The Gifts of Imperfection is the third book that I’ve read by Brené Brown. I was not disappointed. This book offers as set of guideposts toward Wholehearted living, which involves “engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness”. The guideposts include cultivating self-compassion, cultivating a resilient spirit, cultivating calm and stillness, and finding meaningful work.
Brown writes with a tone of wonderment of the discoveries that emerged from her research, and acknowledges that some of her findings were surprising or difficult for her to wrap her head around. She explains things well, clearly defining the concepts she’s writing about, and uses effective examples. She writes about her “2007
Breakdown Spiritual Awakening”, exposing her own fallibility, vulnerability, and imperfection.
Brown describes compassion as a relationship between equals. She explains that being able to set boundaries is important to effectively practice compassion, even though we may not tend to associate the two concepts. She also writes about the importance of self-compassion, something particularly important for those of us struggling with mental illness.
In this book, Brown talked a lot about authenticity, which comes from living Wholeheartedly. She described several elements in the choice to be authentic: becoming courageous enough to be imperfect; having compassion for the strengths and struggles all of us have; and nurturing the belonging that arises from believing we’re enough. She cautions that depression and anxiety may result when we trade in authenticity for safety (I’ve written about authenticity & safety here). This really resonated for me, as safety has become something that I grasp onto as tightly as possible wherever I can find it.
A number of statements throughout the book really stood out for me. She wrote that “when we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others.” Something particularly eye-opening for me was her observation that: “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” True that.
There were also findings from her research that were somewhat surprising to me. She found that spirituality (not necessarily religion) was a key component of resilience. I’ve never been a religious person, nor have I ever been particularly spiritual, but this is some food for thought. She also concluded that we can’t love others more than we love ourselves, and a sense of worthiness is essential for love and belonging.
Based on her research she constructed definitions for the key terms used in the book, definitions that go much deeper than a standard dictionary definition. A couple of examples:
- Intuition: “our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.”
- Connection: “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
I really enjoyed this book. I have a bit of a pet peeve around arbitrary capitalization (e.g. “Wholehearted”), but aside from that I have no complaints. Another Brené Brown classic. If you’re not familiar with her, I encourage you to check out her TED Talks.
The Gifts of Imperfection is available from Amazon.
The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of different resources that can help make coping a little easier.
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