The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

A lack of sleep affects my concentration levels. I tend to procrastinate way too often too. Humans like to find meaning in what they do. The author is a researcher by nature and likes to hunt patterns. We all struggle with shame and fear. We are afraid of portraying our true selves. One should consider embracing their imperfections. How can one create a wholehearted life? To live a wholehearted life, we need to love ourselves. Embrace your tenderness and vulnerability. Everyone needs their fair share of heart work. The author worked on changing her life. Often, big events will force us to shake up and wake up. However, most people tend to ignore these signs. After the transformation, the author felt much better than ever before. She was finally comfortable in her own skin. She tried not to be bothered by what others thought of her. This was literally a spiritual awakening moment in her life. Loving yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself. Compassion and connection are important. Learn to cultivate and to let go.

Introduction: Wholehearted Living. Have the courage to say ‘I am enough’. Tell yourself you are worthy of love and belonging. Love with your whole heart. Courage, compassion and connection are the gifts of imperfection. The next chapter will focus on love. How can we cultivate resilience? There are a total of 10 guideposts for this journey. Love can have different definitions, but it is important to find a definition that has meaning to the individual. It helps to slow down and let it all go sometimes. Sometimes, meditation might be useful in this. If you keep forcing yourself to be productive, it can be extremely tiring. Everyone needs their own DIG Deep strategies. One needs to know what is currently getting in their way. Shame and fear are very powerful indeed.

Courage, Compassion and Connection. The key word is practice. Shame doesn’t like it when we are courageous and like to share our story with others. Do not bury your story. You want someone who can empathize with your story and not just sympathize with you. You want to share it with someone who has the right to hear it. I recounted my story to my sister. You can relate to someone if you reveal your vulnerabilities to them. Courage is a very important quality to have. Just ordinary courage will do. This means speaking honestly about how we are and our experiences. It is very brave to say things like ‘I don’t know’ in class. Be honest when you are excited over something and there is no need to downplay the importance of it. Learn to say things like ‘you’re not alone’ to others. Courage can be addictive. Be relaxed towards what actually scares you. Humans have the natural tendency to self-protect. Someone else must be willing to be the darkness with you. Learn to be more boundary-conscious and compassionate. Learn to accept yourself for who you are. We like to finger-point but we don’t like to be accountable for our mistakes. Can we learn to be kinder to others? Do not vent your anger openly in front of your colleagues. Shaming and blaming is completely not effective. Let people know what the consequences of their actions should be. You need to separate the person from the behavior when reprimanding them. Boundaries and accountability is the key. Connection can be very powerful indeed. Connection begets connection. Humans have been wired for connection. Technology can seemingly ‘connect’ people. It is okay to seek help sometimes. Be willing to tell your story and feel the pain of others.

Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough. You must feel that you are worthy of love and belonging. You are worthy of love now and don’t need to change yourself in any way. When was the last time you had a serious conversation with anyone? Belonging is essential too. Fitting in and belonging are completely different. Fitting in means you need to change yourself and seek acceptance. Everything is uncertain in life. Everyone has the need for love and belonging. We are all wired to love. An absence of love might lead to suffering. Belonging is something that is larger than us. Self-love means respecting yourself and treating others with respect. Learn to accept your imperfections. We often spend the bulk of our life trying to gain approval from others. Learn to practice love and belonging. Your behavior is more important than what you say. Professing and practicing love can be very different indeed. Some people might attempt to love their children more than themselves. Sometimes, they might smoke excessively, resulting in ill health. What is holding you back from loving fully?

The Things that Get in the Way. I was terrified when I was asked to speak at a TED talk. My adviser encouraged me to speak from my heart instead of my head. I needed to keep things real and honest. I was a wreck as I had no clue what I was going to say. I was afraid I would ruin everything. I was a shame researcher. Back then, I was always self-conscious and was worried about what others would think about me. Sharing your anxieties with others will make you less nervous. If you own your story, you will feel empowered and find your own voice. Thankfully, the TED talk experience went well. Having a conversation about anxieties is the key. Almost all of us know how to eat, exercise and spend well. However, we do not talk about the things that get in our way. When we chase for approval, we often feel that we are not good enough. Shame is universal and we all have it. The less we talk about it, the more it controls us. Even though it is easier to quiet, you mustn’t be. We all have the ability to develop shame resilience. The key to share experiences with others. There is a difference between shame and guilt. Shame is basically communicating to others that ‘I am bad’. Guilt has a more positive effect than shame. Shame can sneak up on you if you are not aware. It takes massive courage to acknowledge that you are hurt. Most deal with shame by withdrawing from it and hiding it from others. It is important to recognize that you need time to build shame resilience. Cry if you must. If you have someone to share your stories with, you are incredibly blessed.

We don’t need love and belonging and story-catching from everyone in our lives, but we need it from at least one person. – Brene Brown

Cultivating Authenticity. Authenticity is a conscious choice after all. It made seem difficult to achieve from afar. It is about letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. It demands wholehearted living. Some perceive authenticity as selfish or narcissistic. There is a fine line between being honest and making others feel uncomfortable. There is a stigma about women to stay small, quiet and to play it safe. Men should work hard and stop feeling. Cruelty is cheap and it is very easy to criticize someone. It is important to dig deep. Always be deliberate in your actions. Get inspired by famous people who share their work and opinions.

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you want. – Margaret Young

Sacrificing who we are for the sake of what other people think just isn’t worth it. – Brene Brown

Cultivating Self-Compassion. Perfectionism and shame are closely linked. If you don’t claim shame, it claims you. Perfectionism is about trying to earn approval from others. It is self-destructive in nature. There is no such thing as being perfect. It is important to develop self-compassion. The author often used to engage in perfectionism self-talk. There are three elements to self-compassion. They are self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. Mindfulness is basically not over-identifying with thoughts and feelings. Perfectionism can be infectious in nature and we can pass it on to others. The same applies with compassion.

Cultivating a Resilient Spirit. It is the ability to overcome adversity. How do people cope with stress and overcome them? They are usually resourceful and want to seek help. They have good social support available and they are connected with others. Practicing spirituality has its benefits. Religion can indeed provide strength. One must see the importance of hope and be critically aware. Hope is a cognitive process. It is important to believe in yourself. Often when people come upon something difficult, they give up or want to stop trying. One needs to develop some form of perseverance and determination. Powerlessness means that you do not feel that things will change. Learn to practice critical awareness. We are all influenced and exposed by the media. Is what I’m seeing real? Advertisements often give you an image of what who you should be. People tend to numb both positive and negative feelings. Often, this means engaging in vices to solve our problems. Do not spend your life outrunning vulnerability and uncertainty. Does drinking affect your authenticity? Are you using it to escape from reality? There is no such thing as selective emotional numbing. Spirituality is a component of resilience. Connection is at the heart of spirituality.

Cultivating Gratitude and Joy. Were all joyful people grateful people? Yes. They were described as spiritual practices. Gratitude requires constant practice. I have a yoga attitude. Keep gratitude journals and do meditations. Joy is more long lasting than happiness and has a lot to do with hope and faith. Happiness is often tied to circumstances while joy is tied to gratitude. We need both happiness and joy in our lives. ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin is certainly a good read. Joy can often come during ordinary moments. Learn to acknowledge how grateful you are. Transform vulnerability and transform it into gratitude. Do not always feel that you are lacking something in your life. Learn to choose a mindset of sufficiency. It is declaration to yourself that you know that there is enough. The most precious memories are forged from ordinary moments.

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. – Marianna Williamson

Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith. How can you cultivate intuition and trust faith? It is a natural impulse. Learn to follow your instincts. We often look for assurances from others. We often do not trust our own instinct because it is too uncertain. Faith and reason are not natural enemies. We need both to make meaning in this world. Faith is essential in this world. Learn to let go of certainty. Read the serenity prayer to give yourself strength.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. – Serenity Prayer

Cultivating Creativity. My childhood involved a lot of creativity. I loved to sew and to make handicrafts. After I was 10, I stopped creating. Things changed once we shifted. We often compare with other families and their traditions. We want to be better than everyone else. Comparison is really the thief of happiness. Most people focus on achieving instead of practicing their craft or focusing on creativity. There is no such thing as creative or non-creative people. If you repress your creativity, it might come back to haunt you. If you want to make a unique contribution to the world, you need to be creative about it. Practising your craft means you are cultivating meaning. You are beautiful and you have to believe that. It is natural to compare. Therefore, you have to be constantly aware that you not want to keep doing that. Creativity is not only for the luxury or those with spare time. Spend some time with like-minded individuals. Take a class and get going. Try something different and step outside your comfort zone.

Cultivating Play and Rest. Exhaustion is not a status symbol. Play is a component of wholehearted living. Play shapes our brain in unique ways. It helps us foster empathy and is at the heart of innovation. It is essential for good functioning. It is not always about productivity all the time. Play should not be seen as a waste of time. You can become depressed if you don’t play enough. Our body also needs rest and the importance of this cannot be underestimated. Lack of sleep is associated with many health problems. We need to recognize that we are stressed and need to rest. You have to cultivate sleep and play. More downtime is great once in a while. I choose to play and rest. Write down the ingredients for joy and meaning.

Yet, somehow many of us still believe that exhaustion is a status symbol of hard work and that sleep is a luxury. The result is that we are so very tired. – Brene Brown

Cultivating Calm and Stillness. Let go of your anxieties and lifestyle. There was a point when I felt dizzy and felt like fainting. Anxiety was a constant in my life. I need to be less anxious. Do not let it become your lifestyle. Calm is to manage emotional reactivity. These are the people who can bring perspective to complicated situations. Being calm can be practiced. The trick is to be slow to respond after you think. Think about things once more. Breathing is the best place to start. Stillness is less complicated than calm. My mind is rarely clear. Stillness is about creating a clearing and opening up emotionally. It requires constant practice. You need to get deliberate. Exercise more and drink less caffeine. Walking and swimming will do wonders for you. Learn to get inspired. You need to find something that works for you.

Cultivating Meaningful Work. Let go of self-doubt. Connections can be elusive in nature. Learn to engage in meaningful work. Everything is linked to meaningful work. Everyone has gifts and talents and should share them with the world. This helps to create a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. If you don’t use your gifts, we struggle. You will tend to feel empty and disappointed. Doing meaningful work requires commitment and sacrifice. What is meaningful is obviously subjective. It is personal and unique to the individual. Do not doubt yourself and your talents. You mustn’t ignore the gremlins. Instead, you must work harder. We struggle to define who we are in an honest way. We often get asked ‘what do you do?’ The trick is not to be defined by a single career. Introduce yourself as your career + your side hobby. Get inspired. There are three criteria to a good job. They are complexity of work, autonomy and a relationship between effort and work. Get going. Ask what brings meaning to you?

Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance. We can easily overlook the importance of laughter and songs. We all want to share our joy. They help to create an emotional connection. Music has the ability to stir up memories and emotions too. It offers connection as well. Dancing is also an important form of self-expression. Dancing has always been in our DNA. There is always a need to be in control and to be cool. There is no need to be self-conscious. There is no need to be seen as cool by others. Do not constantly betray yourself. Life is too precious to pretend that we are cool. Create themed playlists in your iPod.

Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth. – Mark Twain

Final Thoughts. Self-help books can only do that much. Should you let go of how you feel? Learn to cultivate the courage to live. The author never regretted the time used during the Spiritual Awakening. Every individual matters and so do their stories. Be afraid and learn to be alive.

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Tao Te Ching (道德经) by Lao Tzu

It consists of 81 short poems in traditional Chinese. It is known as ‘The Book of the Way’. It is a book of deep wisdom on the art of living. From his teachings, Lao Tzu did care about society. Non-action is the purest and most effective form of action. The doer can vanish completely from the deed. He emphasises a lot on softness. Give up to Tao and be compassionate. The more solitary you are, the more compassionate you can build and better you can distinguish good from evil. It is a deeply moral teaching. Evil isn’t a force, but simply seen as something opaque. The author has interacted with the actual Zen masters. The author attempts to translate his mind.

Only the unnameable is eternally real. Free yourself from desire. Mystery and manifestations arise from darkness.

Opposites support each other, for instance, difficult and easy. The key is let things come and go. Do not possess and expect. Then your work will last forever.

When people see things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.  – Lao Tzu

Do not do things excessively. Weaken your ambition and toughen your resolve. Practice the art of non-doing. Lose yourself.

Tao is a well that can never be used up and is filled with infinite possibilities.

Tao is not biased and welcomes everyone. Use it, but do not talk of it, in order to understand it better.

Tao is always present inside you and you can use it any way you wish.

It is infinite because it has no desires and eternal because it has never been born, and thus cannot die. Detach yourself.

Be contented. Be yourself and don’t compare or compete with others. Others will start to respect you.

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. – Lao Tzu

Do your work and take a step back.

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. – Lao Tzu

Be original. Keep supple. Cleanse your vision. Love others without your imposing your views. Deal with only the vital matters. Step back from your own mind.

Work with being, but non-being is what we use.

Trust your inner vision. Keep your heart open.

Success is as dangerous as failure as your position is precarious. Keep your feet grounded. Hope and fear are just thoughts of our mind.

Realize where you come from and that is the key to wisdom.

The master welcomes everything and is incredibly patient. Wait for the situation to change.

Empty your mind of everything. Understand yourself. Everything is serene at the source.

There is no need to talk as a master. Act by example instead. Trust your people.

Filial piety emerges when there is no peace in the family. Patriotism is born when the country is in chaos.

Throw away holiness and wisdom, morality and justice, industry and profit, and people will do fine.

Do not want what others want. I am expressionless. I possess nothing and drift around. I am different from the others.

Tao doesn’t cling to ideas. Let the light in. I see the Tao in myself.

Live by Tao, and you can be true to yourself.

Because the Master doesn’t display himself, people can see the light. Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words. Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him. Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds. – Lao Tzu

Open yourself completely to experiences and be honest with them and how they make you feel.

Just do your job and let it go.

The beginning of the Universe can be known as Tao. It flows through everything. Man follows the Earth, Earth follows the Universe. The Universe follows Tao. Tao follows itself.

Do not allow yourself to be blown to and fro. Stay firm.

Embody the light.

A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is. – Lao Tzu

Be a pattern for the world. Accept the world as it is.

You can’t improve the world. See things as they are. Stand in the centre of the circle.

There is a time for being ahead, a time for being behind; a time for being in motion, a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous, a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe, a time for being in danger. – Lao Tzu

Do not dominate events and understand that the Universe is out of control. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.

Peace is the highest value. How can you be content once peace is shattered? Rejoice in victory. Do not sadistic.

Know when institutions should stop and understand that names are provisional.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich. If you stay in the centre and embrace death with your whole heart, you will endure forever. – Lao Tzu

Be humble and do not be aware that you’re great.

When you grasp Tao, you will have peace in your heart. When you look for it, there’s nothing to see.

Have subtle perception of the way things are. Let your workings be a mystery, just show people the result.

Centre yourself in Tao and the world will be transformed. Have no desire and peace will be abounded.

Don’t try to be powerful. The Master has no will of his own. He only dwells in reality.

The Master does nothing, yet he leaves nothing undone. The ordinary man is always doing things, yet many more are left to be done. – Lao Tzu

View the world with compassion. Understand the whole.

Return and yield. All things are born of being. Being is born of non-being.

It is seemingly difficult to locate Tao. However, it does complete everything.

Male and female combination leads to harmony. Embrace your loneliness and be at peace with the Universe.

Non-action has huge value in this world. Teach with words is the Master’s way.

If you look to others for fulfilment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

Allow things to happen and let Tao speak for itself.

See through your fears. Fear is an illusion. Do not prepare to defend yourself. Have no enemies.

The Master arrives without leaving. The more you know, the less you understand.

In Tao, things are dropped and non-action is practised. Let things go along by nature’s flow.

In Tao, it trusts everyone. Everyone is treated and taken care by Tao like children.

Give yourself up to the moment. Hold nothing back. Be ready for death.

Be spontaneous. Tao comforts and nourishes everyone.

If you close your mind in judgments and traffic with desires, your heart will be troubled. If you keep your mind from judging and aren’t led by the senses, your heart will find peace. – Lao Tzu

When you are extravagant or greedy, you are not being in line with Tao.

Look inside yourself and if you believe in Tao, you will prosper much.

Never expect anything and you won’t be disappointed. Thus, your spirit will never grow old.

Be like the Tao and give yourself up continually.

Stop trying to control. The more rules you have, the larger it will backfire. Let go of religion, economics and the law.

Do not impose your will, but still be pointed in a certain direction.

Be a moderate man and make sure of whatever that comes your way. Let go and care for others.

Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear itself.

Do not meddle in the affairs of others and see those who point out your faults as being very benevolent.

Offer to teach your new leader, Tao. Tao will forgive your mistakes.

Confront the difficult while it is easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small steps.

Nip danger in the bud and prevent it from escalating. Remain calm as a Master.

By non-knowing, you will not be stubborn and become more open to experiences.

If you want to lead, you must know how to follow. Place yourself below others. Do not compete with anyone.

I only teach 3 things: simplicity, patience and compassion. Be compassionate towards yourself.

The best businessmen only compete in the business of play. Follow the will of others.

Observe before moving. Do not underestimate your enemy. Victory will go to the one that yields first.

If you want to know Tao, look inside your heart.

The Master is a physician who heals herself of everything. She is whole again.

The Master steps back so that people won’t be confused. They have nothing to learn.

Tao doesn’t let a thing slip and overcomes without competing. It is constantly at ease.

All things change. Don’t cling on to one too tightly. The future can’t be controlled. Go with the flow.

Trust the common folks and leave them alone.

Whoever is stiff and inflexible is a discipline of death. Be soft and yielding.

The master can keep giving without fear.

Remain serene even when upset. Do not allow evil to enter your heart. Life is paradoxical.

Treat failure as an opportunity. Correct the mistakes yourself and do not expect things from others.

A master doesn’t need to travel. He is content at home and takes delight in everyday activities.

Wise men don’t have to prove anything. Do not dominate or force others.

The master has no possessions. The more he does for others, the happier he is. The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is. – Lao Tzu

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A Review of ‘BE in the Moment by Iris Tan’

Book Review

Why you should read the book?

Iris Tan, 36, owns her own marketing/advertising firm. In her early 30s, she found her life calling of helping others lead a meaningful life and follow their passion. Since then, she has attended many workshops on self-improvement and coaching. Aside from this, many other institutions have benefitted from her counselling services and through the workshops that she conducted.

Not many have the courage to continue questioning their lives to see whether they are on track to meet their life’s goals. It is inspiring and encouraging to see Iris find a new direction in life and pursue it with fervour. Her calling of wanting to help others pursue their dreams is remarkable and noble in nature. Sometimes, a big event in your life will trigger a change in your goals/lifestyle. Ultimately, one needs to question one’s life meaning and seek the answers on your own. Her behaviour and actions are consistent with her life’s values and this is something that others can learn from.

The poems cover many of life’s important areas and through them; Iris subtly gives advice on how one’s life should be led. The poems may be vague in nature but that leaves the reader some room for interpretation. Some of her experiences are also covered in the book, most notably her travel journeys to Tuscany and Venice. Iris also gives a very honest and unpretentious account of how she views life in general.

Who is this book meant for?

This book can be appreciated by any age group and is suitable for children to read. It is useful as a reminder of what matters in life and can spur some degree of self-reflection in the reader. It was also meant as a dedication to her loved ones and how appreciative she is over her life. Readers from all walks of age will be able to enjoy this book of poems.

What is the book like?

This book is a collection of short poems (few stanzas long) across the 7 key topics of Travel; Spirituality; Hope; Encouragement; Nature; Love; Moment. It is written in a simple form, with minimal use of complex adjectives or vocabulary. Being easily comprehensible, the book can appeal to the general public.

The illustrations are also highly impressive and complement the poems perfectly. They are drawn in black felt pen. Some of them are also dreamy and imaginative in nature. This fits seamlessly with the settings depicted in the poems. Many of the illustrations are aesthetically attractive and will appeal to children.

Iris attempts to use both repetition of words and rhythmic themes to construct the poems. For instance from the following passage ‘There are many angels by my side. Whenever my troubles are in sight, they will send me beautiful light….If only you can join their flight, your life journey will be a glittering jolly ride.’ – Iris Tan. It is clear that last words of each stanza rhyme with one another.

Repetition of the word ‘Hope’ can be witnessed in the following passage: ‘Hope, Hope and Hope, dance around with Hope. When you are down with despair, only hope can bounce you back. Whether you are sick or poor, only Hope can give you the strength to live….’ Iris Tan.

What can I learn from the book?

There is a great emphasis on the importance of touching others’ lives and the link between that and leading a meaningful life. This is also consistent with many self-help books on the need to live beyond oneself and to give back to others. Another core theme is to live and be mindful of your present settings. Be fully aware of the present and allow the thoughts to flow through it, without judging them.

The book explores the theme of spirituality and how filling your heart with warmth and compassion can aid your progress as an individual. Belief in a higher being might give you the required strength to push on when the times get tough.

In a hectic city like Singapore, Iris laments on the fast paced nature of life and the fact that people overlook compassion and happiness because of the nature of how things are. She encourages others to slow down in order to appreciate the finer beauties of their surroundings.

Hope is what keeps your dreams alive. It is important to dream and follow your heart. Be honest in your dealings with people and in your writing. Learning to encourage oneself is also of paramount importance. The theme of love, togetherness and gratitude is ever present throughout the book. Readers can note the value of close friendships and the joy it can bring.

What is this book similar to?

Some of the lessons that can be drawn from this book are similar to ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. The style of illustrations and the dispensing of nuggets of wisdom also closely model Jimmy Liao’s set of picture books (Taiwanese picture book writer and illustrator). However, his picture books are usually darker, where the characters often suffer from loneliness.

picture be in the moment