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On this episode of Unlocking Us

Join me and my sisters, Ashley and Barrett, for Part 1 of our six-part Summer Sister Series on The Gifts of Imperfection. In this episode, we start with the Introduction, go over the 10 Guideposts, and talk about our personal Wholehearted Inventory scores. Surgeon General’s Warning: This is about as real as it gets. Equal amounts laughing, hard conversations, surprising revelations, and cussing. And some singing. But I file that under painful and/or laughing. If this sounds like your kind of conversation, join us for the rest of the series.

About the guests

Ashley Brown Ruiz headshot

Ashley Brown Ruiz

Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker certified by the State of Texas. She received a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Early Childhood Education from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Fueling a passion from working over a decade in a Title 1 school in Houston ISD, Ashley pursued a Master of Social Work from the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work. As part of her role as Senior Director of The Daring Way, she leads The Daring Way Internship Program with students seeking a master’s degree in Social Work. Ashley works with the interns to run therapy groups at different agencies around the Houston area. Her experience comes from working with women in residential recovery, adolescents in recovery, and middle school girls. Ashley’s ability to model and teach vulnerability and courage allows her to help clients put together all the pieces of their lives in order to help them move toward the life they hope to create. She is a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

Barrett Guillen headshot

Barrett Guillen

Barrett Guillen is (OFFICIALLY) Chief of Staff for Brené Brown Education and Research Group and (UNOFFICIALLY) the boss of Brené. With her team, Barrett supports both Brené and the organization by helping to prioritize competing demands, managing relationships, and building connective tissue and strategy across all business initiatives. Barrett holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Kinesiology from the University of Houston. After more than a decade in education in the Texas Panhandle, Barrett and her family made the move back to the Houston area to join the BBEARG team in making the world a braver place.  Having the opportunity to work with her sisters everyday has been one of the great joys of her life. Outside the office, you can find Barrett spending time with her family (immediate and extended), enjoying her daughter’s games, eating her husband’s famous burgers, floating in the water (any water!), or on the pickle ball court.

Show notes

The Gifts of Imperfection 10th-anniversary edition in paperback

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

For over a decade, Brené Brown has found a special place in our hearts as a gifted mapmaker and a fellow traveler. She is both a social scientist and a kitchen-table friend whom you can always count on to tell the truth, make you laugh, and, on occasion, cry with you. And what’s now become a movement all started with The Gifts of Imperfection, which has sold more than two million copies in thirty-five different languages across the globe.

What transforms this book from words on a page to effective daily practices are the ten guideposts to wholehearted living. The guideposts not only help us understand the practices that will allow us to change our lives and families, they also walk us through the unattainable and sabotaging expectations that get in the way.

Article The Midlife Unraveling by Brené Brown


Brené Brown: Hi, everyone, it’s Brené, and I am here with the first of a 6-part series I’m doing this summer with my sisters, Ashley and Barrett, on The Gifts of Imperfection. The series is going to run from June 23rd to July 28th. It’s so fun to see all the different ways people are joining us. There are in-real-life book clubs, which is like really neat to see after such a long time. There are online book clubs, sisters are getting together to do it, friends are getting together to do it. I even know some couples that are going to do it together. Here’s what I would do if you are interested in following along. You can use the new 10, uh, what is it called Barrett? 10 year anniversary?

Barrett Guillen: 10th

BB: 10th anniversary edition of The Gifts of Imperfection, or you can use your original book, both of them are perfect. I would start, before you listen to the first podcast, I would take The Wholehearted Assessment. You can just go to and do a search for The Wholehearted. Do we have a search button on that website? We do, right?

BG: Yeah, it’s in The Gifts of Imperfection hub.

BB: Oh, it’s in The Gifts of Imperfection hub. Totally free. It’s really interesting. It gives you kind of a score, on all the guideposts, where your strengths are, and where your opportunities for improvement are, because you know that’s what we would call them. We would say strengths and opportunities. Social workers forever, social workers forever. We don’t ever say “weakness”. We do, sometimes, but not often. So June 23rd is the intro, June 30th is guideposts 1 and 2, then we do guideposts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and then 9, 10. Here’s your Surgeon General’s warning for this episode. This is about as real as it gets. Equal amounts laughing, really hard conversations that I don’t think, I didn’t anticipate those. Did you, Barrett?

BG: I did not anticipate those at all.


BB: Laura, who produces the podcast for us here, when we were done, we were like, “You need to cut the F-words by 50%.” And yeah, like welcome to my family, y’all. Dang it! So hard conversations, some surprising revelations, cussing, singing. I would file the singing under hard conversations, to be honest with you. [laughter] If it sounds like your kind of conversation, join us for the rest of the series over on Spotify, free, as always. Coming back, we’re on a hiatus, also, from Dare to Lead. When do we come back from Dare to Lead? Do you know, Barrett?

BG: I think it’s July… Pulling it up.

BB: July, mid-July-ish, we’re coming back. And I’m going to do a 2-part special there on leadership and feedback, specifically, “The Hardest Feedback I’ve Ever Received”, and kind of how I defended that. Do we have a date?

BB: July 12th. That’s Cookie. Do you want to say hi, Cookie?

Cookie: Hello!

BB: July 12th is when we’re coming back with Dare to Lead, with the 2-part, “The Hardest Feedback I’ve Ever Received” special. I mean what the shit’s going on here with like… Is it vulnerability summer, and someone didn’t tell me? Alright, y’all. Enjoy! I think is that the right… Was that the right word, enjoy? Listen? Laugh?

BG: Yeah. Enjoy.

BB: Yeah, laugh with us, not at us.


BB: Hi, everyone. I’m Brené Brown, and this is Unlocking Us. Woo! We are back, y’all. We are sister strong, and we’re here with a 6-week series on The Gifts of Imperfection. This is going to be… I don’t know what it’s going to be. What do y’all think it’s going to be? [chuckle]

Ashley Brown Ruiz: Well, I was really excited about it, then my friend started posting, “Wow, you’re so brave!” And I was like, “Should I be scared about what we’re getting ready to do?”


BB: Are you scared?

ABR: No, I’m excited.

BB: Okay. Barrett?

BG: Yeah, I’m excited too. I’ve never been a formal guest on the podcast, I just make random appearances from all over, so… I’m excited.

BB: Good, so we’re going to be here. It’s me and Ashley and Barrett, June 23rd to July 28th. We’re going to tackle guideposts every week, we’re going to talk about what we think, we’re going to talk about what it means to us. We’re excited you’re here. Grab a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection, strap yourself in, I can make no guarantees. It could be weird, it could be awesome. It’ll probably be weird-awesome. [chuckle] But it’ll be real. That’s for sure.


BB: Okay, I thought on this first podcast with the three of us, I would kind of tell you a little bit about Ashley and Barrett, introduce them like I normally do with my guests, and then from this point forward, if you want to know about them, you can go to the webpage for the episode and their bios will be there, and y’all jump in with the bios. So who wants to go first? Ashley and Barrett are identical twins. Born six minutes apart?

ABR: So I think for a while it was six minutes, but when we found the birth certificate, I think it’s actually nine.

BB: 0h nine minutes. That explains so much in…


ABR: Confirmed.

BB: Yeah, confirmed. That explains so much in terms of like… [laughter] Yeah. Once you start digging through your parent’s shit, you have got to have a therapist on call.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Like, you find some stuff. So nine minutes apart, you’re the eldest?

ABR: I am. That’s me, Ashley, the oldest. [laughter]

BG: Front seat rider.

ABR: Front seat.

BB: Front seat. Well, these things matter in our family, because the oldest gets to ride shot gun. Okay, so Ashley is an LCSW, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she’s a therapist. Is that the fair translation?

ABR: Yeah, totally, but depending on if the state has updated the website or not, I still could be an LMSW, so it’s pending.


BB: Oh okay, do you know why? She just passed her LCSW exam.

ABR: Yes, I did.


ABR: And, I shouldn’t be claiming a LCSW until the state says I’m a LCSW, but it’s coming.

BB: Yeah, she would be the younger, more careful sister of all of us.


BB: So she is a clinical social worker, and she heads up a couple of things for BBEARG, which is our company, Brené Brown Education and Research Group. Ashley heads up the internship program. We have Master in Social Work graduate interns who come and work with us, and Ashley oversees them. I’ll just do a little shout out, nominated for field instructor of the year…

BG: Whoop, whoop.

BB: This past semester. Which was hard AF with COVID, because you couldn’t do anything in person.

ABR: Yeah, we were all virtual.

BB: With the interns, you teach them doing work in two places. Archway, which is a sober high school and kind of a model sober high school, right?

ABR: Oh, totally. Yeah.

BB: For the country, one of the first sober high schools. I mean, can y’all imagine anything harder than getting sober at that age?

BG: Nothing harder.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: Well, I guess not getting sober would be the only thing harder.

BG: That’s why she’s the therapist. [laughter]

BB: That’s why she’s the therapist. [laughter] Yeah. Therapist aboard. And then also The Women’s Home, which are women kind of transitioning into the community?

ABR: Yeah, so…

BB: How would you describe The Women’s Home?

ABR: They’re transitioning out of homelessness, all of them. I think the requirements to come into The Women’s Home are homelessness and some kind of a diagnosis of a mental health disorder.

BB: And is it usually mental health and addiction, kind of co-existing?

ABR: Oh, yes. Yeah.

BB: Yeah. And so, they just do this amazing work, because we have curricula that are built on the research, so The Daring Way is what you run at both of these places, right?

ABR: Yes.

BB: And then speaking of The Daring Way, Ashley also heads up The Daring Way community, which is a community of mental health professionals, coaches, trained and certified in our work. And so we are like, how many strong in that community?

ABR: There are about 1400. We have clinicians, coaches, clergy, doctors, nurses…

BB: Yeah.

ABR: Helping professionals, yeah.

BB: Incredible.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And then the last thing she does, and it’s so important, is she heads up a culture team for Brené Brown Education and Research Group, because she is the person who is so good at figuring out how do we stay connected, what do we do together, how do we build our culture, and so welcome to the podcast, Ashley.

ABR: Thank you. It’s very nice to be here. I appreciate the invitation.


BB: Okay. And then… We have Barrett.

BG: Hi!

BB: Hi. Sometimes Barrett’s on the podcast, y’all. Y’all have probably heard her, if you listen to the podcast. I’ll be like, “What do you think Barrett?” and she’ll shake her head, I’m like, “They can’t see you.” She’s like, “Oh, it’s good.” [laughter] So Barrett and I have worked together the longest. It’s been how long?

BG: 10 years.

BB: 10 years. And when you first started working with me, you were in Amarillo, right?

BG: Yes.

BB: We were like, shipping out books ourselves.

BG: Mm-hmm. I just had my daughter, and we were touring daycares and decided, “Mmm, I think I don’t know if I’m going to be able to go back to teaching or not?” And your career was kind of really taking off and you needed help, and so… Magic.

BB: Really magic. So Barrett’s official title now is Chief of Staff, which we all laugh, because we really call that Chief of Staff, AKA, Boss of Brené. [laughter] And so, anything I do, she does with me, and for me, and ahead of me, and we travel together. She preps me for everything that I need to do, she runs her own team. Yeah, she’s my everyday boss of me. How else would you describe it?

BG: I think that’s it. Yeah.

ABR: I wish we had Dad here to describe it.


BB: So let’s see, what would Dad say if he were here? First he’d say, “Shit girls, y’all recording a song on those things?”

BG: [chuckle] “Oh, so you think you’re the boss of sissy?”


BB: “Good luck with that.”

ABR: Yeah. [chuckle]

BB: Okay, so. Welcome.

BG: It’s fun to be here. Legit.


BB: Legit.


BB: Alright, in this episode, we’re going to jump into The Gifts of Imperfection, and talk about the preface in the intro. So if you’re following along… Oh my God, you guys are doing so many fun things. I’ve seen sister groups together, friend groups together. Some people are coming out of kind of transitioning out of COVID, vaccinated and getting together with people to read it, and you’re doing remote, kind of, Zoom clubs for this read along, I just… Y’all always amaze me. Y’all kick so much ass. Thank you for being with us in this. I wonder if we should start, before we jump into the book, talking a little bit about where were we 11 years ago? So 11 years ago… God, Ellen was 11, Charlie was five.

ABR: Amaya was six.

BG: Gabby was just born.

BB: Gabby was a newborn. And for me, for sure, this is a midlife book.

ABR: Oh, yeah.

BG: Yes.

BB: What do you think?

ABR: I was listening to it on my way home from San Antonio the other day and I was like, “Oh shit, is this my spiritual awakening?” [laughter] “I’m getting ready to go into?” [laughter] I definitely think it’s a midlife book, right? Because I think you finally get to the point where… Well, for me, that you are really honest about these kind of things, first of all, but secondly are willing to let go some of the things that you have to let go in this book to cultivate the things that you want. And you get to a point where you’re like, “Yeah, this is what I want my life to look like.” So…

BB: Yeah, and you get to a point somewhere in your life, where not having these things in your life are more painful than the work that you have to do to get them. Do you know what I mean?

ABR: Oh yeah.

BB: It’s like you’re upside down on the shit show.

BG: Totally upside down on the shit show, and I think, until Dare to Lead, The Gifts has always been my favorite book, because it was the first introduction to the work. I think it was the first time I was really ready to hear it and read it, and so I thought, “This has always had such a special place in my heart.” And I think when you get to our age, so Ashley and I are 47?

BB: Yes. [laughter]

BG: 47… [laughter]

BB: Hello, world.


BG: We’ve been doing our own work, and so I think coming back to The Gifts has been so fun with the 10th anniversary.

BB: Yeah, and it’s interesting timing because Laura’s with us, y’all all know Laura because I talk about her all the time, she heads up podcasting for us, she’s waving from inside the booth right now. She said she read it. Can I share, Laura, what you said about rereading it? Yeah, she reread it for this and she just said, “Man, I think I’ve been in a year-long funk coming out of COVID and lockdown.” So it’s an interesting time to revisit the book, I think.

ABR: Totally agree.

BB: Yeah. So, a couple of things just to give you some translations, when we say midlife book, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how I define midlife, and when we say the work, like we do our work, we’re all big believers in and consumers of therapy. So we’re therapy people, right? Would you agree? That’s fair?

ABR: 100%.

BG: Yes.

ABR: Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. But 100% agree.

BB: Yeah. So, I think you’ll hear that a lot during these six sessions that, we all see people and we all come from hard stuff, and I think the three of us, and our brother Jason is not excluded from that, we come from some hard stuff.

ABR: I mean, if you read your books…


BB: Let me say, I’m letting them know gently. They may not know.

BG: You’re a shame researcher, so…


BB: That’s so rude, I’m going to need a silence button.


BG: Laura has the easy button, and y’all have the silence button.

BB: Yeah, I want a silence button.

ABR: I want to just bust into song, but with this microphone. [chuckle]

BB: Okay, let’s just… Should we get this out of our way? We’re big music people, and we’ve been sitting in here getting ready, and they just keep singing into the microphone and I’m like, “Oh God.” And we all have a favorite Bob Seger song. We’re all huge Bob Seger fans. You want to get it over with right now, to get it out of your system? Ashley, what’s your Bob Seger song?


ABR: I know it’s late…


BG: I know you’re lonely.

ABR: You’re weary, you’re weary, Barrett!

BG: Oh, damn, weary.

BB: I know your plans don’t include me.

ABR: Don’t include me.

BB: Okay, so that’s Ashley’s. Barrett, what’s your favorite Bob Seger song?

BG: My favorite is “Accompany Me,” so if we’d like to take it maybe from the middle.

BB: Okay, go ahead. Just start us off.


BG: Someday lady, you’ll accompany me, where the rivers meet the sound and sea.


ABR: I was watching Barrett like, it’s been a minute since I’ve sang that song.

BB: Yeah, it’s been a minute.

BG: We probably should edit that, Laura.

ABR: No way, keep it.

BB: No, We’re going to vote on everything. [laughter] And then so, Ashley, I have to say that your song… I know it’s late.

ABR: Yeah

BB: I have to say, will go unnamed, but does remind me of an ex-boyfriend of yours. [laughter]

ABR: Well yeah, that was our song for years. [laughter] But I can totally disassociate from that while I enjoy this song.

BB: And then my Bob Seger song is…


BB: “Woke last night to the sound of thunder, how far off I sat and wondered.

BG: How far off I sat and wondered.

ABR: Started humming a song from 1962.

BB: Ain’t it funny how the night moves. Okay,

BG: whoo, whoo.

BB: Okay, so we got that out of our system.

BG: Maybe.

BB: SOkay, let’s start with midlife and why we think this is a midlife book. So I have an article on midlife on that I think really explains it. First of all, I think we really underestimate the seriousness of midlife as a developmental milestone for adults. Remember when we had our kids, and it’s like every time you’d go to the pediatrician…

ABR: T. Berry Brazelton.

BB: Yeah, touchpoints, yeah. Or you’d go to the pediatrician’s office and you’d be like, “Okay, head size, weight, where are you in the percentiles?” And we always think about children and these developmental milestones, but one of the things that we really underestimate is the power and importance of midlife as one of the biggest milestones of our lives. And I would say age-wise, I think midlife can run anywhere from, kind of, late 30s until you die, really. Because I don’t think that, that milestone, or those challenges go away. I think you either deal with them when they first come on, which again is usually late 30s… I mean, by 40, you’re in it. You’re in it, for sure. And so for me, I don’t think it’s a midlife crisis. I think a crisis is intense, it’s short-lived, it’s acute, it’s easily identifiable. The defining event can be named and controlled and managed. So I don’t think midlife is a crisis as much as it is an unraveling.

BB: And unfortunately, by definition, you can’t control or manage an unraveling. You can’t cure the midlife unraveling with control. Anymore than kind of the acquisitions and accomplishments, and for many of us, the alpha parenting of our 30s cured our deep longing for permission to slow down and be imperfect. And so, I always define midlife as the time in your life where the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close in and whispers in your ear, “I’m not fucking around. All of this pretending and performing, these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt, this has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. And I understand that you needed these protections when you were small.  I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching. And you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live in love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.” That’s midlife.

BG: That is midlife.

ABR: Yeah, which is such a good time to read this book. [chuckle]

BB: It is, because I think at some point, maybe the shortest definition of midlife, the midlife unraveling, that I can think of, is when all of the mechanisms you use to protect yourself, no longer serve, but actually get in the way of you being who you want to be. That’s midlife. And I think there are only two courses. I hate to get binary, but I think there are only two paths. One is you recognize, “Shit, this stuff does not serve anymore,” and you spend the rest of your life trying to get over it, because it’s not a one-time deal, right? Which has been the most painful thing for me about reading The Gifts. 10 years later. So you either commit to working on it the rest of your life until you die. Or you double down, clench your butt cheeks, you know,  get a sour look on your face and walk rigidly forward, committing to never changing.

BG: You do your work, or you don’t do your work.

BB: You do your work, or you don’t do your work. I mean, that’s it, right?

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Do you think it’s that?

ABR: I think part of it for me is like, when you get to a certain age and you think, “I’m tired, I don’t want to do this anymore,” and the fear is not as big as the want to do something different. And I think for a long time, maybe the fear is heavier or bigger or scarier, than wanting to change. But when you get to a point in your life where you’re like, “I can do all these things, I can find joy, I can have fun,” it’s just such a different ball game. And then, I think that some of the people that will look at this will say, “Yes, I want to change, no, I don’t want to change.” Five years later, “Oh, now I’m ready.” 10 years later, “Now I’m ready.” And so, I guess one of my fears would be, “I want this different life, but in 10 years, what will I have actually changed?” Does that make sense?

BB: Oh yeah.

ABR: What work will I have actually done?

BB: Yeah, and I unfortunately can answer that, because I wrote this 10 years ago, and now here we are 10 years later, I can tell you that… We’ll talk about the assessment in a second, because that’s an interesting way to start. What are your thoughts on midlife? Barrett? What are you thinking?

BG: Yeah, I think you’re right, Ashley. And we talk about it a lot in Dare to Lead, too, the armor becomes so heavy that you can’t carry it anymore, and I think for me, it was too exhausting to keep up acting like everything is okay. And I wanted to model that for my daughter, what it looked like to ask for help when you need it. I think we’re all big believers in therapy, and I think modeling that for our kids has also been a huge part for me.

BB: Yeah. I mean, I think for me, and I write about this a lot in The Gifts of Imperfection, I think it really for me was… I always called it the midlife breakdown, and then my therapist at the time called it a spiritual awakening, and so I could totally get, when you’re driving, Ashley, you’re like, “This better not be my spiritual awakening.” [laughing] As if we can stop it when it comes, you know.

BB: But I remember it was also, low-grade depression, anxiety, obsessive worry about things I can’t control.

ABR: Mm-hmm. Totally.

BB: Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: And that’s the physical and emotional exhaustion, I think, that we get to…

ABR: And then you think about those feelings right there in midlife, after coming out of a year of really not being able to socialize and be in connection with other people, so that’s why reading this book right now has been like, “Holy shit.”

BB: Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: So we have a wholehearted assessment. I thought it would be a great place to start. I have to tell you that Ashley and Barrett and I made a pact before we begin that we’re going to use hand signals if we’re going to a place that…


BB: We have one favorite family hand signal that we are going to try to stay away from, but we’re going to use hand signals if we get into a place that one of us doesn’t want to go. We may just keep talking about it, but we’re going to try to just be really honest with y’all.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: There’s no way that we can prepare. We’re just going to cover too much history. But we did start with the wholehearted inventory, which you can take, for free, on Just go to, and then go to the hamburger, which is like that little three-line menu thing on the right-hand side, go to the gifts hub, and then look for the wholehearted inventory. It’s free. We don’t collect your data, in fact, we don’t collect anything, so once your results come up on the screen, you either need to email them to yourself, which we don’t collect your email either, or you need to print it as a PDF, because once it’s gone, it’s gone, we just don’t save any of the data. So the wholehearted inventory uses the 10 Guideposts from The Gifts of Imperfection, which the 10 Guideposts are set up as, “Here’s what we need to let go of. Here’s what we need to cultivate.” And so, examples are letting go of what people think, cultivating authenticity, letting go of perfectionism, cultivating self-compassion, letting go of being cool and always in control, cultivating more laughter, song and dance.” And so, y’all want to start with the inventory?

BG: Sure.

ABR: Yeah. Lets do it.

BG: And do we want to tell them how we’re going to use the gas tank model?

BB: Oh yeah, because we first had numbers on here and scores, but then we’re like, “Are we scoring people on The Gifts of Imperfection?” Like…


BB: That just seems like… Because I, for one, want to score. Do y’all want a score?

ABR: I want to score y’all, but I don’t want to score myself.


BB: Yeah, so I wanted a score. And then I thought, “No.” So what you get is like a bar graph that’s a percentage full, but there are no numbers on it, so we’re just going to read them like a gas tank. And so let’s talk about where we are with the inventory. And I can tell you if you’re listening right now, and you haven’t taken the inventory yet, pause the podcast.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Pause the podcast,, go to the hamburger, The Gifts hub. It’s like the second square on the top or something.

ABR: I would say too, if you’re like, “Oh, I took that last year.” No, retake it.

BB: No.

BG: No, sir.

BB: No, sir. No, sir. You’ve got to do it now, because I slipped back on some of mine.

ABR: Oh, for sure.

BB: Yeah, during COVID. Okay, alright, letting go of what people think and cultivating authenticity. I’m between 1/2 and 3/4 tank.

ABR: That’s exactly where I am.

BG: Same.

BB: Okay.

BG: I think that’s partly to do with the whole midlife thing too. At some point you just don’t give a shit anymore.


BB: Yeah. I mean, you really can’t. If you keep giving a shit to the level you did in your 30s, just paralyzed by what other people think.

BG: Yeah.

BB: In your 20s, and, you know, “Who am I? And am I perfect? And… ” You can’t do that at that same level and get out of bed every day.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Like it really is… Or worse. You can do that and get out of bed every day because you’ve shed a lot of that shit on your kids.

ABR: Oh, yeah.

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: Or your partner, or your colleagues.

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BB: Perfectionism. Letting go of perfectionism and cultivating self-compassion. I’m exactly the same place, about 3/4 of a tank, or between 1/2 and 3/4.

ABR: I’m about between 1/2 and 3/4, a little bit closer to 1/2.

BG: I am below 1/2, and I would like to say that, “Hi, my name is Barrett and I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I’ve been working on this so much with my own therapist, so thank you, ma’am.”

ABR: Big shout-out.

BB: We should say, “Hi, Barrett.” Because we would be in that meeting with you.

BG: I know.

ABR: Yeah, for sure.

BB: Always used to laugh at me in AA meetings, when you try to bring your friend, they’re like, “What if someone sees me in an AA meeting?” and I’m like, “Dude, they’ll be sitting in the circle with you.”


BB: So let’s go to the next one. Speaking of addiction, letting go of numbing and powerlessness and cultivating a resilient spirit. Again, I’m exactly the same, between 1/2 and 3/4 of a tank full.

ABR: I’m pretty close to 1/2. Like right above the “P”. [chuckle]

0:25:45.3: BG Yeah, I’m closer to 3/4 tank full.

BB: Do you think you numb less?

BG: Me, Barrett?

BB: Yeah.

BG: I probably numb less because I’m less afraid to deal with what’s coming my way. But I do think we all lead really stressful lives, and so I do think that I can be a numb-er, even if it’s just flipping through Facebook, not even knowing what I’m looking at. Or Instagram or whatever.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: Oh, and the question, too. Well, it talks about it in the book, too, when you’re numbing and then you realize it didn’t even really bring you anything. Like when you’re down that rabbit hole on Facebook or Instagram and you get done, and then you feel even worse, like it didn’t even fill you up.

BB: Yeah, we should talk about that when we get to that chapter, because that’s probably my hardest thing in the whole book.

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BB: “Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark, and cultivating gratitude and joy”.

ABR: Wonk, wonk.

BB: Oh, I’m at a solid 3/4 tank.

ABR: I’m under 1/2.

BG: Yeah, I’m between 1/2 and 3/4, too.

BB: Okay. Because we still have to… We’ll have to talk about that, we’ll leave this out as we go through. “Letting go of comparison and cultivating creativity”.

BG: Here’s my wonk, wonk.

BB: Why, where are you Barrett?

BG: I’m under 1/2.

ABR: Yeah, so I scored kind of like a 3/4 here, and I think one of things, one of the reasons that I did is that, in therapy lately, and I’m also doing some career coaching, we’ve been talking so much about the times in my life that I had joy, that I feel really high on this right now.

BB: Oh, yeah.

ABR: Like… Just joy and creativity.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: And so I feel really high on it right now, but maybe if you had asked me six months, it’ll look different, but we’re having a lot of conversations around it.

BB: I’m barely over 1/2 a tank there. I think this is my Enneagram one. Like, “Be a good person.” Like I have to be a good person, I have to be a person of integrity. I have to be a good person, so like, I cannot sleep at night because I think I forgot to recycle something. You know what I mean? Like it’s just a terrible thing. Oh, we’ll see about this one, “Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol, and productivity as self-worth and in cultivating rest and play.”

ABR: 1/2 tank for Ashley.

BB: 1/2 tank for Brené.

BG: 1/2 tank for Barrett, too.

BB: I’m scared to go to the next one. Should we skip the next one?


ABR: I’m just glad we skipped number five.

BG: I just think we better find a gas station ASAP.

ABR: Well, it’s not on there.

BB: Okay. Oh, did I skip one?

ABR: No, five is not on this inventory.

BB: What do you mean?

ABR: Well, like up here, it says “Cultivating intuition and trusting faith requires a combination of complex assessments rather than a concise set.”

BB: Oh, yeah.

ABR: So five is not on here, but that is one of the ones where I struggle.

BB: Okay, yeah. One of them’s not on here because of the definition of faith is too complex.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Okay, so this is a hard one. “Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle and cultivating calm and stillness”.


ABR: Okay, guys we’re driving down. I intend, it’s time to pivot.


BB: To find Grumpy’s the gas station.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Okay. Where are you, Barrett?

BG: I’m like 1/4 a tank.

ABR: 1/4 a tank.

BB: I’m 1/4 of a tank.

ABR: So, I’m just so curious about how the family dynamics are playing out in this.

BB: What do you mean?

ABR: Like, there’s only been a couple that we’ve been off-off, other than that, we’ve kind of been similar. Just wondering, if that has any meaning or anything.

BB: I think we’re all anxious people, and I think coming out of COVID, we’re really more anxious. I think because we were raised… I think Mom… Right?

ABR: Yeah.

BB: I think Mom was like, very, “Don’t forget to call me when you’re there, because I can picture your dead body on the freeway.” Like, she was…

ABR: You tell a story, I forget what it’s from because I hear a lot of your stories, but it’s like, when you grow up believing that if you don’t put the toilet seat down, your sisters could drown. [chuckle]]

BB: Yeah. No, I mean, yeah it’s like… Just very vivid, traumatic imagery a lot.

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BB: And we grew up with that. Do you agree?

BG: Yes.

BB: And so, when we’re anxious about something, we picture really horrible things.

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BG: Yeah.

BB: And we have to call each other a lot, right?

ABR: Yeah. And I think it’s really cool, too, because we help each other make sure we’re not putting that onto our kids too. Because we have been doing that like, “You okay? You okay? You okay?”

BB: Oh yeah, I had to call you.

ABR: Yeah. It’s true. You did.



ABR: And the truth was, she’s okay. [laughter] What are you whistling about? You got that same call.

BB: Why is that? Barrett’s whistling.


ABR: Yeah.

BB: No, I think we do have to worry about that. I really don’t want to hand that down.

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BG: Me three.

BB: Okay. “Letting go of self-doubt and supposed-to, and cultivating meaningful work.” Full tank, baby.

BG: Nice. I’m like 3/4 a tank.

ABR: I’m 3/4, it’s my highest one. But I love the questions around this because it was like, “Do you love what you’re doing?” And I’m like, “I do. I do.” [chuckle]

BB: Yeah.

BG: I do, too.

BB: Me, too, but it’s a hard one for people because we’re really lucky.

BG: We are.

ABR: I agree.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: And gosh, especially coming out of a year of just like total uncertainty and…

BB: Yeah. And a lot of people are like, “Screw meaningful work, I need to find a job and feed my family right now.”

ABR: Yeah.

BB: You know. “Letting go of being cool and always in control, cultivating laughter, song and dance.” I’m right over 1/2.

ABR: Yeah, I’m between like 1/2 and 3/4.

BB: Yeah, me too.

BG: Me too.

BB: And then, and we’ll dig into as we go into the episodes, because there’s a lot of family stuff, in all of these actually. And then the last one is, “Letting go of unclear and uncommitted values and cultivating value, clarity and commitment”. And I am full tank.

BG: Yeah, I just did the values exercise with a group of new hires that we have, and so I’m 3/4 tank, which I’m going take and run with.

ABR: Yeah. 3/4. Yeah.

BB: Yeah. So this is a really great way to start the Six Series Sister Session, is take the wholehearted inventory on, kind of see where you are. So as you’re working through the book, and as we’re working through the podcast, you can refer to it and think, “Wow, this is an area where I’ve got real strengths.” As social workers, I’m looking at Ashley, because Ashley and I are both social workers, and Barrett by proxy.

ABR: Pretty much.

BG: No.


BB: She’s like, “No, y’all keep that work to yourselves.” [laughter] She’s the spreadsheet.


BG: There you go.

ABR: Color-coded and pretty, but a spreadsheet.

BB: But a spreadsheet. Yeah, I’m like, “If it doesn’t have feelings… I don’t know how to judge it.”


BG: And now that I can get on board with.

BB: It’s not like I like feelings, it’s just I like judging them sometimes. Even my own, unfortunately. But it’s really good to look at this and kind of see where you are, where are your strengths? Where are your opportunities for growth? And one of the things social workers use a lot is, I think it’s Dennis Saleebey is the social work theorist who came up with strengths based theory, where understanding your strengths is not just about feeling better about yourself, it’s about, “How can I use these tools and resources to apply to areas where I need growth?”

BG: Can I give just one shout out to any social workers who are getting ready to go through their masters program. When you go through the DSM class, please do not diagnose everyone in your family with everything in the book.

ABR:As a social worker, you need to do that because it helps you have clarity around what’s wrong with your family. [laughter] I’m just kidding.

BB: I was not in the clinical, I was in the political track, so I just told everybody how to vote.


BB: Okay, let’s open up and let’s just start from the beginning. Let’s look at the preface. I like the preface for this book a lot. You’re going to hear us flipping because we’re just in the book with y’all. So the preface starts with this quote, which is probably one of the biggest quotes probably in my work, right?

ABR: Oh yeah.

BB: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yes.

BB: So much easier to come up with that quote than actually do it every day. [laughter] This idea of how much we know and understand ourselves is really important, but what’s even more essential to living a wholehearted life is loving ourselves. This idea… What was that face, Ashley?

ABR: I just think that can be really hard sometimes.

BB: Say more.

ABR: Just loving ourselves. I think, we can be harder on ourselves than anyone else in the whole world, and so, if one of us got into a big fight, one of us would circle back and be like, “Man, I was showing up like an ass, I’m really sorry, blah, blah.” But we never really clean up stuff with ourselves, and so we hold so much of the damage that we’ve thrown to ourselves. I’ve been talking about this a lot lately, and so I just think loving ourselves can be really tricky. And some days it’s like you’re on top of the mountain and you’re having a blast and just really feeling yourself and then some days you’re not. And I think during COVID it’s been hard, too, because even as sisters, we quarantined a little bit together but then as we started opening up our own lives a little bit more, we were way more careful about even seeing each other. And I think that sometimes that isolation and loneliness feeling can get in the way.

BB: I think self-love is hard.

ABR: Oh, gosh.

BG: Me three.

BB: One of the things we talk about in the research a lot is, “Do you talk to yourself like you talk to people you love and respect?”

BG: I don’t. I really try to be careful, like I’ll catch myself just initially doing it and then I’m like… Kind of how that story you tell about when Ellen went to prom and you’re like, just faking it until you make it.

BB: Yeah.

BG: That was about gratitude but I think I just have to catch myself and then do it because I would never talk to someone else the way I talk to myself, and it’s terrible.

BB: What is your go-to messaging? What is a moment where you would really berate yourself and what would you say to yourself?

ABR: Oh shit.

BG: I think for me, the biggest thing is, at work, if I just completely miss something. If I completely miss a meeting or I completely drop the ball on something, and usually my go-to is like, “WTF?” And I would never say that to someone else if they miss something or…

BB: Like you’re saying to yourself, “What the fuck were you thinking? What were you doing?”

BG: Yeah.

BB: In that tone?

BG: Yeah.

ABR: It’s funny because I was thinking, “I don’t know if we can say the “F” word,” but we obviously are. But I’m the same way. I do “what the fuck a lot, too,” and then I think I can go into some perfectionism of like, “Oh my God, what are they going to think?” I just sent this really important write-up of something and something’s misspelled like, “Oh my God, they’re going to think I can’t even communicate with external partners,” something like that so. And I would never say that to anyone on my team or anybody, but it can be easier to say to myself, for sure. And I think both of y’all have called me out on it, too, like, “Gosh, you’re really hard on yourself.” And so what I try to do is I’ll either catch myself and say, “Wow, that was a pretty big response to what just happened.” I’ll write it down in my therapy books so the next time I’m in therapy I’ll talk about it or I’ll call one of y’all and say like, “God, this is how I just reacted,” and you’re like, “Damn, let’s talk about it. Why do you think that was so hard?” But I’m trying to be mindful of it but it doesn’t go away, it’s still there. It’s just sometimes I can catch it faster.

BB: I think the WTF is genetically encoded, so if you don’t like cussing, this is not the podcast for you because we can’t be ourselves and monitor that stuff. I was thinking about this, this week, and I think, I have a lot of shame around the fact that I am so brutal on myself sometimes. I mean, I think to know me is to know that I’m probably pretty tough on myself, right? Is that true or do you not think it’s true?

ABR: No, I think it’s true, and I also want to say that when you came out as number one on the Enneagram and like how you feel like this responsibility to do so much for the world and everything.  It almost helped me understand a little bit more about why you’re so hard on yourself, because you set such high expectations for yourself. But yeah, I do think that.

BB: Ouch. [laughter]

BG: I actually think we’re all very hard on ourselves.

ABR: Why’d you say, “Ouch”?

BB: Well, it’s not, “Ouch,” like you poked me, but it’s just, “Ouch, it’s true.” And I think that is just the work I’m back in therapy doing. Folks listening, Ashley, Barret and I are clear on this because we talk about it all the time, but if you think you can go through The Gifts of Imperfection one time and get it down and check it off your to-do list, that’s not the way this work works. It’s every time something comes up in your life, you just revert back to old systems and old way of thinking. I think it’s being the oldest, sister superior, the oldest of four, hyper-responsible, but I also think the shame of how I can talk to myself sometimes comes from the pressure I put on myself to know better, like, “I’m supposed to be the model of this,” you know. I’m really working on that with my therapist right now.

BG: God, and that is so much to carry, number one, and number two, I feel like what can be really hard about that is, I think, the work resonates with so many people, because they watch you struggle with it. And you’re not up high preaching to people how to do it, you’re like, “Come along for this sucky-ass ride, [laughter] we’ll all do this together and we’ll do it the best we can.” So then for you to hold that, too, God, that’s a lot.

BB: Yeah, I do have that like… Diana, my therapist, that I was seeing when I wrote this book, we talked about the intersection of this work and recovery a lot, and she would always say, “Remember the saying is, ‘Let go and let God,’ not, ‘Let go and let Brené’.” [laughter]Wow, rude.

BG: You don’t know me.


BB: You don’t know me, sit down. [laughter] I think that’s hard, and I am hard on myself. It’s weird because I’m really open to making mistakes, but I do the perfectionism as really… Woof.

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BG: It’s so hard.

BB: It’s so hard. Let’s go into the introduction, and let’s look at the first page of the introduction, which is the definition of wholehearted living, which I still love. And here’s the thing, as a researcher, what I love about this book is, in grounded theory research, we say that a theory is only as solid as its ability to work new data. Meaning when you’re a grounded theory researcher, what we do is we collect data, qualitative and quantitative, and from every source imaginable, and we develop a theory or a hypothesis, and that’s what we put out in the world. So a lot of times, like my theories on shame resilience, my theories on courage and vulnerability, my theories on The Gifts of Imperfection, quantitative people will come by it after me, behind me, and they have all over the world for the past 20 years, and test those theories.

BB: So a lot of times, when I revisit older theories, like the definition of wholeheartedness, which is the foundation for the theory of this book, it’s always scary to me because I have to rework it, if it doesn’t work new data. And I think probably we had maybe 50,000, maybe 75,000 pieces of data when I first wrote this book, and now we have crossed over 500,000 pieces of data. And this definition still holds up, which I love. So wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection, to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night and thinking, “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I’m also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” And then, of course, the next sentence says, “Wholehearted living is not a one-time choice, it’s a process.”


BG: I need to take a picture of that.

[overlapping conversation]

BB: Damn it. So let’s just break this down for a minute. Living our lives from a place of worthiness. Cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I’m enough.” God, perfectionism is such the enemy of this.

ABR: It is.

BG: It is.

ABR: It’s so hard, too, because for me, like when I really feel like I have a kick-ass handle on work, my life feels like it’s out of control personally. And if I have a kick-ass handle on my personal life, work’s a shit show. So it’s like, how do you find the balance between like instead of trying to get everything perfect in all these different areas, just saying, “I’m kicking as much ass as I can in every one of these sections.” So sending an email with the misspelled word at work is terrifying for me, but going to sleep with my to-do list not done doesn’t bother me at all because I work so hard. But if I didn’t unload the dishwasher, [laughter] I can like, just have a whole conversation with myself about why I need to get my ass out of bed and go unload the dishwasher. You know, so it’s not a checklist.

BG: I want a checklist. Maybe you could do that in the next book.


BB: Yeah, no… Yeah, I wish. You’re the checklist person, you’ll have to do it. I think even the frame-up of how you frame that up is problematic, right? When everything is great at work but my life is a shit show, it’s not enough. It’s like everything has to be ticked off. Everything has to be balanced. I keep thinking about this Pema Chödrön… [chuckle] It’s so funny. We’ll put a link in the episode page. But she has this amazing thing, where I think she’s sitting in a yoga position and she’s Pema Chödrön, this American Buddhist nun, and she’s like, “It’s too hot. It’s too cold. There are too many mosquitoes. The tall guy sat in front of me at the movie. You have on too much perfume, it’s bothering me.” And she goes through this thing and she says, “So, what we want to do to combat all these things that just bug the crap out of us, including our own things, is we want to grab this huge roll of leather, like rolling out a red carpet, we just want to roll this leather over everything, so everywhere we step, we’re just on this leather that everything is taken care of. The mosquitoes are gone, the tall guy doesn’t sit in front of you, the dishwasher’s unloaded, the email is perfect.”

BB: And she said, “but really, kind of the state of zen-ness, I guess, is you can’t go around wrapping the world in leather to protect yourself. You just have to spiritually wrap your mind in leather, so that no matter where you step, it’s going to be okay. You can’t let all of these variables affect you so much.” And so now I’m always like, I’ll be riding with Steve somewhere, and he’s like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “Wrapping my mind in leather!” [laughter] “Wrapping my mind in leather!” But how do you get to the point where all of these things don’t need to be done in order for you to feel worthy of love and belonging?

ABR: Oh, yeah.

BB: We’re looking at you, Barrett, what’s the answer?

ABR: Yeah. You can write a book.

BG:I’m working on that checklist, as we speak. [laughter] No, I agree. It’s like your own love and belonging. I don’t think my family really cares if the dishwasher is not unloaded or loaded before you go to bed, but it’s kind of like getting in your own way, for me, I’m always getting in my own way. It’s always… That’s the toughest. And the fricking… I think my score’s wrong on the perfectionism piece.

BB: Why?

BG: Because I was so happy that I was under 1/2 a tank, but every time, it seems like all roads lead back to perfectionism.

BB: And we define that. Let’s talk about what perfectionism is and isn’t for a minute, because this is the place to do that. Perfectionism is not healthy striving. In the research and in the data, we see that actually healthy striving or striving for excellence, being the best we can be, and perfectionism are on opposite sides of a continuum. Perfectionism is this very addictive belief system, that if we live perfect, look perfect, unload the dishwasher, keep it perfect, everything’s perfect, that we can avoid or minimize shame, blame, judgment, and criticism. Perfectionism is not about being our best selves, it’s a defense mechanism. I call it the 20-ton shield. We carry it around thinking it’ll keep us from getting hurt, feeling judged, feeling shame, feeling criticized, but what it actually does is it keeps us from being seen, and it’s so effing heavy, you know. What is that thing? Y’all know I do that thing, if we go to the lake or something, like I can rest when everything’s perfect.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Y’all didn’t need to say yes really quick. They’re looking at me. They’re giving me the stink eye right now, both of them.

ABR: But, I mean, even when I’m at the lake, I feel that, too. Probably not as much as you do, but I feel like… I don’t know, I think for me, it’s like an internal… I know we laugh a lot about checklists but you know my life revolves around checklist, which is probably part of my numbing but… It’s like this checklist in my head, if all of these things are done tonight at the lake, then tomorrow we can have so much fun.

BB: But that’s what I do, but what is that?

ABR: What the hell? Yeah.

BG: But then we wake up and we make breakfast and we have to start all over.

ABR: Yeah, and it doesn’t even matter. I mean, even if we didn’t run the dishwasher… I don’t know why I’m so stuck on the dishwasher because, really, I don’t care if I run the dishwasher. But even if all the plates are in the dishwasher we have no plates to eat off, we don’t care we’ll eat out of bowls. Like, I don’t know what that is either.

BB: It’s control, I guess. It’s a need to control the environment, maybe. It’s really hard.

ABR: I think we probably all have that.

BB: Yeah. I think we do all have that and I think it’s because… Would you agree that we’re all kind of fear-based?

ABR: Yes.

BG: Yes.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: Uncertainty, eggshells, I mean, that’s where I come from. Those are the parents that I had.

BG: We had the same ones.

BB: I had different set.

BG: You did.

ABR: Yeah, I agree.

BB: Just because I’m 8 years older than Ashley and Barrett and so, you know… How old were y’all when they got divorced?

ABR: 13?

BG: Yep.

BB: So I was 21. Yeah, more to come on that.


ABR: I’m sure.


BG: Wait what guidepost does that fit in?

BB: All of them.

ABR: Parents, letting go of…


BB: Yeah, it’s tough. We had, fair to say, a lot of trauma growing up?

ABR: Fair to say a lot of trauma.

BB: Yeah, we had tough parents. When it was good, it was great.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: When it was not good, it was hard.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. We had parents doing the best they could with what they had.

ABR: Oh, totally. And one of the great things about being 8 years younger than you, is that we get to ask a lot of questions.


ABR: And so I feel so lucky that we get to check our stories with you, because they’re not always accurate.

BB: Yeah.

BG: Yeah. And we don’t remember a lot about our childhood, Ashley and I.

BB: And if you’re wondering, if you’re sitting here going, “Jesus, where did they grow up?” We grew up behind a door, in a Houston suburb with a Suburban-driving dad and our mom stayed at home. And we looked like everybody else, probably in that cookie-cutter subdivision. But inside was a crumbling marriage, two parents that didn’t do their work, two parents who came from so much trauma that they couldn’t believe that we didn’t think that we were living like the Leave It to Beaver thing. They just thought this was… But their marriage was crumbling.

BG: Yeah.

BB: From the day they got married, I guess? Yeah. They married each other for a lot of the wrong reasons and it was tough and they were intense, loud, scary people, sometimes and…

BG: I think that’s also part of what happens, at least it happened for me and I think partly for you, too, Ashley. And midlife is… We thought there were a lot of perfect families out there, but we were wrong. Everybody comes from really hard shit. I remember Ashley called me one time and she was like, “But what about so and so? What about so and so?” Do you remember that?

ABR: No.

BG: Every time you said someone I was like, “Yeah, but remember this, remember… ” I think really understanding that everybody comes from something and the older you get, the more you realize that, it’s hard. Life is hard.

BB: It’s so hard.

ABR: You know what’s crazy, too, though, is just if you talk to Mom and Dad now, I just stayed up way too late having a conversation with Dad, and Mom has said this to me recently, too, is they look back at their marriage as one of the biggest blessings they’ve ever had in their life. So although it was explosive and hard, from where they came from, it was like, this…

BB: Yeah, they were living the dream.

ABR Yeah.

BB: Think about Mom, think about Mom’s mom. So my grandmother, who we all adored, who is the best person in the whole world. Massive alcoholic, married to a string of violent men. Dad came from a really tough family.

BG: Yes.

BB: His dad died when he was 16?

ABR: Super young, yeah.

BB: Super young. His girlfriend was killed in high school.

ABR: In a car wreck.

BB: Yeah. And they came from a lot of trauma, both of them.

BG: Yeah.

BB: And a lot of poverty.

BG: Yeah.

BB: They came from poverty. Me-Ma, our grandmother’s last husband was a forklift driver and a teamster and they barely made ends meet. And she was a beauty operator or a stylist until, I don’t think she could do it any more with the drinking. And so, I think to wake up one day and be in a subdivision, you know, with your kids on swim team and going to a new public school and…

ABR: We went on tons of trips.

BB: Yeah. It was everything.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: I drive through that subdivision where we were raised and it is like a trauma graveyard. And it’s probably not more or less trauma than anyone else but I think maybe what’s so shocking to me is as I drive through it, I know every story from every house. You know every house kind of looks the same, and I guess what is so shocking is the cognitive dissonance between thinking we were the only ones…

BG: Yeah.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Whose parents we could hear through the walls. We were the only ones who, we knew, there really was no money. I don’t know, no one talked about that stuff back then.

ABR: No one talked about it. I still have a lot of friends from elementary school, I don’t see them a lot but we connect on Facebook and like we all got together when we turned 40. That was a few years back, but everyone was dealing with their own shit and nobody talked about it.

BB: No.

ABR: Like nobody.

BB: No. And yeah it’s not that, that area was any different than any area, it’s just the stories we made up when we were living there, that we were the only ones.

BG: Yeah.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Do you know what I mean? But you think about, how many parents of our friends, died of alcohol-related deaths.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: A lot.

BB: A lot. And these were the people that we thought were Leave It to Beaver. But no, everybody hid everything. I remember growing up there was one after school special on alcoholism. Are y’all too young to remember the after school specials?

ABR: Mm-mm, I remember. I don’t remember topics, but I remember.

BB: Wednesdays on ABC or something, I don’t remember what they were, and it was about alcoholism, and the dad was an alcoholic, and he would like break chairs and do those kind of things, and it was so unrelatable. So I thought, “Oh, well that’s not what I’m seeing here.”

BG: Yeah.

BB: But that’s what we were seeing everywhere.

BG: Mm-hmm.

ABR: And it’s really hard too, because I feel so sad that I missed some opportunities to be able to become closer to those friends because none of us were sharing. When we got into our 40s and started talking about stuff, I wish I could have been with some of those friends when they were younger, so they weren’t in it by themselves.

BB: Yeah, everybody has a story that will break your heart.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And if you’re paying close enough attention, most people have a story that will bring you to your knees.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And so I think what we’re going to try to do in this series is just be honest about going back to that definition. It’s in the top of the introduction.

ABR: It’s on page.

BG: three

BB: Yeah. “Engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. Cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I’m enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I’m also brave and worthy of love and belonging. That’s what this series is about.

BG: Yeah.

BB: So we are glad y’all are here with us, we’re just going to talk through it.

BG: Hopefully, they come back.

ABR: Yeah. [laughter]

BB: They’ll be like, “Wow.” And see, and if you’re wondering… Seriously, this is a question, and I know because I hear people say this to me all the time when I’m on the road, “Your life is so perfect and you work with your sisters and it’s so, you know,” and so any illusion that you have… I don’t think many people would read the books and have illusions that… We grew up with stuff that we had to get through and over and revisit weekly, but this is the real thing and I’m bullshat out.

ABR: Yeah, same.

BG: Amen.

BB: I’m bullshit out, so we’ll just talk about what’s real.


BB: Just some reminders as we sign off. This is a 6-week summer series with my sisters, Ashley and Barrett. In the next episode, we’ll talk about guidepost number 1, “Cultivating authenticity, letting go of what people think and cultivating self-compassion and letting go of perfectionism.” A reminder that we’re taking a short break from Dare to Lead right now, but we’ll be back on July 12th with the 2-episodes solo series on, “The Hardest Feedback I’ve Ever Received.” [laughter] Damn it to hell. Maybe I’m not tired of the bullshit yet. And after that, we have just incredible guest line-up for the fall for both podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead. We are here exclusively on Spotify. And we have an episode page on where we have resources downloads. If I say, “Hey I’ll put that on the page,” that’s where you go to. We also have transcripts that drop about five business days after the recording drops. We are happy that you’re here and we’re happy that you’ve joined us here on Spotify, and I’m grateful to be with this community where we can just keep it awkward, brave and kind. We will see y’all next time.


BB: Unlocking Us is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil and Andy Waits and music is by the amazing Carrie Rodriguez and the amazing Gina Chavez.


© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, June 23). Part 1 of 6: Brené with Ashley and Barrett for the Summer Sister Series on The Gifts of Imperfection. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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