Customer Reviews: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
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on August 14, 2011
I've been through 6 therapists, I've struggled with depression for nearly twenty years, never could finish anything I started, and everyone always assumed I had ADHD. Not until therapist number five did someone point out to me that ADHD is often mistaken for anxiety and he was sure that was my problem. Boy was he right. Sadly, he was terrible at treating, so I found a new therapist who encouraged me to embrace the bad days and bad times and she pointed me to Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability. It really spoke to me, so I thought it would be a good idea to read her book. I just looked at the screen for a full minute trying to figure out how to put into words how much this book has helped me and I just can't find them. All those years I thought I had ADHD, I was just afraid of what people would think. I would pick up a new hobby hoping it would be the one that I could stick with and foster, only to give up on it. Never was the problem an attention deficiency, it was a courage deficiency. The author talks a lot about how making a major change in your life isn't something you wake up and do one day, it's something you practice every single day. And most will struggle with it, but without the struggle, we lose out on so much. I will have far fewer regrets on my deathbed having read this book. If you read these Ms. Brown, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart.
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on June 24, 2015
Let me begin by stating where I was coming from, when I picked this book up. I've spent 11 years in the Army and done quite a few combat deployments. Moreover, I had recently been dumped in my 'perfect' engagement by my fiancee who had been cheating on me with a male coworker. So, this 'emotional' genre of reading isn't usually my thing and my sense of worthiness was very injured. I initially avoided this book out of concern that it was one of many under-evidenced self-help titles.

Changing my mind on reading this was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am a much better person for it. I don't guarantee very much, due to my skeptical nature; but, I think I can guarantee that something in this book will profoundly change you. Perhaps this was done by Dr. Brown's approach of confronting the 'things that stand in our way' of leading a 'wholehearted life'. This is important because thoughtful people need to confront these things in order to overcome them and develop not just a positive mindset; but, a *realistic* one that doesn't ignore the potentially negative cognitions that arise.

Some of my PROs and CONs follow. But, allow me to be clear: if you have just been dumped, divorced, or experienced a break-up, then I think this is a great book for you. Some other titles like to do half-baked analysis of what happened between you two. Some of those books are like your own, highly-biased pep talker ("she was all wrong for you", "you're better off, now", etc.). While well-meaning, this can weaken you going forward. They sacrifice truth and accuracy for 'feel-good' support.

Much has already been said about this book, so I've avoided a super thorough review.

-well-organized content. topics overlap somewhat (of course), but they are introduced in the form of very manageable daily 'guideposts'.
-content is qualitative research-based. I think this is the right approach, since qualitative research is well-suited to derive meaning from the experiences of people.
-writing style is down-to-earth, clear, and very humorous at times.
-the book is relatively inexpensive.
-the approach of tackling 'obstacles' of thinking that prevent wholehearted living.
-realistic expectations of the results of reading this book.
-comprehensive treatment of the elements of wholehearted living.
-the persuasiveness of pretty much every guidepost.

-for the uninitiated (read: myself), I thought that guidepost 8 wasn't as clear in defining the concept of stillness.
-umm.. I'll have to get back to you on this one.

I would like to conclude with a few things that convince me that something in this book has made profound changes. First, I grew-up with a very domineering father and reading this book has made me truly comfortable with him for the first time in my life. Second, I NEVER danced at a bar without having some 'liquid courage' to prime me. After reading, I danced several songs (badly, of course ;-) ) and truly enjoyed myself. Third, because of my balding, etc. I always felt a little too self-conscious to dare flirting with some very beautiful ladies that I've met. Not any more.

These are just a few thoughts, but I hope that they speak to someone out there.
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on March 6, 2012
-I originally bought this book in May of 2011. I can't remember exactly why it spoke to me, but I know I was looking for self esteem boosting books. I think maybe the title resonated because I realized I was having some trouble with perfectionism. Accepting mistakes, compassion for myself, forgiving myself, but also pushing forward to being a better person, a better worker, friend, girlfriend, etc. It resonates today because I see how much of a perfectionist I can be, and how much trouble I am having forgiving myself for past mistakes, and trying not to label myself because of them. I am having trouble sufficiently feeling the guilt enough to change, letting that feeling in, but then forgiving myself, and not letting those behaviors define who I am as a person.
How did the book address this?

-I think these quotes from the book really get to the heart of the message: "Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.... Healthy striving is self-focused--How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused--What will they think?... Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it's because we weren't perfect enough. So rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right." Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection (p. 56-57). Hazelden. Kindle Edition.
-What I got from this is that perfectionism tricks us into thinking we have it all: we can feel connected and invulnerable and in control. BUT, it is ultimately unsatisfying because it #1) it is a lie. We aren't in control or invulnerable, or perfect. And #2) it requires us to change who we are -- and the connection we most desire is a connection based on being truly known by another person. So in order to feel connected AND known, we have to accept the reality that we are imperfect, and we are vulnerable, and we are not in control.
-And while connection is obviously a huge source of joy, Brene also talks about the other kinds of joy that perfectionism halts in its tracks: meaningful work, enjoyable hobbies, creative endeavors, etc. Again, because perfectionism tries to give us a sense of control, and thereby tries to prevent the possibility of loss, we often don't even try to have joyful things, or we deny the level of joy something is giving us in order to feel less hurt when it leaves.
-And the book has a lot of great suggestions as to ways get past the feelings of inadequacy perfectionism is rooted in, and also ways to lean into the vulnerability of imperfection. Another great topic the book covered (and that it alerted me to) was the importance of shame as a barrier to self acceptance and love and joy. (But as you will see below, I really recommend its sister book for more on this piece). And I love Brene's emphasis on authenticity as a goal. It is fascinating and inspiring.

Where I still don't feel resolution:

-One of the things she mentions to get when you are feeling shame is getting connected, sharing your story. But I have a few concerns about that:
-She doesn't explain in detail WHO has earned the right to hear your story and HOW to cultivate those friendships. If you are reading the book is stands to reason that you may very well not have those friendships. If you are cultivating your authenticity and dealing with feelings of inadequacy, you may have surrounded yourself with inauthentic and judgmental people because of your need for approval from these types.
-Even if you are at some stage where you have a few compassionate and caring friends (which I do feel lucky enough to have), it requires them to always be open to your shame at the moment you need them without regard to the "stuff" they bring to the day. If you are feeling shame about X today, and so are they, your attempt at connection may trigger their shame even deeper and they will "imperfectly" push you away. I wanted her to talk more about those situations. It is great when you can have an empathetic ear to listen, and it feels amazing, but even with the world's best friends, you cannot always expect that will be available to you whenever you need it.
-And then even if you catch your friends on a day where they are feeling great, or can be present to your needs and your shame, what if you are a "gusher," and you are at the beginning stages of dealing with your inadequacy issues, and you feel shame "a lot"? You can become an emotional drain to them, and push them away. I wanted some more information about self-soothing in shame situations, or how to manage connecting with friends in those moments.
I am still not sure how I am going to be able integrate this intellectual understanding into a daily practice. When I do something "wrong", especially something I have done wrong a hundred times before, will I be able to lean into the guilt, instead of the shame? Will I be able to lean into the vulnerability? Will I be able to be present to the vulnerability around me?

I know a big part of this is simply practice. And finding strategies that resonate. But the first step for me is an intellectual understanding, and this is certainly worth reading if that is something that is important to you.

Supplementary Materials:

-I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power: Brene's other book. Really great book about shame - I didn't know how important shame was until I read this, but trust me, it is very important and taught me a TON.
-Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life:talks about the "gusher", but you can get the quick version in this article in the huffington post website called: Judith Orloff MD: Are You an Emotional Gusher? (Amazon won't let me post the link, but searching should easily pull it up)
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on September 30, 2010
The Gifts of Imperfection is a little gem of a book that offers readers a way to change their lives through adopting the practices of "wholehearted" living. Brené Brown shows us how to live more authentic and compassionate lives, while learning to embrace our imperfections, and recognize what issues get in our way, such as shame and fear. Although the book is an easy read on one level, it is a complex blueprint for living could take a lifetime to put into practice. The author challenges long-held notions and helped me see the world in new ways. She unpacks concepts such as the difference between happiness and joy and courage and heroics. The journey to a wholehearted life can be a spiritual process, and Dr. Brown is a rather unusual guide, a cross between the Dalai Lama and Wanda Sykes. One moment her words inspire hope and compassion and then belly laughs. She is brutally honest about her own strengths and struggles, so her words come not from an elevated plane, but from walking right beside, or maybe a little ahead, of the reader. Words such as "life-changing" and "revolutionary" are too often used and very clichéd, but they do describe this book. It would be a revolution in this country, and this world, if everyone practiced wholehearted living. That is a world that I want to live in. I am signing up for the revolution today, with my whole heart.
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on April 8, 2013
I saw Brene Brown's TED talks, I watched her Oprah appearances, and was happy to pick up her books to read more about her theories of shame and vulnerability.

The premise is thought provoking, the way that shame carves out our lives, and how embracing vulnerability (ie our imperfections) can get us past obstacles and bring great things into our lives. I've read my share of self-help books, and like the angle of shame. It's something we all experience, and see in other people. This was the first time I was asked to carefully inspect the moments of shame in my life, and how they kept me from engaging in so many of my dreams and wants. The writing in this book is also down to earth and easy to read, very personal style.

On the down side, I was disappointed in the shallow supporting material in this book. The author provides anecdotes from her own life to support each chapter. Aside from that, the only other material cited is her data. "My data tells me...." And that's it, that's all the supporting material she provides. No numbers, no additional anecdotes from any of the thousands of stories she collected over her decade of research into this topic. So the readers are left to assume that because the author's name begins with "Dr." and she is a researcher/professor, we need no more information than "my data" to drive home the points she wants to make.

Still, I would recommend this book for anyone looking for some personal growth, or for someone who feels stuck at certain points in their life and want to make a change. I did get her most recent book, "Daring Greatly" and certainly hope there is more substance than what this book offered.

By the way, if you do watch her TED talks and her Oprah appearances, she basically covered all the points already. So this book does not have much new material.
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on September 20, 2010
I read a lot of books. Most of them stop at my mind; this one went to my heart. I couldn't put it down - truly life changing.

If you feel overwhelmed by expectations, get this book. You will be glad you did!
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on September 20, 2015
Dr. Brené Brown's research on shame and vulnerability has transformed my life. This is a great book!
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on June 28, 2015
I am really amazed that this book has gotten so many positive reviews. Perhaps I am not the kind of reader that this book is aimed at or her style of writing is not my cup of tea. First, I had already read a book by one of the authors she mentions repeatedly in the book, Kristin Neff, before reading Brene Brown's book so many of the ideas in the book were not new to me. Also, Kristin Neff's book is better researched and written in a more honest and sophisticated style. Second, some of what Brene Brown's writes about comes from Buddhism and mindfulness, and I have read about and practiced these philosophies, so again what she writes about is not groundbreaking or anything new. You can get better information in books by Pedma Chodron, Sharon Salzberg, and others like them on the same topic. There was maybe 5% of my kindle book that really inspired me. Another reason this book was not for me is that she says that you need to believe in a higher power in order to become a wholehearted person. My rational brain just doesn't. Other people might not have a problem with this. Moreover, I think my issues are too great for what Brene describes in her book. She uses herself as the example throughout the book of someone who is a perfectionist, but the problems she describes of herself seem so minor that I just can't relate--someone criticized her picture and she once gave a bad presentation. I also wanted to know how to become less of a perfectionist and to learn to accept my imperfections and stop worrying about what others think of me, but I just didn't learn how to do these things from this book. I learned that I am really not good enough to be who this book is written for. Finally, I was turned off by her jingoistic rhetoric such as her 3 Cs: courage, compassion, and connection. When people need to come up with acronyms to tell you how to get better, I feel like I'm in an infomercial and someone is trying to sell me something.

I stopped reading at Guidepost #5. Perhaps it gets better.
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on October 2, 2010
I have just purchased 40 more copies to give to my closest friends and clients! This book heralds the solid research of Dr. Brene Brown and leads us toward an authentic approach to living a life devoid of the many misguided concepts of "personal perfectionism". Every human on the planet should read this book, then read it again with your spouse and adult children. Both this and her previous book will live in my library for the rest of my life.
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on February 25, 2015
There is some good information in there but you have to be patient to get it. The writing is not what I was expecting. She takes you on a tour of her research. I also was annoyed with how she was plugging SO many books. I felt that the reference section would be a better place. I work in academia and I felt that I was listening to a PhD student talking about how much they love their research, nothing was really presented in a "self-help" way. However, there are some good themes within some of the chapters. I wouldn't encourage someone struggling with imperfections to buy this book.
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