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On this episode of Unlocking Us

It’s Part 2 of our six-part Summer Sister Series on The Gifts of Imperfection, with my sisters, Ashley and Barrett. In this episode, we start with Guidepost #1 (Cultivating Authenticity and Letting Go of What People Think) and move into Guidepost #2 (Cultivating Self-Compassion and Letting Go of Perfectionism). Practicing authenticity — and, yes, it is a daily practice — is really connected to boundary work, so we admit the individual fears we each experience when setting boundaries. We also talk about perfectionism as a process addiction and how our imperfections are not inadequacies, but instead, they’re reminders that we’re all in this together.

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.

Test How Self-Compassionate You Are test on by Dr. Kristin Neff


Brené Brown: Hi everyone, I’m Brené Brown, and this is Unlocking Us.


BB: Welcome to our second episode in our Sister Strong, six-week series I’m doing this summer with my sisters, Ashley and Barrett, on The Gifts of Imperfection. This 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’re interested in following along. You can use the new 10th anniversary edition of The Gifts of Imperfection, or you can use your original book. Both of them are perfect. Okay. All right, y’all ready to do this today?

Ashley Brown Ruiz: Let’s do it.

Barrett Guillen: Let’s do it.

BB: Oh.


ABR: Pinch poke.  You owe me a coke.

BB: No, no, no, no, no. I don’t know what’s happening. [chuckle] I really don’t know what’s happening.  We have this sister thing that’s real and strong, but then they have a twin thing that’s just creepy. Let me tell you this story. Let me tell you right now.


BB: Right now, I’m going to you all the story.

ABR: It’s going to be about…

BB: Now they’re talking behind. Okay. They’re cheaters.


ABR: That’s what I just said it’s going to be about, [whisper] the time we cheated.

BB: Okay, okay. Wait. Now, we were playing Pictionary, and it was me and my brother against the two of them, this is 15 years ago?

ABR: Oh yeah, probably, at least.


BB: And, all of a sudden, it was insane. They would just draw like a check mark, Barrett would draw a check mark, and Ashley would go, “Mardi Gras, New Orleans.”


BB: And they would win.


BB: And I was like, “What the hell?” And then, they draw a card, and Ashley draws a circle.


BB: And Barrett, goes… What is that basketball player’s name?

BG: Hakeem Olajuwon?

BB: Hakeem Olajuwon, yeah.


BB: She just drew a circle, she’s like, “Hakeem Olajuwon!” And I was like, “This is bullshit.”


BB: And then they just started dying laughing, and they had been cheating for like an hour. And then my brother, who is very competitive, was like, “Oh this… They can’t be on the same team, they’ve got some kind of twin superpower.”

BB: So I’m just telling you, you’re seeing a little bit of that today already, I don’t know what’s happening. But Ashley and Barrett and I are here with you today. We’re talking about guidepost number one, and guidepost number two.


BB: Which we’re not here as experts.


BB: We’re here as people with… Somewhere between half and three quarters of a tank of gas in each of these guideposts. But we’re here to talk it through with you. So, I’m glad you’re here too.


BB: All right, y’all ready to jump in?

BG: Let’s do it.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Okay, guidepost number one. This is just a hard one. Letting go of what people think and cultivating authenticity. So there is a big, honking definition of authenticity, that is in the top of this chapter, that emerged from the data, so let me read it for you or to you. I’m on page 68 of the hard cover book. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we’re all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that we can only achieve when we believe that we’re enough. Authenticity demands whole-hearted living and loving – even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it.  Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, gratitude, and joy into our lives.” We could just take the whole time and talk about this definition like…

ABR: Okay.


BG: Yes.

BB: Okay, so one thing I’ll tell you about this definition is insider information… Is the book, this book had already gone to print, the original, 10 years ago. And I was coding data, and realized that I had forgotten the part that says choosing authenticity means… It just said “cultivating the courage to be imperfect and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable,” and there was nothing in there about the courage to set boundaries. And it was…

BG: Yikes!

BB: That and one other issue, was literally a “stop the press” moment.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: What do y’all think about the relationship between authenticity and boundaries?

ABR: I mean, I think if you’re not setting boundaries, it’s hard to be authentic, because I make up, you’re probably living in some resentment, which is not being authentic either. So, I just think, first of all, to know for you what’s okay and, not okay, I think that’s a really big step because sometimes we don’t know. But to figure out what’s okay for us and what’s not okay for us is totally part of what you have to figure out to be authentic.

BB: Yeah, Ashley is talking about this definition of boundaries, that’s basically super simple. What’s okay and what’s not okay.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And I think it’s a very important way to think about boundaries. It’s a definition that I actually first saw used by Kelly Rae Roberts, the artist, who’s also a good friend. So, she teaches these amazing art lessons, and just FYI, she’s a social worker.

ABR: I don’t know if I knew that.

BB: She’s an MSW.

ABR: Oh, that’s so cool. Of course she is.

BB: Yeah, she is an Oncology Social Worker.

ABR: Oh, wow.

BB: In a hospital. And then self-taught art, and then became a full-time artist.

ABR: Oh, wow.

BB: And has all these big contracts with distribution and companies. And so, she had done an art class and some of the students… Not a lot, but a few of the students made art.  Like basically just copied her art, and then started selling it. And so, she, in great social work fashion, and she’ll even say, this was the social worker in her. Just wrote this blog post.  So this is probably 15 years ago that said, “Hey. Love that you’re inspired by the art. Here’s what’s okay, and here’s what’s not okay. You can paint anything that looks like my art and copy my art and hang it in your house and do anything you want with it. What’s not okay, is to copy my art and do anything commercial with it.”

BG: Yeah.

BB: Here’s what’s okay, “To be inspired by my work.” Here’s what’s not okay, “To copy my work and then put your name on it.” And so, one of the things that was so powerful about this definition of boundaries was,  it wasn’t just, “What’s not okay?” It’s also, “What is okay?” You know what I mean?

BG: Yeah.

BB: And so, so often when we’re setting boundaries with people.. First of all the hardest thing about setting boundaries is the fear of not being liked.

ABR: Oh yeah. And if they don’t follow through, the consequence…

BB: Oh God, that. That sucks. Yeah, the accountability piece.

BG: Yeah


BB: We are so bad at accountability in this world, in this culture, that we don’t even know how to talk about it –  politically, in families, at work, we do not know how to do accountability and, “Why?”  Because the foundation of accountability is vulnerability.

ABR: You should probably say that again.


BB: She stole my line.


BB: No, the foundation of accountability is vulnerability. That’s why we suck at it. That’s why in the political sphere, in the cultural sphere, in the US right now, if we’re pissed at someone we will shame the shit out of them, but we don’t actually hold accountable.  Because shame is just discharging anger and rage, but accountability, and when you set a boundary, when you say, here’s what’s okay, and here’s what’s not okay, and then to your point, Ashley, they don’t respect that boundary. Then you have to be accountable. And when you say what’s not okay, you’re often not liked.

ABR: Yeah.

ABR: Do you remember one of the first times as an adult, as a mom and adult, in my career, I started going to therapy, and we talked about this idea of being a boundary bully.


ABR: Like once you start to get to the point where you are like, “I’m going to set boundaries. Watch this.” Then you are like boundary overload.


BB: No, it’s like you swing from no boundaries to… I have a great example.

BG: Okay. [laughter]

BB That was a mean laugh.

0:08:29.4ABR : Does it include Barrett, she’s looking at you.


BB: No. So I was newly in this book. I just finished writing this book. I was still in weekly therapy with Diana, and Ellen got invited to do a sleep over with a bunch of girls. And kind of, in our friendship group, I was probably the strictest and so everyone would call me and say, “Hey, are we dropping our kids off of the movies yet?” And I’d say, “I’ll puffy from the power of that question.”


BB: I would say, “No. We’re not dropping yet. We’re still going and sitting behind them.” And so I was kind of like, “Do you think they’re allowed to do this yet? Uhh, no, yeah, I think so.” I was the first with the ear piercing, too.


BB: So I knew this family. It was a bunch of the girls that Ellen hung out with, but I knew this family in particular were very lax, there’s probably a less judgmental word, but they’re very loose about what their kids watched on TV. And the movies they watched. And so… [chuckle]

BB: I’m embarrassed to tell the story. [chuckle] Because y’all are going to go, “That’s Brené at her worst.”


BB: Because I’ve probably done it, I’m sure I’ve done it with y’all a thousand times, but this is my boundary bully stage. And so, the girls would all go over, and I’m going to call the mom and just say, “They’re going to do pizza, movie.” You know, and I’d say, “What are they watching tonight?” And it was something that Ellen couldn’t see. It was something that clearly was not okay. [chuckle] Not just according to me, but Common Sense Media, my friends. And so I said, “You know, that feels super inappropriate for this age group, and a lot of times when kids watch films like that, especially films that have that kind of violence. They don’t really have a place to file it. It feels bad.” And so I just gave this lecture. You know in the end, I think she just said, “So that’s a no, right?” “No, they can’t watch that.” But it was such a boundary. It was just me finding out. Now, it’s like, “Hey, is it okay if the kids watch this?” “Probably not a good choice. Probably not a good pick for Ellen, but these three movies would be great.”

0:10:38.7ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

ABR:  I’ve totally been there.

BG: Same.


BB: On the receiving end of my bullshit. Or y’all have done that too?

ABR: I think both. [laughter]


BB: That’s rough. Yeah. It’s true. Because when you first set a boundary… So let me see if I can explain this, from the research in an interesting way. When I was growing up, when y’all would go see Me-Ma for the summer, that is our grandmother that lives in San Antonio, would y’all like go to the movies and do putt putt golf and do all that kind of stuff?

BG: Yes.

ABR: I don’t remember putt putt, but I definitely…

BG: Oh yeah, we went to… What was the place called? It’s still there.

BB: Oh, it’s like the most famous.

S ABR Oh, Kiddie Park?

BB: Yeah, we’d go to Kiddie Park for sure, too.

ABR: I remember Kiddie Park.

BB: We are dating ourselves now. Us and every San Antonioan over 70.


BB: But we’d go to  Kiddie Park, we’d go to the zoo, and do all that stuff. And every day there would be an event, and so I remember one morning when I was little, because this struck me as so weird it just stayed in my memory, Me-Ma said, “We can do anything today, but go to McCreless.” Which was the mall by our house.


BB: So there was a Piggly Wiggly and McCreless Mall on the South Side. And I said, “Why not?” And she goes, “God, it hurts me so much to stand still.” And so I was like, “So we can go somewhere where you have to walk a lot, but you can’t stand?” And she’s like, “Yeah, walking’s fine, but standing still hurts.” And I always think about that with my research, because a lot of times we believe that there is this very long walk between, “I’m a worthless piece of shit and I’m better than everybody else.” And the truth is the pain of that hurts so much because it’s standing still. You’re standing in the exact same place when you think you’re better than everyone or worse than everyone. There is no long walk there, you know what I mean?

BG: Yeah.

BB: And I think you are standing still in the same amount of pain when you’re not setting boundaries, as when you’re judging and shaming people with boundaries. There’s no difference there. Do you know what I mean? Neither one of those is authentic. One of them is, “I’m not going to say anything to you about the movies because you’re a cool mom, and I want you and your friends to like me.”

ABR: Mmhh.

BB: And the other is, “I’m going to bully you around this because I want to be better than you.” Same place. Same amount of pain. Do you know what mean?

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yeah, it was really helpful lens, I don’t know that I would have been able to put that into words, but… Yeah.

ABR: Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you explain it that way either.

BB: Yeah, I think about it a lot. You know, I wrote it for an essay or something for a magazine, and then I end up writing it on something else, but I think, we don’t understand that when we think we’re better than everyone…

BB: We’re exactly in the same place as we are when we think everyone’s better than us. The long walk is from that space to non-judgment around ourselves and other people.

BG: Damn. [laughter]

BB: But that’s the long walk.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: But I don’t think you can be authentic, like if… What’s a hard boundary you’ve had… Oh, you’ve set boundaries, you’re really good. You’ve been doing boundary work in therapy right, Barrett?

BG: I have, yeah.

BB: What’s been the hardest part for you, about setting boundaries?

BG: I’m a pleaser.

BB: Mmhh.

BG: And so that’s the hardest part for me, I think. I think I file right into the pleasing, making sure everybody has what they need, making sure everything is good. And so when I set a boundary, it’s usually because my pleasing meter is over its limit. And so it’s really hard because it’s uncomfortable, number one, to set the boundary and then it’s uncomfortable two for me to come out of that role.

BB: Out of the pleaser role?

BG: Yeah. So for me most often, they’re tied together.

BB: And if you had to fill in this sentence, “It’s hard for me to set boundaries because I don’t want people to think… ”

BG: I’m an asshole?


BB: Yeah, fair. Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: And what’s the hardest part for you?

ABR: I was going to say, I’m not much of a pleaser.


ABR: I started the asshole role I think. [laughter] It’d be backwards. The hardest part for me about setting boundaries?

BB: Yeah.

ABR: When you were saying that earlier, just two seconds ago, but I can stay in judgment and resentment, but I think my biggest fear is that they would leave and not respect my boundaries, that they would rather be just like “Ah. Screw her.” So I think that that’s what scares me the most.

BB: So the fear that you’re not worth holding the boundary for?

ABR: Yes. Yeah. And that’s the work that I’m doing in my therapy right now. So it’s the same boundary work as Barrett, but different. I can stay in judgment and when I get to using my voice, it feels scary, because then the worthiness comes in for me. Yeah.

BB: Yeah. So I think what’s so powerful about what you said, Ashley, is I think underneath…

ABR: I even want you to say that was Barrett saying it because people would never know.


BB: I can’t trick the audience but…


ABR: Okay.

BB: Like y’all did with teachers in elementary school.


BB: But what I think is really powerful about what you said is that, if you get to the point where you’re doing work on setting boundaries, our biggest barrier is going to be what our fundamental fear is.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And so if your fundamental fear is of being liked and people thinking you’re awesome, and then, “Oh my god, I don’t want them to think I’m an asshole.” If your fundamental work right now is around worthiness, and she’s worth holding that boundary for, and mine goes back to, it’s really hard work that I’m doing right now. I didn’t even know it was boundary work, and I’m back seeing my therapist again, and she’s like, “God, we’re back to boundary work, like a decade”, you know, I’m like “son of a sea cook.”


BB: And it was really hard because I struggled to set boundaries out of the fear of people not thinking I’m good. Like “Can you help with this?” “Sure I’m happy to help you with that.” And she’s like, “You can’t help people with all that.” I had to practice saying… I had to practice in therapy, I have to practice saying this. Ashley say, I’m having a really hard time finding a place to get vaccinated and we’re going to role play and this is me.

ABR: Okay. “I’m having a really hard time finding a place to get vaccinated.”

BB: “Oh I’ll help you. I’ve got a really good system for doing that, I’m happy to help you.”Barrett’s like… Barrett’s giving me the “No shit, Sherlock” face because it interferes with work a lot right?

BG: It can, yeah.

BB: So I’m so afraid, and this is me being really truthful. This is really hard to talk about, but I’m so afraid that… You didn’t even ask me for help, “Right?”,  but I’m so afraid that if I don’t help you then, “Oh, you’re Brené Brown and you’re a big fat liar and you’re not a good person.” And so I had to practice in therapy with my therapist saying things like, “Yeah, it’s so frustrating to find the spot” and forget the… It wouldn’t even dawn on me to be empathetic in that situation and be like, “Wow, that sounds tough.” I really had to write down on my hand, “Wow, that sounds tough.” As opposed to, “I can fix that.”

BG: That’s so hard, because here’s a question, in this role play, I wonder Ashley, how you would have felt if she would have said, “Oh, I can fix that, I can find you a vaccine, blah, blah, blah” or if she was like, “God dang it sucks, I’ve been online all morning.” You would have come away probably feeling heard and seen either way.

BB: I don’t know, but I can tell you that when I say I can find you a vaccine by 2:00 o’clock. [laughter] Most people are like, “I don’t know what the correct answer is from The Gifts of Imperfection, but I’ll take the vaccine slot.”

ABR: I’ll take it. Yeah.

BB: I’m just saying that the work I’m doing is… And even she asked me, my therapist said, it was like, so I can’t believe we’re talking about this. [laughter] But it’s all right, because I’m sure I’m not the only one, right?

BG: Yeah.

BB: Or am I maybe?

BG: No.

ABR: I Thought It Was Just Me.


BB: No, and underneath all these hard big things are the shame things, right?

BG: Oh, yes.

ABR: God.

BB: Yeah. So, it’s like I forgot what I was going to say because my unconscious is protecting me.


BB: We should talk about this, because these two guideposts for today, the self-compassion, the authenticity, the perfectionism, it goes back to resentment for me. Like, if I help someone… This is my newest insight from therapy, if I help someone from a genuine place, not out of fear of what they might think, I don’t feel resentment. Even if the task is 10x as hard to do. But if I help someone just out of the fear of what someone might think, that’s resentment.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Do you have resentment?

BG: Yes, I have resentment for the same reasons you just said.

BB: Do you have resentment ever?

ABR: I need like a life vest to hold me up from the resentment that I’m swimming in. It’s like an ocean.

BB: Okay, so

ABR We talked about this yesterday, and what you shared was so cool.

BB: Yeah, so I’ll share this because this jacked me up. This was a humbling, hard insight. I ran this insight past my therapist and waited for her to say, “No, I don’t think that’s true,” and she’s like, “That’s exactly true. And I want you to write that down and think about it.” I was like, “Oh, shut the f up.”

BG Damn, you don’t know me.

ABR: You don’t know me.

BB: You don’t know me, that’s what we say, that’s our favorite line right there, “You don’t know me.”

BG: Of course we only say it with each other after our session [laughter]

BB: Oh yeah, we don’t actually say it to our therapist.

ABR Super brave

BB: Yeah, we are like really brave with each other, “And then I told her, “You don’t know me.” [laughter] None of us do that.

BB: Okay, so resentment, and I’m weaving some Enneagram in here, which I don’t know, it’s like trying to find the validity and reliability of the Enneagram stuff, it’s like, the descriptors are right, but the groups are weird, I don’t know, but I find it somewhat helpful. Do you all?

BG: Yeah, I do.

ABR: They don’t know me. [laughter]

ABR: Yes, I do.

BB: Yeah, so there’s on the number one, our big thing is resentment, and I remember like… I know the number one’s all think the number one’s stuff is the meanest , but it is the meanest [laughter], it is totally the meanest, because they had this bird in this meme, and its wings were like straight down by its side, and its beak was out, and it had this mean face, and it was flying, it was like a real bird, and it was just flying, and underneath it it said, “Fueled by sheer resentment and rage. [laughter] The number one,” I was like, “Oh, you don’t know me.” So before I did the podcast with Mark Brackett, before we went on air or whatever, we started recording, he and I were just talking, and so I thought, “Well, hey, I’m on with Mark Brackett, who runs the Emotional Literacy Center at Yale, so I’m going to ask my question about resentment, because why not, right? I think I said something like, “Well, so I know resentment part of the anger family,” and started talking, and he goes, “No, no, no. Resentment is really part of the envy family,” and I got dizzy. I was really like, “What the?” I was in this swirl like woah, time was slowing down, and I was like, “What?” And he goes, “No, resentment is kind of a function of envy.” Then I became total Dad. “What?  Shit! You sure?” [laughter]

ABR: Angels you have?

BB: He’s like, “I’m sure.” And, so I started thinking about it, and I’ve been thinking about it so much that sometimes I think I feel resentment at other people who are not weighted down by their worth being held hostage by having to be good all the time.

BG: Yeah.

BB: You know, they can just be messy and human and… You know what I mean?

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: So if resentment really is in the envy family, what would that mean for you, Ashley?

ABR: Umm…

BB: Like just around boundaries and authenticity.

ABR: Yeah, I just think it would… First of all, I feel like the anger kind of goes away when I think about it that way, because I have resentment, judgment… Yeah.

BB: Yes, me too.

ABR: I feel like a little bit of the anger has gone away because then I feel like it almost takes it off of them that I’ve been so pissed off in judgment and resentful about, and brings it back to me about, “Well, what’s that envy?”

BB: And what do you need?

ABR: What am I missing?

BB: Yeah, what do I need?

ABR: What can I do to fill that void? Yeah.

BG: You all are so good, I’m still really pissed off and resentful [laughter] I’m like, “Well, if you guys had… ” I’m usually like… My resentment is like, “Shit, you have one-third of the things to do that I have to do. One third.” I can now see where that’s envy. [laughter] I’m still like, “What the hell?”

BB: That’s the hard thing. So like, yeah, that’s the hard thing.

ABR: But oh my gosh, there’s like… For someone that swims in a lot of resentment and judgment, it feels so freeing. And I imagine it will be hard for some people to get there, but this is seriously what I’ve been doing in therapy for the last three or four weeks straight, and although my therapist is probably like, “Hell yeah, she got there,” I didn’t really get there until we talked about it yesterday.

BB: Yeah, because now when I’m feeling resentment, which is like a lot, I used to think it was because people weren’t working hard enough or doing enough or pulling their weight, but now it’s like, if I say, “Oh, I’m resentful,” what do I need more of?

ABR: Yeah

BG:,  Just thinking this through right now, for me, it’s like… Most of the time it’s because they’re boundaried about shit that I’m not boundaried about, and I need to be more boundaried for my own stuff.

BB: But is it that they’re more boundaried? I mean, really, I’m just asking this question because is that really what they are? because I know what we’re talking about here, and it’s like, is it that they’re more boundaried or is it that there’s just not as many expectations on them as either I put on you or you put on yourself? Or is it more about, not that they’re more boundaried, it’s that we’re missing the boundaries?

BG: Maybe so, yeah.

BB: I don’t know.

BG: I think it all, however you package it, it’s all my own life’s work, and I think it’s the hardest part for me.

BB: Such an interesting conversation, right?

ABR: Mm-hmm,

BG Yes.

BB: Because our underlying drivers, our underlying fears of whatever it is that we fear, and our underlying needs show up in different ways, but the same problems. I think that’s true of everybody.

BB: Okay, I do want to do this before we get out of this episode: “Dig Deep”. Each of these chapters in here has a Dig Deep, which means, “How do you get deliberate about making different choices? What inspires you? And how do you get going?”  And we don’t have to do them all for every one of them, but I encourage y’all to do them. They’re really helpful.

BB: So, do you have a mantra? For authenticity, my mantra is still… I wrote this 12 years ago. It was probably when I started working on this book or 11 years ago. “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand your sacred ground.” And that is a great example of, “Hey Brené, we’re going to let the kids watch Saturday Night Fever tonight.” And shrinking is like, “Oh okay, that sounds good.” And in my mind, I’m like, “that’s not okay, that’s not okay. That’s not appropriate.” And that’s shrinking. Puffing up is like… “That’s an incredibly… You may not get the subtleties of that movie, but it’ll certainly… ” That’s the puffing up. And just stand my sacred ground, which is like, “Great movie. I’m probably not ready for Ellen to see that yet, so can we pick something else?”

 BG: Yeah.

BB So do you all have authenticity mantras?

ABR:  I actually don’t have one. I mean, honestly, what we were talking about earlier, I was like, Yeah, mine’s pretty much just like “F you.” But, that is probably just because of where I am.


ABR: But I think it would be helpful. I really do. It’s funny because your mantra I know by heart. Because of course, I run Daring Way groups all the time and there’s a video of you.  And it is… The people that I work with, the clients, it is their favorite thing that you do when you say this, and how you explain it to them. So, it’s really powerful to have a mantra.

BB: Do you have a mantra yet?

BG: I was just like thinking,  “What do I say to myself a lot nowadays?”

ABR: “Not my circus, not my monkeys” Is what you say a lot. [laughter]

BB: You say that a lot to us.

BG: I do say that, but mainly what I’ve been saying a lot lately is “God, do your work, man.”


BB: But you know what, I was thinking about that before we started this podcast series. That we could be hard around the doing your work.

BG: I definitely can be hard and judgy when I think about it.

ABR: Maybe we are envious of the other people that aren’t doing their work…

BG: Oh God, not me…

BG: Oh yeah, driving with all that rage deep down in your belly… Like, ‘no’


ABR: It’s because Barrett has to commute in everyday.

BB: She commutes a long way, but, I mean, did she tell you that story about that guy that got out of his car, road rage guy. This older white guy in this big pick-up truck, you know we are in Texas, came and scared the crap out of her. It was really traumatizing. And I was like, “Did you flip him off?” And she’s like, “No, I just turned screaming: Do your work. Do your personal work.”

BG: But you know what, I think about that a lot obviously still, and it just must be terrible to be around that dude a lot with that kind of rage built up. I do, I feel sad for people that aren’t doing their work because I think it was a podcast you did with Ashley C. Ford and JRW, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh,

BB: For their book, Hungry Hearts. Their anthology.

BG: Yeah., and the question was, “Why do you think people don’t do their work?” Your answer was so amazing.

BB: Usually my answer would be… If you ask me that today, I don’t know what I said then, is the fear of what they’re going to find. It hasn’t gotten bad enough, you know.

ABR: When you talk about it in this book, too, that some people are afraid to open up because they think it’ll swallow them whole to even start talking about what’s inside.

BB: Yeah, they think they’re going to get swallowed whole by pain and grief. What they don’t know is they’re already living in that dark belly.

BG That’s it.

ABR:  Yeah, they are. They’re already living there.

BB: We are,

ABR Yeah.

BG That’s true.

BB: We’re lucky because we had a mom…

ABR Yes.

BG: Who turned the tanker…

BB: Who turned the tanker.

ABR: Pivot…

BB: She went to therapy. It probably was the end of her marriage to our dad, but she just said, I can’t do this anymore, I think Ronnie, her only brother, her only sibling, had already been shot and killed. I think she just said, “I can’t live like this anymore. And I can’t pass this down to y’all.”

BG: Wait. That was her midlife, right?

BB: Mm-hmm. That was her midlife. Yeah, oh my God, I never thought about that until now.

BG: Me neither.

ABR: Me neither.

BB: That was her midlife. And she just said…

ABR: She would have bought this book, She would have loved it.

BG:  She would have

BB: Yeah, for sure., oh, she read this book.

ABR: But I’m saying in her 40s…

BB: Oh, in her 40s.

ABR: Because, she’s got every book ever.

BB: Yeah, you know what’s embarrassing, is when Mom was going through her mid-life unraveling and got into therapy and made a plan to leave dad and really turned her life around, her coffee tables and night stands were just packed to the ceiling with books by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. And she did a lot of Jungian therapy. And I just remember thinking, “Oh, Jesus Christ, what is she doing? What a weirdo.”


BB: Now you can’t even walk two feet in my house without running into a Carl Jung book


BB:  So, yeah.  She’s also, at that time, was also reading a lot of Maya Angelou poetry, so yeah.  All right, so I want to at least spend 10 minutes talking about the second guide post, which we’ve spent some time already going over, “letting go of perfectionism and cultivating self-compassion”. We talked about that in the first episode, but one of the things I really want to drive home here is, when I did the book read, [chuckle] my self-made podcast from home, my red kitchen table, I did a DIY podcast for I Thought It Was Just Me.

BB: And I remember getting an email from this woman who said, “My friends and I love your work, we don’t really have shame issues, but if you ever do anything on perfectionism, let us know.” And I was like, “Oh.” And then underneath, not just “Thank you, Diane.” And then her work signature, and then underneath her work signature said, “PS they’re not related, are they? Question mark” [laughter] Yeah, she knew.

BB: I think the one thing that people don’t understand about shame is, and perfectionism, is that where perfectionism drives us, shame is riding shotgun. Shame is that fear of not being enough, not being lovable, not being worthy of connection, and for me, not being good enough.

ABR: The not enoughs.

BB: Yeah, the not enoughs, that shame.

BG: Boo.

BB: Boo.

BB: Yeah, and perfectionism is how we think we deal with it. We say, “Oh God, I’m so afraid of not being enough.” So I’m not going to set boundaries, I’m going to say yes to everyone, I’m going to help everyone. I’m not going to put any… For you, Ashley, any strain on anyone that makes it hard to be in connection with me in case they think it’s too much work or I want to please. I want everyone to think I’m fun and easy and laid back and low maintenance, and I can handle it all…

BG: It’s like your 30s.

BB: Huh?

BG: It’s your 30s.

BB: Yeah, but as I’m saying this about each of us, I see us little [chuckle]

BG Awww.

BB: Ashley and Barrett are making sad faces. I see us little.

ABR: We were cute.

BB: We were cute, but I see how…

ABR: Yeah.

BB: I had to be good, and perfect and of integrity.

ABR: Yes.

BB: Taking care of you all the time and not ever thinking about what I needed or wanted, that was not it. And watching a lot of anytime mom asked for what she needed or wanted, it was framed as selfishness.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: You  know, as opposed to being like, I guess in, maybe Dad’s frame,  the martyr,  give everything to everyone, take care of everyone, I don’t know what that was. And then how you,  The worst was all you wanted to do from the first day of kindergarten, like when you walk downstairs. You know, they may be identical twins, but they’re very different. Ashley walked downstairs the first day of kindergarten in a dress with a hat and a matching umbrella. And Barrett walked downstairs with tube socks, a basketball jersey [chuckle] and a ball underneath her arm. They were completely different, but how… You had to be tough. You had to be the people pleaser.

BB: Barrett, you were very much in high regard for being athletic, and being easy, and being able to wake up and through a baseball cap on backwards and put your ponytail through. And you can handle anything and you were tough. And Ashley, you were like, the sweet and cute and take care of everybody and make everything fun and put a bow on everything. And I was like the good, smart, always in my integrity, values person. And so, just as we’re talking through this, I can see how perfectionism is so much like as long as you maintain those expectations, you’re lovable.

BG: Damn.

ABR: Goddamn.

BB: Do you know, what I mean?

BG Yeah.

ABR Yeah.

BB: But if you move away from those expectations, then, that’s going to test. And I could never be silly. I mean could y’all imagine me being silly? I couldn’t be silly or goofy, I had to be a serious kid.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: I could see it.

ABR: Same.

BB: And I was also doing a lot of raising of y’all.

BG: Yeah.

BB: You know, when things would really go crazy and so… God, it’s so seductive. The perfectionism, right?

ABR: It is.

BG: It’s never ending, you’re just always chasing it. Always chasing it, always more.

ABR: Yeah. That’s when you talk about it too, Brené. Like a process addiction almost, it’s like you think you get through it and you’re like, “Well, next time it’ll be even more perfect.” And so you never attain it.

BB: Yeah, it is, it’s like… For those of us who believe in perfectionism and have bought into that as a way to minimize shame or blame or disconnection or judgment. For those of us who believe that, and we’re raised with a lot of evidence of that, unfortunately, when we ultimately do feel judgment or criticism or blame or disconnection, because that’s just a human experience. We don’t say, “Oh fuck perfectionism, that stuff didn’t work.” We say, “You know what, I wasn’t perfect enough.” And that’s the process addiction part of, “I absolutely believe that perfectionism is a process addiction.” And you know why also I believe, just because when I think about my own food stuff. I think of when I first got into AA, this idea of whether it’s beer or Marlboro Lights or red wine that you’re pretending is just part of your fancy wine club, but you really can’t live without it. Or carbs or whatever it is, the saying that. “ You can’t get enough of what you don’t need.”

BG: Shit.

BB: Do you know what I mean?

ABR: I’m making a mental list in my head of those sayings [chuckle]

BB: Yeah like If you ever… I don’t know, this is probably me because the food thing became a real thing for me. It has always been a real thing for me, but there’s certain foods I just don’t eat as part of my sobriety around my food. Because there are foods that if I ate one, a box of them would not be enough.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: It would stop whatever I’m feeling until I stopped eating. And then how much of it can you eat? You can’t eat 15 boxes of Oreos. Right?

ABR: Yeah.

BB: You just can’t.

ABR: I mean, I’ve tried.


BB: Yeah, and so I think perfectionism is the same thing. You just cannot get enough of what you don’t need.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: So let’s look at the Dig Deep in that, just to close out this episode. Ashley and Barrett and I are going to take a nap.

ABR: Yeah, talking about doing this self-compassion scale on Kristin Neff’s website.

BB: So, if the thing you don’t need is more perfectionism, the thing you do need is self-compassion.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Boy I suck at that [chuckle]

BB: Do you suck at it?

BG: I do suck at that.

BB: Have you taken the Neff inventory?

BG: Yeah.

BB: Is self-kindness your lowest one?

BG: Yes.

BB: Self-kindness is my lowest one. So Kristin Neff is a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, and she has studied self-compassion, her work is fantastic. I think she’s got a new book coming out this year too. Yeah, she’s amazing. And she has an inventory on, which you can take.  It’s free. Great, valid, reliable instrument and it breaks self-compassion down into three elements Self-kindness, “Are you being warm and understanding towards yourself when you suffer, fail or feel inadequate” Common Humanity, “Do you recognize that suffering and the feelings of personal inadequacy, are just a part of the shared human experience.” And then mindfulness, which she’s got my favorite definition of mindfulness, because mindfulness for her is not just, “you need to stop and feel what you’re actually feeling.” It’s that, and “You can’t become overly obsessed on what you’re feeling, you’ve got to move through it.” And so it gives you a score for all three of the elements, and so I’m really great on common humanity. And I’m really good on mindfulness, actually, I’m not good on self-kindness. Have you taken it Ashley?

ABR: Yeah, my lowest is self-kindness. But I’m interested, I might take it again.

BB: Yeah, common humanity, when you’re a therapist, which you are. Or you work with me as closely as Barrett. We know. It’s like me driving through our old neighborhood and knowing every story in those houses, being a shame researcher. Sitting down with the most… What you would think on the outside, ragged, road-hard people who are filled with wholeheartedness and self-worth. And then sitting across from the most rigid, perfect, well-resourced people who are just literally living off shame.

ABR: Yeah

BG: yeah.

BB: Yeah, so I know that if it’s a weird smell on your body, everybody’s got it [laughter] If it’s a weird situation with a parent, everybody’s got something. Okay, so Dig Deep, so actually for my Dig Deep, it is Dr. Neff’s tool. I think we should all get deliberate and take that tool on and it is “self dash compassion.” You can find the link. My Get Inspired, I’ll read it to you from the book,  “Most of us are trying to live an authentic life. Deep down, we want to take off our game face and be real and imperfect.  There’s a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” that serves as a reminder to me that when I get into that place where I’m trying to control everything and make it perfect. I need to think about this line it’s, ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’” Which is just such, so I write, “So many of us run around spackling all the cracks trying to make everything look just right. And this line helps me remember that the beauty of the cracks (the messy house, the imperfect manuscript, the too-tight jeans). These imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re in this together, imperfectly but together.” And then my Get Going is “Sometimes I still wake up in the morning, I say, ‘Today, I’m going to believe that showing up is enough.’”

BG: Yeah

ABR: Yeah


BB: All right. Episode page on with links to things that I talked about that you may want to hunt down and take a look at. And just a reminder that we’re taking a short summer break from Dare to Lead. I’ll be back July 12th with the two-episode series on “The Hardest Feedback I’ve Ever Received.” Incredible line up for the fall, every episode of Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead is available exclusively on Spotify. We’re grateful to be here and… Awkward, brave and kind y’all. I think we’re doing some role modeling of that, what do y’all think?


BG: I would say “Yes.”

BB: We’re definitely awkward, we’re definitely brave, and we’re really working… If we could only be as kind to ourselves as we try to be to each other… Right?

BG: That would be great.

ABR: I agree.

BB That’d be helpful.

BB: All right, we’ll see y’all next time. 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 30). Part 2 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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