Book Report: I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown
General Synopsis (taken from the back cover of the book):
The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting. There is a constant barrage of social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. Everywhere we turn, there are messages that tell us who, what and how we’re supposed to be. So, we learn to hide our struggles and protect ourselves from shame, judgment, criticism and blame by seeking safety in pretending and perfection.
Based on seven years of her ground-breaking research and hundreds of interviews, I Thought It Was Just Me shines a long-overdue light on an important truth: Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.
Dr. Brown writes, “We need our lives back. It’s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection—the courage to be real, the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life. These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.”
Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of self help books. I tend to buy them on impulse. Most of the self help books I’ve purchased over the years are in result of hearing the author speak about the topic of which their book is based on. Most times, the lecture is better than the actual book. Well, “I Thought It Was Just Me” by Brene Brown was one of those impulse buys. I’ve watched her highly acclaimed Ted Talk about the power vulnerability at least thirty times now. The talk also inspired a post that I wrote about vulnerability and being heard. So, fresh off the inspiration of hearing Brown’s powerful thoughts about the beauty of vulnerability, I quickly visited her website and did a quick scan of all of the available titles before picking I Thought It Was Just Me.
Impulse buy? Yes.
Typical self help book that I drop not even have way through? No.
I devoured this book. I took it with me everywhere, and for once, I didn’t cover the front with a paper bag before taking it out in public. Finally a self help book that I was not embarrassed to be seen reading in public! I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I meet (in fact, I started recommending it after reading the first chapter).
This did not feel like a self help book, which had an overall effect on my reading experience. I resonated with the stories that Brown shared, based on interviews she conducted with hundreds of women on this topic. Instead of bombarding the reader with just statistics and facts, she weaved them in between the stories and thoughts that these women shared about how shame took over their lives.
The ‘A-ha moment’ for me was when Brown shared one of her own examples of a major shame trigger in her life. As a mother who works full time, Brown explained that she felt shame about the fact that she was not able to give her children as much attention as she would like to. (I might miss a few details of the story, and if so, I apologize). There was an event at her child’s school for which all of the parents were asked to bring a dessert. Brown assigned the task to her husband, and she was too busy to get to it. Her husband forgot. So, when Brown arrived at school later to pick up her child, she realized, to her absolute horror, that they had both forgotten. Oops. Not knowing what else to do, she lied to the teacher, pointing to a random plate of cookies on the table, saying that those were the cookies they brought it. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and nod my head in agreement. This is what shame does! We’re so worried about being exposed as less than perfect, that we feel the need to lie or come up with an excuse to cover up our imperfection. I can say without a doubt that I have done this hundreds of times. But, we can talk about my shame triggers another time…
Since reading this book, I have become much more aware of my ‘shame triggers’ and am therefore able to maneuver around them when they strike. It’s not to say that I have completely over come any sense of shame, but simply that I am now able to work with my shame, instead of allowing shame to take over me.
This book is smart, funny, moving, deep, heartbreaking and full of hope. Read it! And, please, read it without shame.
You can find more information about Brene Brown and her work by visiting her website.