Friday, January 31, 2014

The Gifts of Imperfection: My Journey to Embracing my own Imperfections

Brene Brown (pronounced Brenay) is a shame researcher. I had never heard of her until last summer when her name kept coming up. I listen to a podcast about digital scrapbooking called the Digishow, and they were doing a series discussion on a book called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. They were gushing about her, her other books, her TED talks, etc. I went to check out her TED talk, and I realized that I had seen this woman before, I had even watched her TED talk but at the time, it hadn't stuck. This time, I listened intently to the podcast hosts going on and on about her messages in her book. I could slightly relate, enough to go out and purchase the kindle version of the book. I started reading it, but it was over my head. Well, no, it was just too much information and I was in the midst of analyzing data for my thesis at the time.

So, what is a shame researcher? Her background is in Social Work, and she is a professor, but her research relates to people and how they handle shame or, better yet, how they get past shame to live their lives more fully and deal with their loved ones (and strangers) in a more authentic way. She studies people who can do this well so she can tell the stories to the rest of us.

I didn't finish reading the book Daring Greatly at the time, but Brene Brown's name and her work was still in the back of my mind, and I was intending to read more about it after my thesis was completed. Sure enough, in October, I received an invitation in my email inbox for an Oprah Class that would be taught by Brene Brown. First off, I didn't know that Oprah offers online classes (for self-help and development) on her web site, and I had no idea that Brene's work was known and admired by so many people...enough to make Oprah want to host a class about it. So, I pondered signing up for it, but I was intimidated by the fact that an art journal would be involved. I didn't know how to make an art journal, and at the time, I didn't know that Brene would teach not only "what" to journal about, but also "how" to create pages for the art journal. I also hesitated to take on something new...a 12-week intensive on-line course, just after completing my thesis? No thank you. Instead, I found a self-paced art journaling course and signed up for that instead. I made several pages before I realized it was easy, and I kind of regretted not signing up for Brene's course.

Then, in January, I received another email from Oprah. (Why was I getting emails from Oprah suddenly? I had never received them in the past!) This time, Brene was announcing that her first class was SO SUCCESSFUL and SO LIFE-CHANGING for so many, that she had designed a new class, which would start in April. But, before that, she wanted to give people a 2nd chance, in case they missed the first offering last fall, to take the first class before April, and so it would be offered again starting in...gasp!...3 days. Oh, Oprah, you slay me with your marketing techniques. But it works! I signed up immediately, and so did my friend Louise, and so did another friend, Laura. I was so excited to have this 2nd chance and also to be sharing it with friends.

So, the class started, and it is not as intensive as I imagined it would be, but it is really interesting and thought-provoking. It's also hard to imagine sharing it all on my blog, but I don't mind summarizing what I have done and learned so far.

Week 1

We had to read the first half of her book, "Give of Imperfections" and make a few pages in our art journals. It is fascinating to read about her own experiences, but also to watch the how-to videos because she is a very good story-teller. Her experiences ring true for me. How we try to appear perfect to others, but really, we are so far from perfect and we try to hide away our faults. How it's okay to be more honest with people and admit when we have done something wrong. How to be more forgiving of others because we need to acknowledge that everyone is imperfect and most people are hiding behind this mirage of perfection, just like us. Well, I am getting off on a tangent here. Following are some photos of my art journal:

First, we were to give ourselves permission to do several things that might be hard for us to do. I left room to add more later. We were supposed to choose one to put up on the class's web site. I chose "to tell my real feelings to people" because, honestly, that is hardest for me. I found that this month, I worked hard to be more honest with people and not worry so much about how they would react and what they would say about  me or think of me. In general, I got a positive and supportive reaction from people.
  • to say no
  • to forget
  • to fall behind
  • to cry
  • to make mistakes
  • to tell my real feelings to people
  • to ask for help
Then, we were supposed to write, in permanent marker, on our hands the vow, "I am imperfect and I am enough." But, I misunderstood and wrote "I am more than enough" instead and I also made my art journal page with it. We were supposed to upload these photos to the web site, and that is when I realized that I had written the wrong "quote" on my hand, so I RE-DID it. Yup, still learning here. Still on a journey. Still worried about making mistakes. (By the way, notice the bracelet. More on that later.)

 The third journal assignment (yes, Week 1 was intense) was to write a list of our heart people and make this heart-themed journal page. Heart People are those whom you can share anything with and you don't have to worry about their evaluation of you. They will love you unconditionally. I realized that my husband is not one of those "heart people" for me. I still worry and fret over what he will think of me if I make a mistake and that he will just walk away when he has had enough. However, if anyone knows my faults and what my house really looks like, it is HIM. And, he is still here. And, honestly, our relationship took a turn for the better last fall, so I can sense myself trusting him more and letting him see me (no, really see me) more than ever before. So, perhaps one day he will be added to this list. I really hope so.

I also realized that there was someone I really wanted to (and expected to) put on the list but I could not because I had kept something from her since last summer. I had had plenty of chances to tell her about it, but I had only told two people (my other heart people) immediately when it happened, but I had not told her. I was afraid that on that point, she would get judgy. But, the thing was, I tell her EVERYTHING ELSE. Why couldn't I share this one thing with her? So, I sent her a private message and confessed everything to her, and told her that I could add her to the list now. She said, "Thank you for telling me. You were already on my list." She wasn't judgy about it either.

 At the end of the week, Brene puts forth three questions or small tasks that we can either just answer inside our heads or we can journal about them. I chose to journal about them in my art journal, so here are the pages from the "Get Inspired, Get Deliberate, Get Going" task. One thing I decided, then and there, was to blog about my experiences with this class and the others that I am taking. I don't know how many people read and feel inspired by my blog posts, but for me, it is great record of my journey and will most likely be printed into a book for myself in the future. (I use Blurb or Blog to Books once in a while to print my blogs into book form.)And, if people read it and feel something, that is great too.

Since this post is getting long, and it's a lot to digest, I'll save the 2nd week for next time. Cheers to your imperfections. Embrace them because its what adds to your beauty and your likeability. If everyone were perfect, what a boring world this would be.

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