The Courage to be Imperfect

I recently discovered Brene Brown, a researcher storyteller that gave a Ted Talk  on vulnerability and shame, courage and imperfection, that is so extraordinary I have since watched four times. It’s had 12+ million views, if that helps convince you to watch it.

The holidays are the perfect time to talk about being imperfect, are they not?

There are enormous expectations on each of us. Expectations about relationships, about our bodies, about our hostessing skills, about our careers, our grades, our accomplishments. These often take on the form of “shoulds”. I should be married by now or further along in my career. I shouldn’t be so tired, because after all, she does more than me. “Shoulds” steal our joy because we allow ourselves to be defined by what everyone else thinks we should be doing.

Why do we care so much about what everyone else is doing? We’ll get to this.

Brene spent six years interviewing people and collecting their stories. She heard every story imaginable and made a profound discovery. Thousands of people with every story imaginable could roughly be divided into two categories.

One: people with strong sense of love and belonging.

Two: people without a strong sense of love and belonging.

Do you know what caused the distinction between the two categories? It wasn’t terrible childhoods, abuse, neglect, or trauma. It wasn’t father wounds or the absence thereof. The only thing that separated the two groups of people was one characteristic: self-worth.

People with a strong sense of love and belonging simply believed they were worthy of love and belonging. And people without a strong sense of love and belonging lived with a deep sense of unworthiness.

Do you hear how powerful that is? We care what everyone else is doing and thinks we “should” do because we want love and belonging.

The word courage originally meant, “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”

When I think of courage, I picture a mighty warrior headed off to battle not a friend sitting down and telling me she fears she’ll drive away every man that comes close. Courage elicits imagery of people gritting their teeth and shaking their fists in the face of evil, not telling someone our whole story, including the things we’d like to forget.

So may you have the courage this holiday season to be imperfect. To tell your whole story, knowing deep in your heart that you are worth loving. For in this, you will be able to rest, knowing you are enough.

Join me in reading Brene’s books this holiday, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
 and Daring Greatly .

What sort of expectations do you try to live up to? Will you have the courage to be imperfect?

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5 Responses to “The Courage to be Imperfect”
  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Ruthie,
    This is incredibly timely. I’m the single mother of two children and I had an excruciatingly tough day with my kids this past weekend. I followed up with a friend, trying to sort through the “whys” of what transpired. I confessed that deep under it all I fear that no man will be able to see me on a day like that and still love me; to an extent I’m ashamed of what the dysfunction of my past has rendered in my present. I’ve learned so much vulnerability in my other relationships, but the risk inherent to romance terrifies me. Thank you for sharing this – I’ve actually seen it previously, so this second viewing I take as God’s reminder to seek healing, wholeness, and unconditional acceptance in Him. I am struggling to believe He will equip a man to love me, and my children, in all my/our imperfection. For me it is a greater act of vulnerability to receive love than to give it, as the receiving requires a relinquishment of control.
    All the best to you and your husband.

  2. Mickey says:

    Great piece.

    I’m an undergraduate law professor now, but many years ago I was a high school dropout. I remember the hopelessness of sitting in class after class, day after day, knowing that nothing positive would ever happen. Added to that was the fact that my dad was an honor student and my mom was the salutatorian of her graduating class, so they certainly couldn’t relate to the agony I was going through. I also remember how mortified my mom was when I told her how hopeless I felt and how I just didn’t look forward to going to class.

    To this day, I get a kick out of my students’ responses when I mention in class that I’m a high school dropout. This is especially the case when they try to reconcile the person they see at the front of the room with the same person who was such a miserable failure years before. I also tell my students that if I can recover from the ultimate academic nightmare, then there is nothing that they can’t do, either.

    Anyway, to come back from all that to graduate from college, grad school, & law school and have a teaching career that I enjoy is truly a blessing from God. He really did return beauty for my ashes.

  3. I have always loved Brene Brown. To me, life is often like watching a Hero in a movie. It’s easy to sit from the comfort of the movie theatre, sipping on Diet coke and gorging on popcorn. Viewing the onscreen adventures is super exciting and thrilling. But watching the hero, and being the hero, are two different things. Being the hero means facing daunting demons – taking paths when you’re not sure if a crazy dragon is going to burn you up. You might not make it! But when you do, you are so proud and your character forever changes. That’s the same with being vulnerable. It’s messy and sticky and irritates people to know end – mostly ourselves – but if we can see our lives as one giant movie rather than get stuck in the muck of individual scenes, what a fun day we’ll have in heaven watching the credits roll by!

  4. Olaide says:

    Amazing … Any time I am led to your blog, there is always a word for me.

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