Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown is a self-help book that bases its assertions on 10 Pillars of Whole-hearted Living. She bases her pillars on research, as that is her field of expertise. Through the interviews she’s conducted and her research, she’s narrowed down this pillars and created terms that describe them.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I appreciate is that while I may not like some of the terms she uses, she’s careful to define those terms through the context of her research.

The basic premise is to help people let go of unhealthy thoughts and pursue healthy thoughts, which I aggree with. However, i can’t necessarily get behind everything she says.

Listening to this audiobook, I found myself nodding my head a lot, and then a second later I would jerk back because I disagreed so strongly with at least a part of what I heard.

I have to contextualize that last comment. I’m not one to simply deny research because I don’t agree with it. Most of my issues come not from the research or what I felt the ultimate points were but instead how they were presented or defined.

The example I’ll go with here is Brown’s distinctions between sympathy and empathy. Without getting into too much detail (and therefore debate), she speaks as if sympathy is bad, and empathy is good. She overgeneralizes sympathetic behavior. It’s frustrating because her overall point is that people want to connect. There are some good ways to do so, and there are ways that don’t succeed. I wouldn’t go so far as to lump the non-successful techniques and wrap them in a box labeled “sympathy,” and that’s what Brown does.

There are things here in this book I think are very important. And what I love most about this book is that Brown provides ways to stop bad habits and cultivate good habits. I think some of her pillars taken literally and applied in excess can actually create the opposite effect. I’m not one to practice a lot of “self” anything, but that’s where there’s some interesting overlap.

Brown believes in God, she speaks often of that. Her denomination or even specific religion are harder to pin down, but she speaks about it here and there. She also includes faith as an aspect of her pillar. But here we find another area where I feel an odd contradiction. It’s difficult for me (and I can only speak to my personal challenges) to see life through any other filter than my faith. Sometimes Brown refers to a person’s self in a manner I don’t feel is profitable, especially for one of my specific faith. This isn’t a critique on her faith whatsoever. This is instead a perspective on how I struggle to wrap my head around her 10 pillars through the lens of my faith.

This portrait of Brown, taken by Jose Tutiven, was taken from Brown’s About Page on her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I generally like about her book is that even if I don’t agree with the whole of everything she says. There is something out of each pillar I found helpful. What this means is even someone who doesn’t completely embrace every word of Brown’s book can find some value in the book. I appreciated the “letting go” portions more than the cultivating portions, but she provided actionable methods to apply these principles and exercise them into daily life, which is very good.

For me, listening to this book made me want to buy her dinner (in a professional manner) and just talk. I had a lot of “Well you say you mean this, but what about this?” or “When you talked about this part, did you consider?” or “How does this pillar apply in situations like this?”

Despite the fact that there were some parts I couldn’t get behind, I found a lot of the information helpful. I even found some ways to contextualize her information into my mental framework that alleviated those issues. What this book does best is talk about the hangups most people have and provide ways to counter those hangups.

Thanks for reading,

Matt