Boost Your Child's Confidence (and Your Own) with "The Gifts of Imperfection"

Photo: Jessica Mullen / Creative CommonsShame researcher Brené Brown first became famous from her aha-moment-packed TED talks, The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame. She has inspired millions of men and women to let go of pretense and to courageously connect with others in order to live more fulfilled lives.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brown writes about engaging with the world from the perspective of worthiness, something that many parents struggle with personally. For parents who hope that they can lead their children to feel intrinsically valuable when they head out into the world as adults, here are 3 of Brown's ten guideposts to wholehearted living that she details in the book.

1. Let go of what people think; be authentic.

Around the age of middle school, people start to become self-conscious. We put on airs and wear masks of self-protection. We shun things we love because we're afraid of being perceived as uncool, e.g., "Ew, you like that band? That's so nerdy!" even though that same kid was only madly in love with that band the day before.

It takes courage to finally start trusting ourselves, accepting ourselves, and deciding that it's okay to let the world see who we really are. In order to be truly happy, at some point we need to decide that being true to ourselves is more important than seeking approval from others.

The downside is that being honestly ourselves makes us vulnerable, and being vulnerable is a real risk! As a blogger, I have lots of real life experience with this: We might get criticized. Other people might feel threatened by our honesty. They might not like what we have to say. However, by staying silent, we're unable to connect authentically with those souls who are on the same page as us, who would feel validated and closer with us if we would share our true selves.

By hiding our true selves, we stay alone and lonely, even when surrounded by others, because no one knows who we really are. The people you love and who love you can love all of you and you can connect on a deeper level when you show yourself.

"Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are," writes Brown. This means being vulnerable. It means dropping the act. It means believing that we're enough and connecting our true selves with others. As parents, it helps to remember that your bravery will inspire others, and hopefully your children, to be brave.

2. Have self-compassion; let go of perfectionism.
When we suffer from perfectionism, research shows it's likely we're also suffering from depression, anxiety, addiction, and / or life paralysis, all caused by our fear of making mistakes or disappointing others.

Brown writes:

Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports.) Healthy striving is self-focused - How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused - What will they think?

A lot has been written about the dangers of praise. Of course we want our kids to feel good, and praise is certainly better than a boatload of criticism. But it turns out that complementing our kids on their efforts and telling them they must feel proud of themselves (rather than how proud we are of them) are better ways to go about it.

For those of us who fear it's too late - I occasionally feel mired in perfectionism myself - the antidote is self-compassion. Love yourself despite your flaws, and have the courage to connect with others.

3. Trade numbing and powerlessness for resilience and hope.
Resilience, or the ability to overcome adversity, is a major component of wholehearted living. In order to become resilient, we need to fully engage in our lives with the willingness to experience vulnerability, discomfort and pain - rather than numbing ourselves to take the edge off.

Brown asserts that we all numb ourselves to some degree - whether that's by staying constantly busy, with shopping, drinking (my personal, well-documented numbing agent of choice), overeating, or other various ways we check out when the going gets tough.

Power is the ability to effect change, while powerlessness means that we feel unable to change something in our lives. The good news for people who feel powerless is that we can learn how to cultivate hope. When we have hope, we can set goals, be persistent and resourceful in figuring out how to achieve them, and we can believe in our ability to successfully achieve our goals. I can personally attest to the awesomeness of this process.

I decided to stop numbing and to consciously feel difficult emotions, which has increased my feelings of power and enabled me to create and achieve big, bold goals.

Katie Morton is the founder of The Monarch Company. Get a FREE copy of her eBook, 10 Steps to a Blissful You, to get started on developing extraordinary willpower for life.

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