A couple of years ago I stumbled upon the concept of wholehearted living and, after a bit of research, I was fascinated by what it meant. So much so that I decided to pick up The Gifts of Imperfection book by Brené Brown, which featured ten guideposts for a wholehearted life. For some reason, the book stood on my bookshelf collecting dust for those two years until I finally picked it up about a week ago.Wholehearted life is essentially about loving yourself Click To Tweet
Wholehearted life is essentially about loving yourself and that is something that I struggle very much with. That being said, you can probably imagine how curious I was to read this book and figure out how to make that happen (if that was even possible).
Brené is a researcher who’s been studying emotions like shame, fear, and vulnerability. During her research, she met wonderful stories of people living and loving with their whole hearts. She then wrote a Do and Don’t list featuring the patterns she noticed and that’s how she came up with the ten guideposts for a wholehearted life.
I’m pretty sure that if you’re not into personal growth, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now, but hear me out. I used to be very skeptical, too. When it comes to “self-help” books, it’s nice to understand why you are the way you are and learn how you can improve. But as Brené says, there are many books out there that either make promises they can’t keep or make change sound easier than it actually is. The truth is that change is hard. And it is a process, there’s no quick fix. You might read the book and it might open your eyes but if you put it back on your bookshelf and don’t do the work, nothing will change. And I’m talking to myself, too.
That’s why I decided to write this blog post. While reading this book, I found myself nodding my head very often and underlining a ton of sentences. So this is a way for me to not only reflect on everything I learned but also share with you the many great lightbulb moments and pieces of advice that I believe you can also benefit from.
What does wholehearted living mean?
Simply put, it means living and loving with your whole heart. According to Brené Brown, wholehearted living “is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.” It’s understanding that yes, you are imperfect, vulnerable, and afraid, but you are also brave and worthy of love and belonging. It’s about owning your story.
Well, it’s easier said than done, right? I’m constantly fighting thoughts of not being enough or not doing enough, which usually comes from shame and fear. But to experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of both. Not if and not when. Right now.It's understanding that yes, you are imperfect, vulnerable, and afraid, but you are also brave and worthy of love and belonging. It's about owning your story. Click To Tweet
To develop that sense of worthiness, you need courage, compassion, and connection. The gifts of imperfection, as Brené puts it. And it makes so much sense because, before this research, she often felt fearful, judgmental, and alone.
The key here is practice. By practicing courage, compassion, and connection daily, you cultivate worthiness in your life. Courage is being vulnerable and showing your true self; compassion is about accepting yourself and others as equals; connection is the energy that exists between people.
Here’s a little story. Back when I was at college, I felt so homesick and it was only when I was brave enough to embrace my vulnerability and share how I was feeling with my friends that we were able to connect and strengthen our friendship through compassion. Turns out, I was not the only one.
The 10 Guideposts For A Wholehearted Life
Guidepost #1 – Letting Go Of What People Think & Cultivating Authenticity
Being authentic means letting your true self be seen. It’s having the courage to be imperfect and vulnerable in a society that wants you to fit in. It’s letting go of what people think and embracing who you truly are.
And that is scary, isn’t it? Especially for a people-pleaser like myself. I almost feel like a hypocrite writing about authenticity because, to be honest, I don’t really see myself as an authentic person, I just worry too much about what others think and let that control pretty much every single thing I do. Being yourself doesn’t come naturally to some of us. It takes courage as it means stepping out of our comfort zone.
Thankfully, authenticity is a daily practice and not something you either have or don’t. What we have to keep in mind is that it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice who we are for the sake of what others think. That is no good to us or people around us.
Guidepost #2 – Letting Go Of Perfectionism & Cultivating Self-Compassion
Perfectionism, another old friend of mine.
Contrary to what I used to think, perfectionism is not about striving to be your best but to believe that everything needs to be perfect so that you can be accepted and avoid blame, judgment, and shame. The thing is, perfection doesn’t exist.
To let go of perfectionist, you need to practice self-compassion by accepting your imperfections, exploring your fears, and being kind to yourself. Afterall, failing is part of being a human. You are doing the best you can.
Guidepost #3 – Letting Go Of Numbing And Powerlessness & Cultivating A Resilient Spirit
Resilience is being able to overcome adversity, not only because you are good at problem-solving, but also because you have the courage to ask for help.
To have a resilient spirit, you need to let go of numbing and cultivate hope and critical awareness. Hope because you need to believe you can overcome doubt and fear. Critical awareness because you need to be able to do a reality-check, put things into perspective, and realize that yes, you are worthy.
It can be easy to avoid difficult emotions and pretend everything’s okay. But it’s only when you let yourself feel the feels, that you can figure out what’s really going on.
Guidepost #4 – Letting Go Of Scarcity and Fear Of The Dark & Cultivating Gratitude and Joy
There is a difference between joy and happiness. Joy seems to come from within while happiness is attached to external situations. But no feeling is permanent. That’s why there is a relationship between gratitude and joy, and why it’s important to recognize everything that makes you happy by cultivating gratitude daily.
But with that comes scarcity. You might have avoided feeling joyful because you thought it wouldn’t last or don’t give importance to the small things because you’re waiting for something extraordinary to bring you joy. You keep thinking that you aren’t enough or don’t have enough. You’re always lacking something and that leads to an unfulfilled life. I am so guilty of that.
That happens because we’re lacking gratitude. “Joy comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.”
Another thing that can get in the way is the fear of the dark. Have you ever been filled with joy and suddenly start thinking that something terrible will happen? Me, too. That happens because, according to Brené, “we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare ourselves enjoy the light.”
Guidepost #5 – Letting Go Of The Need For Certainty & Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith
Do you usually listen to your intuition?
According to Brené, intuition is the “ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.”
What stops us from listening to our intuition is our need for certainty. If you’re anything like me, you like to be sure, you want guarantees that it will work. And when we are not sure, we ask other people for advice. You know why? Because we need someone to blame if things don’t work out. “You decide.” I had never thought about this before but it is so true, at least in my case.
This is why we have to trust our intuition more often, as well as have faith to believe in what we cannot see.
Guidepost #6 – Letting Go Of Comparison & Cultivating Creativity
Raise your hand if you ever felt great about yourself, and then, in a slip second, all that confidence goes down the drain because you started comparing yourself to someone else. I’m raising my hand, too.
Comparison is something that a lot of us struggle with, mostly now when we compare our behind-the-scenes to someone’s highlight reel on Instagram. It is all about competition, about the need to be better than x.
But comparison is the thief of joy and with so much time spent competing, there’s no time left for creativity. There’s no time left for doing your own thing.
What you need to keep is that we are all creative. Some people use their creativity and some people don’t. Use yours because it is the expression of your originality.
Guidepost #7 – Letting Go Of Exhaustion As A Status Symbol And Productivity As Self-Worth & Cultivating Play and Rest
We live in a society that values the work hard mentality, the side-hustles, and the multi-tasking. The truth is that we need to let go of the idea that being busy is connected with self-worth.
When was the last time you played or even truly rested? And by play, I mean doing something just because it’s fun. Something you do because you want to, not because you have to.
You probably think this is crazy if you have a very long to-do list like mine. But think about it. You need to listen to your own needs. Your mind and body need to rest. To live and love with your whole heart, you really need to schedule in some time for play and rest.
Guidepost #8 – Letting Go Of Anxiety As A Lifestyle & Cultivating Calm And Stillness
This is something that I’ve struggled with for the longest time and, according to Brené, cultivating calm and stillness are two ways to ease anxiety. This doesn’t mean that practicing calm and stillness will remove anxiety from your life completely – I wish -, it’s just two ways to cope with it. Anxiety is a reality, but it shouldn’t be a lifestyle.
That being said, calm is the ability to bring perspective to difficult situations, while stillness is about quieting the body and mind.
Calm does not come naturally to most people, it takes practice. It can be doing some breathing exercises, counting until ten, or asking yourself: Will freaking out help? More often than not, the answer is no. Stillness is more about meditation or even alone time. It’s about observing your thoughts without judgment.
Guidepost #9 – Letting Go Of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To” & Cultivating Meaningful Work
Another important part of living a wholehearted life is doing meaningful work. Or, in other words, having a purpose in life. You do work that you enjoy and that is meaningful to you.
We all have something to share with the world but not all of us a) figure out what that is early on, b) land the right job for us straight from college, or c) are lucky to find a job we love + pays the bills. Meanwhile, we might feel disconnected or frustrated. We question our skills and talents, and worry about our “supposed to”.
Brené also talked about a very interesting topic, slash careers. Instead of being defined by just one career, you have slash careers and integrate all of your multiple passions. For instance, photographer/digital marketer/dog walker. For someone with multiple passions like me, it’s reassuring to know that it’s okay to not be defined by just one career.
Guidepost #10 – Letting Go Of Being Cool and “Always In Control” & Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance
As someone who struggles with letting go of what other people think, I fear being perceived as awkward or silly (which I’m aware that might have happened plenty of times before). I like to be “cool” and “in control”. According to Brené, it’s a way to minimize vulnerability and the risk of being made fun of.
But when you hide our goofy side in the closet, we betray ourselves and others around us. Here’s another lightbulb moment: “When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others. We put them down, make fun of them, ridicule their behaviors, and sometimes shame them.”
And there’s nothing like laughing with someone until your bellies hurt, blasting our favorite music in the car and singing at the top of our lungs, or dancing like no one is watching, is it?
Living a wholehearted life takes a lot of courage. It means stepping out of your comfort zone, facing self-doubt and shame, and letting people see the real you. And that’s scary. Especially because it is not a destination but a lifetime process. You will not get there one day, but you’ll know that you’re in the right direction.
These were all the lessons I learned from the book and I’m sorry for the longest blog post ever but I guess I just had a lot to say. In a way, this was very helpful to me. Almost like when I was in school and used to do a brief of what I was studying to help me better understand it. I hope it was beneficial to you, too!