection on the harmful messages we send each other about what men and women have to be like.

She’s also written several books, and her subtitles were like a punch in the guts for this perfectionist:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

As I was watching the two videos, I wrote quite a few notes. I have twenty-odd lines that really struck me (and then I realised there are transcripts of all the TED talks on their site: handy!). Here’s one from each talk:

[What we need to communicate to our kids:] ‘You’re imperfect, you’re wired for struggle and you’re worthy of love and belonging’ (2010 TEDx)

‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.’ (2012 TED)

I’d love to hear in the comments what strikes you most, and why.

BrenĂ© Brown’s basic message – that we need to be vulnerable with each other in order to find wholeness and love, in ourselves and in community – resonates with me particularly in this season of my life.

I have been astonished at the kindness and connection that has flowed from my own experiments in vulnerability on this blog.

A dozen or so women have got in touch privately to share their past or present experiences of postnatal depression. Many friends, near and far, have offered kind words and kind actions of support – things they wouldn’t have known to offer if I hadn’t exposed our need. BrenĂ© Brown’s right. Vulnerability leads to connection, as Walter Langley knew.

Never Morning Wore to Evening but Some Heart Did Break, Walter Langley

We hunger for deep connection, even if we don’t know how to build it. My posts telling my own story of PND are all in the Sacraparental top ten. Ahead of even the Muppets! And it’s not only the sob story stuff we like sharing. The second most viewed post is about how Brilliant and Amazing we all are.

Keep up the good work, team.

I see from BrenĂ© Brown’s website that her recent book, Daring Greatly, addresses parenting, among other things. I’m considering ordering the book (there’s only so much room in my brain for such reading at the moment), but in the meantime, there’s a cheat sheet here, called the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.

And if, like me, you do love a good list, you might like to see her recommended books (on parenting, creativity, all sorts) and other bits and pieces here. The mother-daughter book club reading list (no need to be either to enjoy these, by the looks!) particularly took my fancy.

This is part of an occasional series. You might like to catch up on the other posts here:

Imperfect is the New Perfect #1
Imperfect is the New Perfect #2: Born Perfect, on how perfectionism shows up in our parenting

If you’re newish to Sacraparental, you might like to check out the Sacraparental Facebook feed, with daily links and resources, my Twitter feed and my Pinterest boards, especially the topical Be Kind to Yourself.

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0 comments on “Imperfect is the New Perfect #3: Vulnerability, Shame and Courage”

  1. Alex Reply

    Those subtitles really do hit hard, don’t they? I think the one that resonates (stings?) most for me is that middle one: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I’m working on it. It’s a long haul.

    Another blog I read had a piece yesterday on a topic that feels related (possibly tangentially) but I’m struggling to articulate how (I need more caffeine!). Hope you don’t mind if I just copy a link to it here in case you (or other readers) are interested:

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Great link, thanks, Alex, and of course I don’t mind!

      Your links have been very well-clicked, actually 🙂

      I’d add to that subtitle: And Actually, Who You Are is More Awesome than You Realise.

  2. Pingback: Single #6: Three Things I’ve Learned [Guest] | Sacraparental

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