Book Quote #5: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Like millions of people all over the world, I came to know about Brene Brown through her TedTalk. However it was not her famous talk on vulnerability, rather the one on shame. I’ve stumbled upon her here and there through her podcasts, write ups, and other things on the internet. But never had I read her book. This was about to change after reading The Gifts of Imperfection.

There were times when I felt some stories and examples were a bit shallow and I wanted to know more about it, however, there were also lines, seemingly normal lines, that became glaringly obvious as it shone across the page. These lines will be sticking with me for a long time. The best thing about this book is how it normalizes feelings of shame, insecurity, worry, comparison, and many other emotions we feel on a daily basis but never have time to deal with. The book is simple and a good read for first timers in this subject or self help.

When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought an hour would be enough. I had underlined and made notes of many quotes while reading, but I didn’t think there would be so many that choosing 7 out of them would require a break and restarting.

Here are 7 quotes that touched my heart. There are many more, 7 for this post.

Ellen, I think asking for what you need is one of the bravest things that you’ll ever do.

As someone whose barely ever had courage to ask what I need, this line struck like gold. To ask for what we need, is indeed the bravest thing to do. Be it in class wanting to go to the bathroom or to ask what someone else is thinking. It is scary to ask for what one needs.

It’s as if we’re divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.

Sometimes we are the savers and sometimes we need to be saved. There’s no black and white. Our circumstances keep changing.

People often want to believe that shame is reserved for the folks who have survived terrible traumas, but this is not true. Shame is something we all experience.
To feel shame is to be human.

This reminds me of a line from Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.” I think shame does that: invalidates what we are feeling.

We develop hope mind-set when we understand that some worthy endeavors will be difficult and time consuming and not enjoyable at all. Hope also requires us to understand that just because the process of reaching a goal happens to be fun, fast, and easy doesn’t mean that it has less value than a difficult goal.

We seem to be seeking pain even in places where it is not needed because pain justifies so many things for us. If it wasn’t hard, it wasn’t worth it. Maybe it is not true.

Everything required that we make more money and spend more money.

And what if we could make less money and spend less?

Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or ‘too bad’ if we dont use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighted down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.

As I read these lines I remembered a scene and a line from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The conversation between Santiago and the Alchemist about finding the former’s treasure. Santiago is hesitant to go and seek his treasure as he thinks he might have already found it, and the Alchemist reasons that his heart will never stop seeking the treasure till it’s buried and out of reach. Elsewhere the line comes up: ‘You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.’ A few pages later Brene herself mentions the book and how she reads it every year.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

This book has many quotes taken from other authors, writers, and thinkers which I think is a great opportunity to explore their works and thoughts further. This one by Howard Thurman is gold. A lot of us including myself ask what sells in the world, what kind of job does well, what the world wants. Often we forget that it’s at the end about us and not anybody else and that’s the best we can do.

While all the content in the book is quite good, what sealed the deal for me is Brene’s own personal story that shows up at the end in the research section chapter. This makes it 8 quotes for the list, so let’s call it the bonus quote.

After years of dropping out, I graduated with honors from the University of Texas – Austin with my bachelor’s degree in social work when I was twenty-nine and immediately applied for graduate school at the University of Houston.

For someone who has been believing that we need to get our goals and life straight by so and so age, Brene reminds me that there is no straight way. As Tolkien said, not all who wander are lost. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe we aren’t. Maybe I aren’t.


The thing about quotes is it starts at one place and connects all over. Perhaps that’s the interconnectedness of the world and ideas. Follow Book Quotes at The Wordcastle for more such quotes from my past and recent reads. I like to believe there’s a reason why a particular quote strikes, connects, or sparks.

The Spirit of Food and Language

Yomari – By Spartathreehundred at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32880059

It was 2pm in the afternoon. I was at my maternal grandparents place. We were about to eat the afternoon snack when my uncle mentioned about a Nepali who was participating in MasterChef UK. That was the first time I heard about Santosh Shah, whose name I didn’t know then. Soon after I googled to find more and followed his progress on the show like thousands of others.

His story reminds me of faith and patience; from a small village to the worldwide stage. The roads of life are strange and you cannot tell what awaits at the next corner, the only thing that you can do is practice your art.

Recently I watched the episode where he made Yomari and Chilly Chicken, the dishes that sent him straight to finals week. I was excited to see his take on the famous sweet dish and also equally excited to see how the judges would react to it.

Chef Shah had made balls of chocolate and covered it with white dough – something different from how I have seen a Yomari being made. How it’s often made at home is by melting a local variant of chocolate known as ‘Chaku’ and the liquid is then poured in the white rice dough that is made into the shape of a cup (with tails and two antenna like structure) and steamed.

As I watched him make a Yomari in a British show that had presented the contestants with a Chinese Kitchen, the words of Indian writer Raja Rao came flooding. Raja Rao had written: One has to convey in a language that is not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own. These words had nothing to do with food and yet everything in the moment. Chef Shah had tried to manage whatever was available in the kitchen and express the spirit of his homeland.

As someone who has been writing in English, a language that is not my mother tongue or first language, I have many a times stumbled upon the question of how can I ever express a world that is not English in English. Nepali writing in English is a relatively new sphere in the world of literature and language. There are not many in this field who can make you smell the tea farms of Illam, the rainy seasons of Kathmandu, and the heat of Terai in English. As I struggle to write my worldview in English, I worry about how unique or original will it be or if I sound like a copy of a writer I have been studying.

Watching Chef Shah mould the Yomari, I found a new interpretation of the words of Raja Rao – it is the spirit that one must express. There will be differences, but that is not what truly matters. It is the spirit that matters. The judges were wowed with the dish. They had never seen the unique shape of a Yomari.

It truly is the spirit that surfaces at the end, be it in the flavors of food or in the words written across pages.

Scattered

You find yourself
scattered –
across time, across place,
in the leaves of trees you’ve visited,
or the words scribbled in
walls, real and digital.

Every piece
is complete on it’s own,
and yet when they come together
they make you more you than you.

So you begin
this journey
to find your pieces
that you’d kept
in various places,
just to be safe
for times when the
ocean comes storming
because of the wind.

Weeping Times

It begins from somewhere,
a memory, a statement, a voice.
And the tears come gushing in
like maddening storm to an otherwise
perfectly solemn time.

Weeping times, they are
of things that cannot be changed,
of things that aren’t accepted.

We cry for these, don’t we?
Everything else falls in between.

So, my friend, when was the last time
you had tears in your eyes?
Were they of joy
or of pain?

Weeping times, like these, my friend.