Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review and Giveaway: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I almost didn’t request a review copy of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are—Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life by Brené Brown because I really dislike the cover; however, the book’s subtitle called to me. Then I read the back blurb, which includes this passage:
“Brown explores how we can cultivate 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, and to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
And I knew I had to read the book. I cannot tell you how often I stress about the things I’ve left undone, not to mention feeling paralyzed by my own perfectionism. Brown is a researcher who has dedicated much of her career to studying shame, empathy, fear and vulnerability; in listening to people’s stories, she started to identify what she called wholehearted research participants, i.e. people who were leading amazing lives by “living and loving with their whole hearts.” This prompted her to ask “What did these folks value? How did they create all of this resilience in their lives? What were their main concerns and how did they resolve or address them? Can anyone create a Wholehearted life? What does it take to cultivate what we need? What gets in the way?” To answer these questions, Brown came up with 10 guideposts to wholehearted living: cultivating authenticity (letting go of what people think); cultivating self-compassion (letting go of perfectionism); cultivating a resilient spirit (letting go of numbing and powerlessness); cultivating gratitude and joy (letting go of scarcity and “fear of the dark”); cultivating intuition and trusting faith (letting go of the need for certainty); cultivating creativity (letting go of comparison); cultivating play and rest (letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth); cultivating calm and stillness (letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle); cultivating meaningful work (letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”); and cultivating laughter, song, and dance (letting go of being cool and “always in control”).

Here are some of the things that stuck with me:

1. Brown talks about writing a blog post on the “‘dig deep’ button,” which she defines as “a secret level of pushing through when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed and when there’s too much to do and too little time for self-care” (p. 3). She turns this concept on its head, explaining that when wholehearted people get exhausted, they get:
  • Deliberate in their thoughts and behaviors through prayer, meditation, or simply setting their intentions
  • Inspired to make new and different choices
  • Going: They take action
Ironically, while I was writing this review, I realized that I was relying on my own “dig deep” button, soldiering on and pushing through even though it was past two in the morning. (I think I already need to reread this book!)

2. Brown talks about how “one of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable” (p. 16). As she points out, “When we fail to set boundaries . . . we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who [a person is], which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice” (p. 19). This makes sense to me and yet I find it very hard to practise. (Why is it so scary to set limits?)

3. According to Brown, “the . . . one thing [that separates] the men and women who [feel] a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it . . . is the belief in their worthiness” (p. 23). This finding is a bit depressing because for those of us who struggle with feeling worthy it’s such a catch-22: I feel like I don’t belong because I feel unworthy of belonging; I feel unworthy of belonging because I feel like I don’t belong. Although there are no easy answers, Brown does offer some hope: it is possible to cultivate a sense of worthiness by sharing our stories and letting go of our attachment to what other people think.

4. Brown describes herself as a “take-the-edge-off-aholic,” a concept that resonated for me. She says she can definitely say “today I’d like to deal with vulnerability and uncertainty with an apple fritter, a beer and cigarette, and spending seven hours on Facebook” (p. 72). My own numbing tools of choice (some of which veer towards addiction) are food, the Internet, television, sleep, lack of sleep, book buying, reading and busyness. And the funny thing is that in the middle of writing this review, when I was feeling stuck and vulnerable and my negative self-talk was starting up with the How could you leave this to the last minute again?, I procrastinated by watching Brown’s TEDxHouston talk, and it was only when she said “We numb vulnerability” that I realized that I was avoiding my own feelings of vulnerability by watching this video! (Listening to this talk is a great introduction to the concepts she discusses in this book and will give you a very good idea of whether this book is for you.)

5. Brown’s research shows that, “Without exception, spirituality—the belief in connection, a power greater than self, and interconnections grounded in love and compassion—emerged as a component of resilience” (p. 64). She also found that, “Without exception, every person [she] interviewed who described living a joyful life . . . actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice” (p. 77-78). I’m still at the point where I have what she calls “an attitude to gratitude”: it’s something I think about, but not something I practise (at least not yet).

My only complaint about this book is that I wish it was longer (it’s only 130 pages excluding the endnotes): I wanted more stories and more details about who the wholehearted were. I also found that her final chapter about the research process was a bit short on details: it didn’t satisfy the sociologist* in me. Having said that, if any of the concepts she discusses resonate with you in any way, I highly recommend this book!

Thank you to Hazelden Publishing for sending me this book to review.

*I have a BA in sociology.

The Gifts of Imperfection was on blog tour with TLC Book Tours in September and October. Visit these other blogs for reviews:

Silver and GraceSimply Stacieevolution youPatricia’s WisdomLiving Outside the Stacksthis full houseoverstuffedFrom Marriage to MotherhoodRundpinneCynthia Lou

Read an excerpt from the book: Sober 24

To practise some of the things Brown writes about, participate in her Perfect Protest (watch the Protest Dance on the Being Joy blog for inspiration) and/or confess something imperfect about yourself on Karen Walrond’s Chookooloonks blog.

Visit Brené Brown’s blog: Ordinary Courage

Would you like to win a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection? Hazelden Publishing has offered to send a copy to one of my readers. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only (no P.O. boxes). I will accept entries until 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Thursday, November 18, 2010.

For one entry, please let me know why you are interested in reading this book.

If you are a follower or subscriber, let me know and I will give you another entry.

Make sure you provide me with a way of getting in touch with you. Entries without a blog link or email address will be disqualified.



  1. Ah! Thanks for the link, love your blog & especially the background.


  2. This is definitely a book that I need to read!

  3. I love the title because I am a perfectionist and I think this book will give me the reminders I need. I LOVED your review, by the way. Please enter me.
    laura at laurafabiani dot com

  4. I am a follower.
    laura at laurafabiani dot com

  5. I'd like to read this book because maybe it will help me be more comfortable with myself.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. Sounds like a very interesting book that I would love to read.

    I follow on GFC.

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca

  7. I want to read this because of what she and you say about the “take-the-edge-off-aholic” Sounds like a great read.

    am an old follower on GFC

    bmcbroom at gmail dot com

  8. What an excellent, in-depth review!

    Please enter me in this giveaway. I will post this in my blog's sidebar.

    I am a follower. :)


    I don't read that many "self-help" books, but this one sounds inspiring. I try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, but still feel stressed out too much of the time.

    Thanks for hosting this, Avis!

  9. lol...#4 resonates with me. i shy away from this genre but did enjoy your review and the excerpts. i secretly thrive on being overextended, under-the-gun, and all those other cliches. when i don't have anything to do, i tend to get a bit melancholy, so i continue to overbook my time and life. glad you enjoyed this one and you're right, the cover is less than stellar.

  10. I am a follower and email subscriber. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book.

  11. Thank you for introducing me to a great book. I'd love to have a copy! I'm a blogger at and an aspiring author and that takes so much more courage and fortitude than I have on a daily basis. Actually, I think everyone should probably read this.

  12. It sound like a must read novel. I love the line -No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.

  13. Great review! That belief in your own worthiness is something many struggle with, and it really is sad to see, esp. when it's someone close to you (in my case, my sister). Making a note now to get a copy of this book for her. Thank you so much for an excellent review and for being on the tour!

  14. I would love to read this. I think we all struggle at times with ourselves, I know I have. I think this book would help me grow as a person and to accept the things within myself that I don't like very much. Thanks for the review

    dcf_beth at verizon dot net

  15. The third point you made in your post above resonated with me and makes me want to read this book. Happened to watch Oprah yesterday and one of the main things that stuck with me was the feeling of worthiness. Please count me in!


  16. Your review of this book is fantastic! What a find, too! I'd really like to read this book because I have a tendency to worry & question myself re: everything I say & do on a daily basis concerned that I messed up, hurt someone's feelings, didn't do my best etc.
    This book sounds like it will give me some great insight and understanding of myself, something I desperately need!

    Thank you for your honesty here and hosting a giveaway of this book.

    ~ Amy
    Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

  17. I am a Google Friends Connect follower of your blog and an email subscriber.
    (my email for blog subscriptions:

    Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

  18. As my children are getting older and my identity as parent is changing, I am doing a lot of self examination to see what comes next. This book sounds like one that would help in this process.


  19. "Take the edge-off-aholic"...Hmmm...That sent chills down my spine and sounded like me! Then when I couldn't put the book down at the bookstore where I had only a couple of minutes to myself because I was dreading the not finished somethings that I'd started at home...I'm always looking for the "PERFECT" me! I just got out of a very long relationship and I think that this book will help me DIG deep so that I can move on.
    Thanks for posting the giveaway!