Although we are technically still in autumn…
The recent drop in temperature has reinforced the fact that ‘winter is coming’ (Game of Thrones reference unavoidable!) Darkening days can be depressing; in fact, the NHS estimates that one in 15 people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The affliction’s fitting acronym reveals the mood of many people in late November.
As we leave summer and sunshine behind, daily life can seem a struggle. Long hours get harder, work becomes more unappealing and yet we often overlook this, putting it down to our inability to cope. This is incredibly dangerous, for it can lead to shame and sadness. Instead, we must be kind to ourselves. For these reasons, this week we’ve decided to share Brené Brown’s magnificent The Gifts of Imperfection in the hope that it will encourage you to practice more self-love at this time of year.
Our favourite part
As the title suggests, this book is about letting go of being perfect. But as entrepreneurs, I’m sure perfectionism is a concept you can relate to. Your product or service, like a child, has been created and nurtured by you. Why would you want it to be anything less than impeccable? But Brown shows that actually, this approach can be pretty destructive. Therefore, our favourite chapter is the eponymous ‘The Gifts of Imperfection: Courage, Compassion and Connection’. In it, she shares the reasons why we should all embrace imperfection. Brown relays her experience of a ‘shame storm’ which is worsened by her tendency towards perfectionism.
Having been booked for a talk at a school, Brown had researched and prepared thoroughly. But somehow, everything went wrong. Parents were agitated, the atmosphere was aggressive, and nobody was responding to her message. I’m sure as entrepreneurs we can all relate to those days when nothing seems to go right! If we see these as learning experiences or accept that some things are out of our control, we emerge unscathed. But when we reflect upon the situation negatively, blaming ourselves for not delivering our impossibly high standards, everything becomes personal. And this can lead to suffering, because all of a sudden it becomes our mistake, and affects our sense of self-worth.
Brown explains that growing up, she too tried to be perfect. But this quest exhausted her and put a strain on her relationships. In the wake of her shame storm, Brown calls her sister who helps her navigate through it. The act of sharing her ‘imperfect’ side with her sister strengthens their bond. In turn, Brown’s sister can empathise: she too has been there. This approach can help businesses too. If you can find a way to embrace imperfection, to share lessons you have learnt and offer support to those who have erred, you will be more likely to reap the rewards.
Compassion, courage and connection are the gifts of imperfection that Brown explores in this chapter. These three C’s are incredibly important to us and will hugely benefit any organisation. Conversely, if you create a culture of perfectionism, your employees will become crippled by mistakes, perhaps hiding them or blaming themselves. This may lead to shame, low confidence and a fear of work. This atmosphere will never benefit a company. There are many lessons that apply to business here and for this reason, this chapter was our favourite part of the book.
Our key take-away
In a line; ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ Essentially this quote encapsulates the message of the book. Through her exploration of ‘digging deep’ (you’ll have to read the book to understand how she re-works this famous phrase!) and of cultivating creativity and play, Brown shows that our self-worth is not defined by how much we achieve. We must be compassionate, both to ourselves and others. Alongside this, authenticity is key. It is time to let go of what other people think, and focus on ‘the power of love, belonging and being enough’.
As Brown explains, these are key to the human experience but can get lost if we feel unworthy. And how does this link to business? When we constantly think in terms of scarcity: ‘we should have taken more revenue last week’; ‘we could have better marketed our promotion’; or when we miss a deadline or lose a client, we begin to punish ourselves.
This negative self-talk attacks our sense of worthiness and therefore our ability to experience love. Without a feeling of self-worth, how can we possibly put our best foot forward in business? Thankfully, Brown shares the secret to coping with shame and negativity: talking. Talk to someone, cry if you need to, give it space and time and most of all do not be hard on yourself. Everybody goes through tough times, you are not alone. And most of all, whatever happens, you are worthy.
Her search for whole-heartedness has helped us immensely and provided a bit more light at this very dark time of year. So be kind to yourself and grab a copy. You can even borrow ours if you like!
Until next time!