Ep. 7 – The Gifts of Imperfection: How Vulnerability Can Conquer Shame
Do you ever get down on yourself because of your weaknesses? In this episode, find out more about Satan’s tool of shame, what blessings can come from your imperfections, and how you can embrace your authentic self.
The next episode will discuss chapter *C* from The Holy Ghost from A to Z: What the Spirit Can Do for You. And you can get ready for the episode after that by reading Is There No Other Way? by Emily Adams!
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown is a self-help book published in 2010
- Also worth checking out are Daring Greatly and I Thought it Was Just Me, as well as her TED Talks online.
- Shame vs. Guilt
- Guilt says “you made a mistake”—shame tells you that you are a mistake. Not that you did something bad, but that you are bad.
- Worldly Sorrow vs. Godly Sorrow
- “Godly sorrow inspires change and hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Worldly sorrow pulls us down, extinguishes hope, and persuades us to give in to further temptation. True repentance is about transformation, not torture or torment. When guilt leads to self-loathing or prevents us from rising up again, it is impeding rather than promoting our repentance.” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf)
- “Actually Doing Okay”
- I share a story about a horrible day of parenting and how I managed to conquer shame by practicing self-compassion and seeing myself as a whole
- The Blessings of Weakness
- Because we’re imperfect, we get to practice courage, compassion, and connection.
- Weakness also makes us humble, which can lead us to God, who can make us stronger than we ever could be on our own
- Taking the Plunge into Authenticity
- “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
- Learning to Embrace My Voice
- I’ve had a long journey of learning to accept my voice because it’s so low—first as a musician and now as a podcaster.
- 1. Make a list of the unhealthy things you tend to do when you feel shame. Then make a list of healthier ways you could handle those difficult moments.
- 2. Ask for help. Think about something you need, something you might be afraid to admit because it’ll show your weakness. Tell a trusted friend or family member how you’re feeling and how they could help.
- Important Caveat
- Some ideas in the book can be interpreted in a way contrary to the gospel
- Read Brené Brown’s books (and all books) with the Spirit so that He can help you discern truth from error
- Episode next week: C – The Holy Ghost Can *Comfort* You
- Episode in two weeks: Is There No Other Way? by Emily Adams
The Lord once said, “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.” But if you’re like me, coming face to face with your weakness is not a pleasant experience. So in today’s episode, let’s talk about weakness and imperfection—how they can evoke shame, and what we can do to silence that shame.
I’m Liz Kazandzhy, and you’re listening to the cozy little podcast “Latter-day Saint Book Nook,” where we talk about books from a gospel perspective. Whether fiction or nonfiction, religious or not, great books are like wells of wisdom just waiting to be drawn from, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So if you love books, and you love the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’re in the right place. Come and learn from the best books to help you live your best life!
Hey everybody, and welcome to the podcast! Today we’re going to be talking about Brené Brown, an author of several self-help books on the topics of vulnerability, shame, and authenticity. And the book I’ll be focusing on is called The Gifts of Imperfection. She’s got some other great books too, like Daring Greatly and I Thought it Was Just Me, and if you don’t have time to read a whole book, you can also YouTube her and find some great TED Talks that she’s done.
So, let me give you some backstory about how I came to learn about Brené Brown. It was the beginning of 2013, a few months before my mission, and I thought I would use those few months to prepare for my mission in every way possible—physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. And part of that emotional preparation was going to therapy. I had never been to therapy before, but I was at a point in my life when I realized that I actually didn’t have everything under control, and there were things that I needed to work through.
So, I was blessed to find an incredible therapist, and he helped me so much. And one of the things we worked through was shame—my tendency to beat myself up over my mistakes—and also vulnerability—my tendency to not open up to others out of fear that I’ll get hurt. So, my therapist recommended Brené Brown, and I just devoured her books. And that, combined with therapy, was honestly life-changing for me. It was really hard emotional work, but it was so worth it. It made me a better missionary, a better person in general, and now it’s making a better wife and mother. (At least when I remember to actually apply what I learned then.)
So today I want to talk about those two things I learned about in therapy—shame and vulnerability—and pull some quotes from the book. (And by the way, I did an episode a few weeks ago about The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse where I talked about vulnerability a little bit. So if you want to hear more about that, go back and listen to that episode.)
Shame vs. Guilt
Alright, well let’s talk about shame first. Before Brené Brown started writing about wholehearted living, she was researcher who studied shame. And just so you know what shame is—at least how she describes it—here are some quotes from her:
“Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
“Shame is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, or how much we’re struggling.”
And here’s a good one: “When perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun and fear is that annoying backseat driver.” Because when you expect yourself to live perfectly, shame is just waiting to pounce on you the moment you mess up. Because shame isn’t like guilt, saying “you made a mistake”—shame tells you that you are a mistake. Not that you did something bad, but that you are bad.
So, how does this relate to the gospel? Well, guilt is a gift from God you could say. It’s a good thing. Elder Bednar once compared it to pain. He said, “Guilt is to our spirit what pain is to our body—a warning of danger and a protection from additional damage.” He also went on to say how repentance can take away that pain, saying, “From the Atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt.”
Shame, on the other hand, is a tool of the adversary—and a very powerful one. If guilt is like pain, then shame is that discouraging voice in your head that says there’s no way you can be healed, or that you actually don’t deserve to feel better.
So, I once wrote a social media post about this topic, and I wanted to share that with you. What prompted me to write it was a scripture in the New Testament about godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. And I realized that “godly sorrow” is a lot like guilt, whereas “worldly sorrow” is a lot like shame. So think about that as I read this:
Worldly Sorrow vs. Godly Sorrow
In 2 Corinthians 7:10, it says, “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation … but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
Whenever I used to hear this verse, I always thought godly sorrow meant genuinely regretting your sins, while worldly sorrow meant being upset about the consequences of sin. In other words, you’re not sorry for what you did—you’re sorry you got caught.
Makes sense, right? Pretty cut and dry?
Nope! Turns out there’s another interpretation of those two types of sorrow.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf put it this way: “Godly sorrow inspires change and hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Worldly sorrow pulls us down, extinguishes hope, and persuades us to give in to further temptation. True repentance is about transformation, not torture or torment. When guilt leads to self-loathing or prevents us from rising up again, it is impeding rather than promoting our repentance.”
Now THAT hits closer to home. Because I, for one, am very prone to getting bogged down in shame when I do something wrong. And it takes me way too long to rise up again.
But I’m working on it. And I hope you are too. Because this is something I think a lot of us struggle with.
So, I’m here to tell you some pretty eye-opening truths …
👉 Turns out you can feel heartfelt regret WITHOUT self-loathing.
👉 You can actually move forward and change WITHOUT getting stuck in the swamp of shame.
👉 You can hope in a better future DESPITE your past mistakes.
👉 And you can find peace in Christ instead of despair. (Or, to put it a better way, you can CHOOSE peace instead of despair. Because it truly is your choice.)
So the next time you find yourself feeling worldly sorrow—hating yourself and feeling like a failure for your sins and mistakes—try not to stay in that dark place. Embrace the gift of repentance and let God transform you instead of letting Satan torment you.
After all, there’s no need to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” when your Savior already did that for you.
“Actually Doing Okay”
And just so you can see this principle in action, I want to read one more thing, this time from my journal. It’s an entry I titled “Actually doing okay,” and it was about a time I normally would’ve gotten bogged down by shame but actually didn’t, miraculously, thanks to the Spirit. So here is that entry:
Today I had one of the worst days with the kids that I’ve had in a long time. They woke up way too early and were a handful all day because of it. And there were several moments when I reacted poorly to them, losing my patience and yelling, which of course got me down even more.
But the most surprising thing to me is that, at the end of the day, I’m actually okay. Normally I feel like I would still be stewing over how horrible the kids are, how horrible I am, and how hard it is to be a mom. And I’d probably just be trying to escape those feelings with a TV show and junk food.
But it’s different today. It’s like I can see things more clearly. I see that the kids didn’t get enough sleep, and so they were more cranky because they didn’t feel as well. I see that because I didn’t get as much sleep, and because I’m constantly dealing with [pregnancy] pain, I was in a bad mood too. It doesn’t excuse our behavior, but at least it adds a level of compassion, and that changes something.
I did some bad things today, like when I snapped and yelled at Katya so loudly that she was sobbing and my voice was hoarse. Or when I got so mad at Sophia for not eating her dinner that she ran away and hid in the corner of the room for several minutes. And I regret those moments so much.
But I also did a lot of good things today too. I sincerely apologized to Katya after yelling at her. When Sophia was distraught at one point, I came to her, knelt down, and hugged her tight until she calmed down. And I read books to the kids, not just during story time but also before dinner when I was so exhausted that I just wanted to rest.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I admit to being an imperfect person, and I also admit to being a person striving to do my best and live well. I am a whole person, and I was able to see and acknowledge that today, surely thanks to the Holy Ghost. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I can receive forgiveness for the things I so regret from today, and as Jacob in the Book of Mormon would put it (Jacob 5:66), I can continue to “clear away the bad according as the good shall grow.” And I’m so grateful for that.
Well, I hope that gives you an idea of what shame might look like in a day-to-day setting, and how you might overcome it. And that brings me back to Brené Brown because, as I mentioned, she started out as a shame researcher, but she didn’t stay with that topic. And that’s because during her research, she realized that people can actually become resilient to shame, and so that’s what she started writing more about. She put it this way:
“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”
Thankfully that empathy can come from a lot of difference sources. It can come from the Savior, who is the master of empathy because He experienced everything during the Atonement, including your feelings of shame. It can also come from yourself as you learn self-compassion. And, very importantly, it can come from people you are close to and trust when you choose to be vulnerable and open up to them. In fact, I suggest that you have a specific person in mind that, when something makes you feel shame, you can call up that person and share your story with them.
Alright, so I think that’s a good overview of shame. Let’s take a break, and after that, we’ll talk some more about weakness and authenticity.
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The Blessings of Weakness
Alright, let’s talk about weakness for a little bit because that’s kind of what the book is all about—I mean, The Gifts of Imperfection could just as easily be called The Blessings of Weakness. And Brené Brown talks about three blessings that come from being imperfect—they are courage, compassion, and connection.
In our imperfect state, we get to practice courage—the courage to move forward and keep trying despite all of our downfalls and shortcomings. We get to practice compassion, a word which literally means “to suffer with.” So whatever trials you go through, and however much you mess up, those experiences will allow you to have true compassion for others. And of course we get to practice connection. We all need each other because none of us can do everything on our own.
And there’s another important gift of imperfection that I’d like to add, and that is humility, which can significantly strengthen our relationship with God. That’s what the Lord was talking about when he told Moroni, “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
A great example of this is the apostle Paul when he talks about a “thorn in the flesh” being given to him—in other words a weakness, an imperfection. He says, “Lest I should be exalted above measure … there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me…. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
So to put it simply, weakness brings us closer to God, and God can make us so much stronger than we could ever be on our own. So remember that next time you’re feeling weak. When your imperfections are getting you down, let God lift you up instead.
So again, back to the book, after the author gives some introductory chapters, she explains ten guideposts to living a wholehearted life. For example, one guidepost is “Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism,” and another one is “Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison.” But the one I want to kind of finish up this episode with is “Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think.”
Taking the Plunge into Authenticity
I love the way she describes authenticity. She says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
Now, this can be very hard to do sometimes. She lists some questions that might keep us from being authentic, like “What if I think I’m enough, but others don’t? What if I let my imperfect self be seen and known, and nobody likes what they see? What if my friends, family, and coworkers like the perfect me better … you know, the one who takes care of everything and everyone?”
Those are some really tough questions. But, once you decide to take the plunge, and start showing people your authentic self, it can be such a relief. As Brené Brown put it, “Being true to ourselves is the best gift we can give the people we love. When I let go of trying to be everything to everyone, I had much more time, attention, love, and connection for the important people in my life.”
And now, just so you can also see this principle action, I want to share another personal story, about authenticity.
Learning to Embrace My Voice
So, it was eighth grade, and I was trying out for a talent show. I was singing a song called Utopia that I wrote on the guitar. I remember walking into the room with the panel of judges—about three or four teachers—and playing the song for them. I thought I did really well, and the teachers liked it too. But there was one, Mrs. Rickett, who asked me, kind of on a whim, “Could you play that song again, but sing it an octave lower?”
Well, I knew that I could. I had sung it in a soprano range, because that’s how girls are “supposed to” sing, but it was not my authentic voice. And Mrs. Rickett could tell that somehow. So I played it again, singing an entire octave lower, in a tenor range. And it was so much better—so much easier. I could sing so powerfully with this deep, rich voice instead of the fabricated, airy voice that I had been singing with the first time.
Well, the judges loved it, much more than my first try, so that’s how I sang it in the talent show, and that’s how I continued to sing and write songs. But there was always this nagging voice in my head saying, “You sound like a man. You’re a girl, and you shouldn’t sound like that.”
But then one day, when I was at home, I heard a song that one of my sisters had put on called “Fast Car,” and I just loved this song. And after listening to it on repeat for like ever, I thought, “Man, I’ve got to find out who this guy is so I can listen to more of his music!” Well, it turns out that that “guy” wasn’t a guy at all. It was Tracy Chapman, a woman—a woman with a low voice, with a vocal range the same as mine. And that just made me feel so much better about myself. I decided, “You know what? I might sound like a guy, but at least I sound like a guy who can sing, and that’s what’s gonna stick with people.”
Well, that was me as a teenager. Now fast-forward 15 years or so, and I get this crazy idea to start a podcast. And the reason it’s crazy is because even though I had come to terms with my singing voice, I am not the biggest fan of my speaking voice. And you know, I’m probably not alone in this—I think most people don’t like the sound of their own voice, unless you’re like Morgan Freeman—but this was seriously a huge barrier for me.
Well, I went ahead and took the plunge and decided to start this podcast. And after I recorded the first episode, I was editing it on the computer, and I noticed that one of the many effects you can do while audio editing is to change the pitch. And I thought, “Oh my gosh—I could change my voice. With the click of a button, I could make my voice higher like I’ve always wanted it to be. I could do that.” And I sat there, thinking about this choice—this choice to be authentic or not. And I chose authenticity—letting my true self be seen, or rather heard I guess. And do you know why I did that? Because of Tracy Chapman. I thought, “Maybe I can be a Tracy Chapman to somebody out there.” Maybe my voice can help someone else feel comfortable about theirs. And who knows? Maybe it’ll turn out that what I say is more important than how my voice sounds.
And you know what? I’ve been doing this for two months now, and not a single person has complained about my voice. In fact, I’ve gotten the complete opposite reaction, with people actually commenting that they like my voice, which was totally shocking to me. And it just goes to show that sometimes your fears are completely unjustified.
Well, that’s the last story I wanted to share today. I hope that this episode has given you some things to think about in your own life. And now, as always, here are a couple takeaways to help you remember and apply some of the things I talked about.
So, my first invitation has to do with shame, which is this: Make a list of the unhealthy things you tend to do when you feel shame. Then make a list of healthier ways you could handle those difficult moments.
My second invitation is about vulnerability, and it can be summed up in three words: ask for help. Think about something you need, something you might be afraid to admit because it’ll show your weakness. But instead of letting that weakness distance you from others, as you try to appear invulnerable, let it bring you closer to others as you vulnerably open up to them. Tell a trusted friend or family member how you’re feeling and how they could help.
Lastly, I just wanted to add one caveat to this book, and Brené Brown in general. If you choose to read her books, read them with the Spirit.
And let me explain why. When I was reading The Gifts of Imperfection this time around, I noticed certain ideas that could be interpreted in a way contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, at one point, she encourages readers to “live the life you want to live, not the one you’re ‘supposed’ to live,” which someone could easily interpret to basically mean “eat, drink, and be merry” instead of living the way God wants them to.
And these moments are super subtle because I think often the adversary takes his lies and pads them with truths so that they won’t be so obvious. And that’s why you can find Brené Brown quoted in articles on the Church website, and you can also find her quoted on anti-Mormon websites. Because there is so much goodness and truth to what she says, but at the same time, there are subtle worldly philosophies that can take people further away from God. So anyway, just try to keep the Spirit with you while you’re reading this book, and really any book, so that He can point out those moments to you and help you discern the truth.
Alright, well that is it for today. Tune in next week to hear a quick spiritual thought about how the Holy Ghost can comfort you. And in two weeks, I’ll review a book by Emily Adams called Is There No Other Way? Have a wonderful week!
Thanks for listening to Latter-day Saint Book Nook, hosted by Liz Kazandzhy! If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. You can also visit ldsbooknook.com to stay up to date with me and the podcast. Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you next time!