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.

Word by Word

Have you met someone
just like you,
not by age, or by style,
nor by choice, or by chance,
but word by word.

Word by word,
to come to light,
to discover the rough edges
of the sentences
and the pauses in between.
Word by word,
to realize how you’re
just the same.

Word by word
you’ll build your world,
and then world by world
you’ll come to find
that not all words are the same
even through they may
carry the same aim.

Word by word
you’ll dream,
clinging unto quarter realities
and half imaginations,
engulfing you
more than the air you breathe,
but shall they always remain?

Word by word
you’ll drift apart
from the world
that was.

Word by word
ripping itself
will be your heart,
for all the words
that did not come.

Word by word
time shall pass
filling lines and pages,
and years in between,
stuffed inside
black and blue ink
and all that has been.

Word by word
we’ll rise up again,
word by word.

Have you met someone
just like you,
not by age, or by style,
nor by choice, or by chance,
but word by word.

Space

If you were an artist

and I was an object,

what space would I

occupy in your canvas?

Would I be a fruit on the table

or a shadow beneath?

Or the painting inside the painting

or the floor spread all across?

Would you care

to splash your paint

and make space for me?