Tuesday, November 24, 2020

On the Coffee Table: The Gifts of Imperfection

Title: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Author: Brené Brown
via Amazon

I last discussed Ms. Brown's work in regards to this bookThe Gifts of Imperfection goes back about eight years in her oeuvre.  Here she shares her ten guideposts on the power of Wholehearted living: "engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness."

For me, this is a read a little, think a lot, read a little, think a lot sort of book.  So, 126 pages took me longer than it probably should have.  I thought of doing a full, self-examination run down for all ten guideposts but that seems tedious.  Instead, I'll focus on strengths and areas for growth...


#1 Cultivating Authenticity:  In truth, I've never been good at pretending to be anything I'm not so I suppose this comes naturally by default.  I never took to acting, for instance, despite some early success, and I think this is why.  It just doesn't feel right.  Of course, as a teacher, I've come to see theater through a different lens.  You're not pretending to be someone else.  You're helping to tell a story.  But that's for another time...

I especially like middle age in this regard.  I am who I am.  All need to prove I am anything else is comfortably in the past.

#7 Cultivating Play and Rest: I'm doing it right now.  There is no practical purpose for my blog.  It's just fun.  I began with visions of catapulting it into something more serious but that went by the wayside years ago and that's all to the good.  What's more, I use it to keep myself going with the other fun things in my life.  Easy win.

#10 Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance [her Oxford comma, not mine - let's be real clear on that!]:  See top of blog.  That said, I should dance more especially.  I wish I knew how.  I wish I'd learned when I was a kid.  No one tells you when you're an insecure boy of the considerable benefits of being a 24-year-old man who knows how to dance!  All kidding aside, the arts bring us closer to our essential humanity than anything else we do.  I claim it as a strength but that doesn't mean I shouldn't strive to do more.

Areas for Growth

#2 Cultivating Self-Compassion: I do struggle with feeling unworthy, both personally and professionally.  I've gotten better over the years but I can't deny that it's true.  I compare myself unfavorably to others when it is unhelpful to do so.

#6 Cultivating Creativity: You would think, in light of #10 above and what I do for a living, that creativity would come naturally.  But I am always plagued by self-doubt in creative endeavors and it is my perfectionism that gets in the way.  I'll never write anything as good as Salinger's baseball glove paragraph in Catcher in the Rye or McCartney's bridge to verse transition in "Here, There and Everywhere" so why bother?  I would never say that to a student or - Sweet Jesus! - my daughter but I say it to myself all the time.

#9 Cultivating Meaningful Work: Don't get me wrong.  I have a deeply meaningful job.  Teaching music is awesome, even in the age of COVID.  However, I have struggled for years to feel comfortable in the job.  It doesn't always feel like me.  I wonder at times if I'd have been happier picking a different career.  I will give myself credit: my efforts to find myself and my purpose within the work have been tremendously gratifying.  Still, it's a tough gig.  Of course, I also wonder if teaching's truly easy for anyone.  And maybe it shouldn't be.

Lots to think about.  I would like to read more along similar lines but maybe someone beyond Brown.  I like her a lot but I'm ready for a new voice.


  1. I have too many comments on this one, I think, so I'll just try to hit the highlights:

    I have always found teaching to be easy. At least, I have always found the teaching part of teaching to be easy. It comes really naturally to me, especially finding metaphors and analogies to with which to explain things. However, the non-teaching parts of teaching are things I have never been able to deal with for extended periods of times, mostly the bureaucracy involved with it, which is why I have never had it as my actual profession.

    Creativity is something that I find to be puzzling. I feel like, within myself, that I am not generally very creative; however, other people always find me to be very creative, even when, maybe especially when, I am not feeling like that. So I think creativity is just a construct. Or, maybe, a byproduct. Embrace being who you are, especially the differences, and other people see that as creativity when, for you, it is just being.
    Hmm... Maybe I should write a post about that.

    I also cannot dance. Even after taking lessons with my wife numerous times. She has found it so painful to watch me trying to do it correctly that it's completely unenjoyable for her. You might have better luck since you're a music person, but I just can't mesh the two things together.

    1. Dancing is something I envision taking up in our empty nest years (coming soon, in fact). I'm not sure my wife is especially interested, though.

  2. I dance, people stare :-) Learning to be more compassionate with myself is a growth area. Teaching is a tough gig- I have no musical talent (unless dancing sort of counts)

    1. I think it's a Mark Twain line... "Dance like no one is watching."