Reviews

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

by Brené Brown

Hazelden Publishing, 2010

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” So begins Brené Brown’s award-winning, bestselling guide/memoir to “wholehearted living,” The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, in which she delves into the concept of wholeheartedness. Brown is a writer and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and a leading expert in shame and authenticity. Her extensive research in this field led to the revelation—both professional and personal—that self-awareness is crucial to living a wholehearted life, but self-love is even more essential. So how does one go about cultivating a wholehearted life, and what exactly is wholeheartedness?

Brown emphasizes that wholehearted living is not simply a choice, rather it is a process and daily practice, and she delves into daily activities that “put the heart in Wholehearted living.” While meaningful change is filled with discomfort and risk, she espouses, those who embrace courage, compassion and connection lead healthier, calmer, and more joyful lives.

As students and educators we spend much of our working hours involved with “head work,” and Brown suggests that many people are lacking in “heart work,” that is, being kind and gentle with ourselves and others and embracing vulnerability. Amongst personal experiences and stories that enhance Brown’s research, she delves into topics such as the link between perfectionism and shame; why creativity often gives way to accomplishments and acquisitions; and how self-doubt undermines our ability to cultivate and share meaningful work and multiple roles.

Brown describes herself as a researcher storyteller, and she proves this in The Gifts of Imperfection. A combination of social science and storytelling makes the book an enjoyable, fascinating, and inspiring read. Brown has become something of a household name with various publications, TED talks, and interviews to her credit. Clearly, Brown’s work has inspired millions of people to embrace wholehearted living.

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