10 Things Brené Brown Taught Me About Being Brave (& Facing My Imperfections)

Photo: Getty
What Brene Brown's 'Gifts Of Imperfection' Taught Me Dealing With Shame

Love is a great mystery. When I think of love, I think about bravery and courage.

For the longest time, I thought I was being brave and courageous by sacrificing who I was for the sake of being loved by another. If I was too loud, I became quieter. If someone thought I was too flashy, I muted my personality to make peace, and hopefully foster love.

I really had no idea how to deal with the shame that came from not feeling accepted — by myself or others. 

I felt I had mastered love in all areas of my life — yet in the process of achieving love, I had also whittled myself down and become inauthentic. 

I found myself puzzled by how the people I tried to please the most were the source of my unhappiest relationships. I was always afraid that being my true self would drive them away and then I'd be alone. Ironically, the relationships where I let my guard down and revealed even my ugliest self were my most mutually fulfilling and solid.

RELATED: Don't Let People Shame You For Being Your Goofy, Open-Hearted Self 

I discovered just how wrong I was to hide the most real parts of myself after reading Brené Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are in which she shares her own journey through vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame and unpacks the myth of perfection.

Trying to be what you think others expect or want you to be doesn't work — but loving yourself through your imperfections does.

Here are 10 enlightening things I learned about being brave from Brene Brown's The Gift Of Imperfection that helped me understand how to improve my self-esteem and foster real love by embracing imperfection.

1. Shame dies once it's exposed. 

When I feel ashamed about a mistake I've made or something happens that makes me feel small, I want to run and hide. It's a natural reaction.

However, hiding is the oxygen that sets shame aflame. According to Brown, shame hates exposure. Talking to someone and revealing what happened, how you feel, and getting the negative emotions out allows healing to begin. 

2. You need to learn who to be vulnerable with.

For years, I spent my life thinking that the people who were 'supposed' to love me knew how to love me well.

But Brené says, "when we're looking for compassion, we need someone who embraces us for our strengths and struggles. We need to honor our struggle by sharing it with someone who has earned the right to hear it. When we're looking for compassion, it's about connecting with the right person at the right time about the right issue."  

This may mean your best friend might not be the right person to talk to about a problem — but that doesn't mean you can't vent. Instead, your coworker might be a better person to talk to.

It comes down to understanding which of your relationships serve each particular feeling or struggle. 

3. Courage is more than just pushing through and it comes in layers.

In moments when we become overwhelmed, we have been taught to push through until the situation passes. Instead, it's better to love yourself by stepping back and evaluating what it is that you really need, and then saying so.

Brené shared a touching story about how she herself avoided the pain of confrontation by pushing through during a school speech where she keynoted. In these moments you shouldn't strive for perfection — instead, what's really needed is ordinary courage.

Brown says, "ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line." Rather than thinking you have to do more to be more, you can just be you, which is a form of bravery that helps love yourself even throughout imperfection.

RELATED: 10 Brené Brown Quotes That Remind You What Life Is Truly About

4. Boundaries aren't bad.

If you've ever tried to find love by people pleasing and being what you're not, you'll identify with feeling ashamed for setting up boundaries for yourself — or worse, actually holding someone you love accountable for their actions. Don't! Brown shares that boundaries are pathways to compassion and help make way for true acceptance.

If I'm struggling with a situation where I feel things aren't working out, I can set a boundary. If someone crosses it, I can take action without feeling embarrassed or out of line. It's not an easy thing to do, but according to Brown, "truly committed compassion practitioners were also the most boundary-conscious people". 

5. I am enough. 

Feeling like you're enough and that you don't have to struggle for love or work to find it isn't an easy feeling to come by.

I've personally struggled with feelings of insecurity thinking I should hide things about myself that might disappoint others. But according to Brown, you should never feel like you need to prove yourself or struggle to receive the love you deserve.

She states, "love and belonging will always be uncertain." Belonging is a journey, and the first step to take is accepting who you are, as you are in this moment, which is 'enough'.

6. Listen to your gut.

Brown shares a story about how she was asked to speak at an event in a way that conflicted with her own beliefs. While she gave into the request in-the-moment, eventually she trusted her discomfort.

There are times when people will ask you to do things that are outside of your comfort zones. When you feel uncomfortable, it's important to use 'ordinary courage' and listen to your gut. But in case you don't, it's okay to use that memory to learn and explore who you are to embrace it. 

7. Resilience comes from practicing through shame, not avoiding it.

The first thing a person usually wants to do when they feel ashamed about a situation is run, hide, and avoid it. But owning your shame not only makes the situation better, it grows your resilience and fosters self-love and compassion towards others.

As Brown says, "own your story. Tell the story. Practice courage." And even if you do it through tears, you will be stronger and wiser at the end of it. Once you expose your shame, it loses its power.

RELATED: 13 Ultra Inspiring Brené Brown Quotes That Will Transform Your Life

8. Being authentic is risky, but worth it.

When you are your true self, you open yourself up to vulnerability. Authentic living and owning who you are is a risk worth taking despite how others may react to you. But hiding who you are is even riskier.

Brown says, "...being true to ourselves is the best gift we can give the people we love." It takes far too much time and energy to be what you're not. Allowing yourself to be free makes room for self-love and time with the people who accept you for who you are.

9. Hit the 'D.I.G. Deep' button.

Giving into shame is draining, and makes opening up and becoming more vulnerable a lot more work.

But instead of allowing yourself to be taken in by what others want (which happens), dig into yourself and find the strength to stand your ground. Here's what D.I.G. stands for, in this case:

D: Get Deliberate: Brown says to "Stand your spiritual ground". By reaffirming my commitment to myself and what I believe in, I can focus on that message instead of backing down.

I: Get Inspired: Brown shares how she allows the story of others to inspire her own. This helped me to see that my story is like a parallel universe of the stories expressed by others. By getting inspired rather than being intimidated, I learn to embrace both sides without feeling pushed away from my own authentic self-confidence into shame. 

G: Get Going: Brown shares how she uses the goal of authenticity to keep her moving forward. Lots of times, fear can make a person stop and remain stuck in shame. But by setting a goal, and moving towards it, my fears are left behind. 

10. Explore the dark parts. 

Brené Brown says, "only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of your light." 

Exploring the darkness of what you fear isn't easy, but it's so worth it. The more I know about myself, the greater empowerment I experience. Fewer people can surprise me by what they see. In fact, the more I seek to find those dark parts, the better use I can make of critics when they reveal a flaw.

I can practice the D.I.G. Deep exercises, or expose the shame with the right person. The end result is more authenticity and joy.

RELATED: If You Have These Common Habits, You May Not Love Yourself As Much As You Think You Do

Aria Gmitter, M.S, M.F.A., is YourTango's Senior Editor of Horoscopes and Spirituality. She studies with the Midwestern School of Astrology and is a member of the South Florida Astrological Association.

Created in partnership with Hazelden Publishing.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.