Embracing Imperfection

The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown’s book about living what she terms a “wholehearted life.” Brene, a Ph.D. who’s spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, offers comfort to all of us in the process of letting go of who we think we should be so that we may embrace who we are.

Wholehearted living, according to Brene, who has given a powerful TED Talk on this topic, is living life with ordinary courage. It also means living with compassion. The Dalai Lama has said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Through interviewing literally thousands of people, Brene discovered that the biggest block to wholehearted living is shame. Shame that we are not enough. Shame that we don’t do enough. Shame for all those things on our “to do” lists that are left undone.

Shame usually gives rise to what coaches refer to as the “gremlin” or “inner critic.” And that inner critic is extremely adept at playing on our feelings of fear and vulnerability.

For those in career transition, the inner critic will often question your choice to go after what you really, really want. The gremlin tricks you into questioning yourself, your convictions, even your values: What if I make the wrong choice? I can’t do that. What if I make a mistake? What if I name what I want and don’t get it?

The people I coach want to embrace careers that meet them fully. They want no separation from who they are at work and home. They want to make a difference in the world. They want to make money doing what they love with ease. They want to live a wholehearted life.

I’m here to say it’s possible, but it takes courage. It also takes SUPPORT. And most of all it takes compassion. Giving ourselves compassion for where we are today is powerful and contagious. The more we practice self-compassion, the more it spreads to others.

Compassion is the antithesis to perfectionism. Compassion is energizing and life-affirming. Perfectionism is paralyzing and debilitating. Perfectionism leaves us stuck. The solution to perfectionism is simply doing the next right thing, taking the next step. The next step does not have to be huge. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we take baby step after baby step. We actually start to see change; we actually get closer to reaching our goals.

My challenge to you is to become comfortable living with the unknown and the as yet unexplored possibilities for your life. Notice what shifts in your heart and perspective. Here are some questions to ponder as you embrace imperfection through your career transition:

How would my life look different if I were doing work I loved?
Where do I find compassion?
What is my dream work?
What contribution do I want to make in the world?
What baby step can I take today?
How can I get the support I need?

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