Researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown offers a liberating study on the importance of our imperfections—both to our relationships and to our own sense of self
The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting. There is a constant barrage of social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. Everywhere we turn, there are messages that tell us who, what and how we’re supposed to be. So, we learn to hide our struggles and protect ourselves from shame, judgment, criticism and blame by seeking safety in pretending and perfection.
Dr. Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, is the leading authority on the power of vulnerability, and has inspired thousands through her top-selling book The Gifts of Imperfection, wildly popular TEDx talk, and a PBS special. Based on seven years of her ground-breaking research and hundreds of interviews, I Thought It Was Just Me shines a long-overdue light on an important truth: Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.
Dr. Brown writes, “We need our lives back. It’s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection—the courage to be real, the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life. These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.”
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Gotham (December 27, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1592403352
- ISBN-13: 978-1592403356
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
cracked open huge truths and answers to my depression
i, all along, have had the strength to at least read and learn. i figured i’d die trying to heal and get to the bottom of this illness. this book came along at the perfect time for me. i had had a sneaking feeling that shame was a huge part of my problems, but didn’t know how to deal with this, or what it actually meant, or how it was affecting my life, and my thinking.
Her book is a true gift; a treasure. not only is this book full of wisdom that warmed my heart, it’s full of lots of hard work on her part to be as accurate as possible about something (shame) that seems so subtle and elusive. she nailed it! (her writing is style is very conversational, and easy to understand as well)
So much of this information sunk into my soul, and has healed me in many ways. On top of providing other’s real and raw accounts of shame, and trying to be perfect…..yet remaining miserable, the author helps to build up our strength by showing us ways to not let shame take us down! that it’s a learning process, but we really can change in small yet extremely significant ways. the thing is: if we don’t know that it’s shame…..we will stay stuck in our misery! this book is a key to unlock freedom to live our unique lives, because she calls it out….she speaks out!
i’m not saying i’m cured from my depression. but i will say that i am quite a few rungs up the ladder from the pit i was in. and this is largely due to the women speaking truth and reality in this book, and the author’s candor.
i’m thankful for this author. that she had the desire and passion to study for over a decade about these issues. This, i believe, is going to be a huge movement in which we can learn, and then teach our children as well….
this book ,in my opinion, is like a missing puzzle piece for each person that reads. no one teaches us these things, yet they are the very things unfortunately, that drive us in our living! the information is invaluable. (it looks like she may be writing a book regarding men and shame too….looking forward to it!)
Fresh, Ground-Breaking, Life-Changing
This is an incredible book about a little-discussed subject—shame. Almost painful even to think about, the book comprehensively covers the relationship between women and shame. If you are a woman in America, you should read this book. My copy is highlighted, bookmarked, the spine is cracked and it looks like it’s been through a war, but it’s just been very well-read and well-used by me.
The subtitle of the book is “Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame”. The book does not simply diagnose the problem with our culture, but assists women on their individual journey of processing their experiences with shame, and overcoming damage, moving to a better place of power and courage.
Apparently there are currently many shame researchers, but not much has been written about the latest research outside of academic circles. “I Thought It Was Just Me”, though research-based, is written for each of us, academic or non-academic, feminist or non-feminist, religious or non-religious, in an approachable, interesting style. The material is somewhat difficult to read only because of the personal issues it triggers; other than that it is very approachable, not dry at all.
The author also discusses changing our culture, one person at a time, with the last chapters addressing how to practice courage, compassion and connection—in a culture of fear, blame and disconnection.
After reading this book I feel more empowered to be me and to stay free of shaming messages. I also feel very convicted and aware of how I have used words and looks to shame others. Of all of the non-fiction books I’ve read, this one has probably had the most practical impact in my life.
Powerful book and an engaging read
This book is powerful in its scope and impact as it lays out what shame is, how women respond to shame, and how women can respond differently to shame in order to become shame resilient.
Brené helps women identify what their shame triggers are, how to develop a critical awareness about how shame is impacted by larger forces in our lives, such as media images of extremely thin and beautiful women, how women can reach out to others, and how to learn to “speak shame.”
As Brené was writing the book and I was reading early drafts, I was already learning to apply her concepts to my life. For instance, previously when I experienced a shameful moment I would curl up in a little ball of pain, constantly replay the shamming incident in my head, castigate myself over and over, and then wait for the passage of time to relieve some of my symptoms, although even years later I could get flashbacks of the event and the accompanying pain. Today, due to Brené and her book, I react very differently. I call multiple friends and share my painful story and seek out comfort, caring, and empathy. I begin to “contexualize” the shameful event, that is, I see how political, economic, and social forces have shaped my personal experiences. For instance, that expectation that women must be “superwoman” juggling kids, work, partners” perfectly, which is an unreasonable expectation that no woman can live up to. That helps put my experience into context and allow me to see the broader picture.
This book is a gift to women from a committed scholar and researcher. Although the hype on many books is that “it will change your life,” this book has that potential. And it doesn’t hurt that it is written in an accessible, friendly tone with many stories to illustrate her ideas that will make you both laugh and cry.
I highly recommend the book. I predict it will be one of those books you read and then go out and buy for your mother and sisters and best friend. I know I did.
Finding courage, stunning read
Brown writes that shame is primarily about the fear of disconnection–the fear of being perceived as flawed and unworthy of acceptance. When you feel shame, it is an intensely personal experience. You feel alone. Yet in reality, every one of us experiences shame. While this experience is visceral and painful, it does not have to be incapacitating.
Through her extensive research, Dr. Brown has discerned how to develop shame resilience. In this book, she teaches you how to recognize shame triggers, how to develop critical awareness of shame issues, and how to destroy the power of shame through connection and empathy.
This is a real book for real women. Every one of us is affected by shame, and every one of us could find more freedom by learning how to develop shame resilience. Shame thrives on silence. But we don’t have to be silent any more!
As Brown says, “if we can find the courage to talk about shame and the compassion to listen, we can change the way we live, love, parent, work and build relationships.”
Fundamentally, this is a book about freedom. Shame has a hold on our lives in more ways than we realize, and Dr. Brown clearly explains what it takes to break the power of shame. This is a book to read and to pass along to as many friends as possible.
What would our world look like if every woman found the courage to speak in her own voice? I for one would like to find out.
Armchair Interviews says: An outstanding book packed with powerful and hopeful information on the pervasive problem of shame in women.
Where were you when I was 20 ?
Ms Brown appeared on a PBS station and that nudged my curiosity. She is as interesting to watch as she is to read.
A Must Read for Men also
Not just a good read, a resource to use again and again
Good but only part of the story
Her discussion of aging stereotypes is right on the money: “When it comes to aging, participants [in her workshop] explained that the power of aging stereotypes is far more painful than the actual aging process.” Stereotypes not only wound, but also let us hide what we don’t want to see.
The discussion on contextualizing deserves widespread awareness. Knowing that it’s not about you can be empowering. Great quote on page 103: “Magazines make money by selling advertising space, not subscriptions. The goal is to have us look at the woman on the cover, feel bad and then buy all the lotions and potions advertised in the magazine.” It’s not just magazines and cosmetics – this warning applies to many marketing messages.
Brown says it’s not a way to evade responsibility, but to deal with the larger issues, although she doesn’t offer guidelines to the broader issues. In fact, generally what frustrated me was the absence of suggestions to deal with insults and other shaming devices, as well as alternatives to dealing with people we feel we should criticize.
For instance, Brown quotes from a woman whose grandchildren encourage her to dance because they think it’s “cute.” She became a figure of fun to preserve her role in the family.
I recall a network morning show, many years ago, when an interviewer was questioning a senior citizen who jumped out of airplanes. While the silver-haired woman talked enthusiastically about her hobby, the interviewer literally laughed in amazement. She clearly patronized the woman who either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
What’s an appropriate way to deal with these situations? I think we need to bring back assertiveness, a polite but firm way to say “No” and explain why it is so insulting. When some very young person asks if I use email, I always respond, “Actually, I build websites.” That usually stops them cold. I’m often tempted to say something stronger.
We should not put up with insults and shaming experiences from medical staff and we need advice to deal with them. As Brown notes, people avoid medical care after they’ve been insulted.
Finally, sometimes it IS appropriate to criticize someone and let them deal with the shame. On page 230, Brown quotes a woman who told her son’s play group that she uses harsh physical discipline with her children; the woman was then isolated. Brown simply reports the woman’s response to being isolated as if her only issue were dealing with shame. s In fact, there’s plenty of research to show that this type of discipline is inappropriate and potentially harmful, and it’s illegal in some countries and possibly some states. Rather than shame the woman by withdrawing, the group members need to educate her.
Frankly, if someone tells me they took their 10-year-old dog to the pound because he was too old or they got tired of having a dog, I don’t care if they feel shamed; they should be.
Brown does acknowledge that guilt can be appropriate, if it’s related to something we have control over. Similarly, group censure can be appropriate when someone behaves with cruelty. There’s a line between shaming someone who doesn’t dress properly and someone whose behavior actually causes harm to others.
Respecting others shouldn’t mean letting cruelty or dangerous practices go unnoticed, and dealing with shame could include confronting the finger-pointers. For both, a strong dose of assertiveness could be recommended.
Because I believe the insights in this book have really allowed me to salvage my relationship with my daughter, I will be forever grateful to my friend for recommending it, and to Dr. Brown for writing it.