(ISBN: 978 -1-59285-849-1) | Published 2010 | Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Summary

Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection can be summed up pretty well from this quote in the Final Thoughts of the book:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about 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 thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave, and worthy of love and belonging.”– pg 125

While this quote sums up the point of the book it doesn’t give a lot of context on the “how” to achieve this.

Yet, throughout the book Brene does a wonderful job explaining how we can actively pursue a Wholehearted life by applying the message above.

Brene starts the book with a preface and several chapters that break down the meaning of courage, compassion, connection, and the power of love, belonging and being enough.

She does this by redefining the meanings we have come to associate with each of these terms with the true and often times traditional definitions of them.

She then walks through the ten “guideposts” for living a Wholehearted life.

 My Take

Let me start off by saying I thoroughly enjoyed Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. She writes in such a down to earth style and makes me feel like I am holding a conversation with a friend.

I found myself talking out loud while reading certain passages, by saying “Yes!” or, “100%” and affirming my agreement with her statements.

The very first quote of the preface caught my attention:

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” (Preface ix)

This quote sets the stage perfectly for the lesson that Brene is trying to teach. We have to love ourselves and “engage in our lives from a place of worthiness” to live a Wholehearted life. (pg 1)

In order to be in a place where we can love ourselves and feel worthy we must practice courage, compassion, and connection. There are SO many quotes I could write here, but then you wouldn’t have a reason to read the book yourself! So, here are a few quotes that stood out the most to me when reading the first few chapters and what I took from them.

“Courage originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart – today it’s often synonymous with being heroic.” (pg12)

To be courageous doesn’t mean you have to do extraordinary things without fear. True courage means to embrace your vulnerabilities and put your heart on the line. When you are brave enough to do that, you are demonstrating ordinary courage.

“The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, meaning to suffer with… Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” (pg 16)

“Compassionate people are boundaried people… the heart of compassion is really acceptance.” (pg 16)

To be compassionate doesn’t mean to be kind. It means to understand the pain, hurt, or “darkness” that someone else has experienced, and to FEEL it with them; to know that our pain and hurt and “darkness” can be equal.

I loved the fact that Brown pointed out that boundaries are a critical part of being compassionate.

We have to accept people for who they are, and not how they treat us, but we also have to hold them accountable for their behavior.

It’s hard to “accept people when they are hurting us,” so we have to learn to distance ourselves from the people or things that make it difficult for us to show compassion. (pg. 17)

That really hit home for me, as it made me think of my brother, AJ (if you haven’t read the post about his journey you can find it here). To be compassionate with AJ I had to separate who he is from what he’s done.

I have had to create distance between us at times and recognize that I am not at fault for his actions, and that he has to be held accountable for his behaviors. Only when I learned to do that, was I truly able to accept him.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship… We are hardwired for connection.” (pg 19)

“Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart.” (pg 20)

Connection is not something that I personally thought of when it came to living a Wholehearted life. While I know connection is a big part of life, it’s something I think many us of take advantage of or don’t recognize as a priority.

I know I’ve expressed in previous posts that it’s difficult for me to ask for help, but I am quick to give it. These passages of Brene’s book really made me step back.

We are all born with the innate NEED for connection, yet it’s something that is so easy to turn away.

We would all be better off if we just gave ourselves permission to be imperfect and then embraced each other for it!

“Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites… Here’s what is truly at the heart of Wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” (pg 24)

We all face the gremlins that say:

“I’ll be worthy when I’ve lost 10 pounds”

“I’ll be worthy once I’ve gotten that promotion”

“I’ll be worthy when I can keep the house cleaned AND have dinner ready every night”

We need to look those gremlins in the face and say “Actually, I’m worthy now. Today. Tomorrow. And EVERY day.”

As a whole we need to accept ourselves for the beautifully imperfect beings that we are, and stop tying our worthiness to our successes!

I absolutely LOVED that message.

“There are days when most of my anxiety grows out of the expectations I put on myself… when we struggle to believe in our worthiness, we hustle for it.” (pg 37)

I am 100% guilty of this. I have two Etsy shops and now this blog. These didn’t happen overnight, and they took a LOT of time and effort.

Over the past year there have been several weeks when I’ve allowed myself to believe that I wasn’t “worthy” of a successful shop because I was comparing my beginning to other people’s middles…

I would let my anxiety gradually increase until I felt paralyzed.

And let me tell you, productivity comes to a stop when that happens!

There have been several times that I have had to say to myself, “STOP! No one expects you to finish this right now… except for YOU!”

I had to stop putting so much pressure on myself if I wanted to continue learning and growing.

 

Brene goes on to explain in great detail the ten Guideposts that create a Wholehearted life:

1. Cultivating Authenticity

2. Cultivating Self-Compassion

3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit

4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy

5. Cultivating Intuition and trusting Faith

6. Cultivating Creativity

7. Cultivating Play and Rest

8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness

9. Cultivating Meaningful Work

10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance

In each of these 10 chapters, Brene does a wonderful job of making her points relatable for all kinds of people. Her advice and research findings are not one dimensional and they can pertain to EVERYONE.

There were so many quotes I had written down from these chapters, but again, I want you to READ the book YOURSELF and take away from it whatever speaks to you.

So to wind this up, I will end with one more quote, that I feel sums up the book and what I thought was the shining message:

“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 are all made of strength and struggle; and
  • Nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.

Authenticity demands Wholehearted 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.” – pg 50

Conclusion

I fully enjoyed The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

The first two thirds of the book were more in depth and brought on a raw, emotional effect that I think anyone could relate to. Toward the end of the book the topics became lighter and more basic, which I felt was a good way to finishing the book.

It left me with a lighthearted feeling rather than in a deep, contemplative state.

I also love that she recommended so many other good reads throughout the book. It gave me a sense of reliability when she would explain where she got her knowledge and research from, and that it didn’t all come from JUST her findings.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book! In fact, I already have two more of Brene’s books lined up in my arsenal of books to get to!

So, what do you think? Will you be reading The Gifts of Imperfection? If you’ve already read it, I would love to hear your take on it! Leave a note in the comments below!

 

Always, Maria

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