Overview: Each day we face a barrage of images and ideas—from society and the media—telling us who we should be. We are led to believe that if we look perfect, live perfect, and do everything perfectly, we’d no longer struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Ironically, it’s the pursuit of perfection that fuels the message ‘never good enough.’
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., the leading expert on shame, reveals that it is actually ourimperfections and vulnerabilities that connect us to one another as human beings andmake us who we are. We are naturally drawn to those we view asauthentic, real, and down-to-earth. It makes sense, then, that weshould stop reaching for something ‘better’ and, instead, strive tobe who we are, fully owning every aspect of ourselves.
This fresh 52-week guide can be read as a year-long program of WholeHearted living or by topic – whatever is the most meaningful for each reader. Brown engages our hearts, minds, and spirits in finding the beauty of authenticity and evolving our self-perceptions through fifteen guideposts that emerged from her latest groundbreaking research.
Each guidepost is illustrated with essays, stories, inspiring quotes, meditations, and dynamic creative exercises designed to help us develop the skills to accept our vulnerabilities with compassion and practice loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.
My thoughts: When I started reading this book, I thought, This is great! It’s really interesting. Then I got to the guide posts…
This book is not a self-help book. It’s more about reflection, and you won’t find any definite “steps” to help yourself. You’ll just get ideas about issues in your life. Brown brings up issues in life that we need to talk about: shame, people-pleasing, and self-depreciation, among others. However, I don’t like the way she does it.
She talks about great things! What’s not to like? Well…I don’t like her approach. She mentions things about her research, and that’s a good point of the book. However, she always relates it back to her experiences and herself. She has all this research at the tip of her fingers, and she doesn’t rely on it to carry the book through. I expected to see more testimonials from other people because she had talked to other people, and those people influenced her thought process and life. If it influenced her, then why didn’t she share it with us so we can be inspired, too? I know there are restrictions on research, such that the researcher can’t share confidential data of participants, but I think she could’ve used testimonials from participants who consented to her writing about their experiences since she was just releasing research data and not the participants’ identifying information. In my opinion, the book is very weak just relying on her life stories. Reading about her life made me want to throw my hands in the air and just sigh exasperatedly. If I really wanted to know that much about her life, then I’d read a biography. I think this book would’ve worked much better as a memoir rather than a reflection “self-help” book.
The absolute number one thing that bothers me about this book is in Guide-post 7, page 103: “I had decided to go part-time at the university, and her dad was going to a four-day workweek.” Whoa, there! Back up. Who can afford that? And I don’t mean we can’t afford to let the achievements go. I mean, who can financially afford to cut down on work? Most people I know can’t. Unfortunately, the book is filled with stories like this, like when she went to the mall with her daughter and felt uncomfortable because dress-up women looked at her funny. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Back up. You can afford to go to the mall to buy make-up? Most people I know just buy it for a cheaper price at drug stores. That’s also another reason why I think it’s bad that the book is filled with her life stories. She has a certain way of life and a certain culture. Other people don’t share that culture, and so sometimes, it’s hard to relate to her and take the concepts seriously. It gets especially annoying when she tells the reader that spirituality doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship with God, but then she proceeds to talk about how God affects her life. It really made me wonder how does someone live Wholeheartedly without God? That’s not a question she answers.
The other biggest issue that I had was the guide post with the slashes around page 114. Asking the question, “What do you do?” is a social cue that means, “Tell me about your job that you do to make most of your money,” not “Tell me your whole life story.” Slashes are not appropriate. They’re bulky and inconvenient to read and just add pointless information that I never wanted to know. Yes, you have the right to own up to everything that you are, but most people in society do not care. That’s something you share with friends and not acquaintances because friends do care.
Some of the concepts were explained very vaguely. As a psychology major, I understand that definitions are hard to come by in research literature because there’s a lot of debate surrounding topics. Therefore, I understand why some of her terms, like power, were barely explained. However, to have a full experience of shame, power, and hope and figure out how they connect, it would’ve been nice to have more concrete definitions. I don’t agree with everything she says, but that’s good because at least she’s making me think and form my own ideas.
Another huge set back is that the book seems to be geared towards more privileged type A personalities. I’m more of a laid back type B personality, and sometimes I thought that Ms. Brown was just a little too serious and uptight for me. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying she’s stuck up. I’m just saying her methods of making lists don’t work for me. It would’ve been nice if she could’ve offered more advice than just writing lists and purposely planning things. All this digging deep was driving me insane. I’d rather just accept it and let that be the end of it.
Overall, this book is probably a good conversation starter for book clubs. However, the amount of impact it has on your life depends more on your culture and how you interpret Brown’s writing. For a type B person like me who prefers to think and then accept and let go of what’s bothering me, this book’s advice wouldn’t be my go-to guide for dealing with shame. This book has a lot of potential, but it just needs a different focus.
I bought this book from Amazon for about $10 with free shipping and handling.