Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection

The Gifts Of Imperfection Summary (How To Embrace Who You Are)

Do you ever struggle with perfectionism, low self-esteem, or low self-confidence? If so, this book is for you. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown truly has the power to transform the way you think about yourself.

In this The Gifts of Imperfection summary, I will share a summary of the key ideas from the book. I will also share personal highlights that transformed the way I understand perfectionism and myself.

What is the Main Idea of The Gifts of Imperfection?

In this The Gifts Of Imperfection summary, I will start by sharing the main ideas of the book. Next, I will share some personal highlights that you won’t want to miss if you are looking for how to apply the ideas from this book to your life.

As a qualitative researcher, Brené Brown believes that stories and experiences offer powerful insight. Since so many of her ideas are powered by stories, The Gifts of Imperfection is incredibly relatable.

If you struggle with perfectionism, you will finish this book feeling empowered with a deeper understanding of yourself.

The Gifts of Imperfection is available in: print | digital | audiobook

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the words 'loving, capable, kind, worthy, giving, beautiful' written on paper

The main idea of the Gifts of Imperfection is that there are three ‘gifts’ that come with acknowledging our imperfection. We learn to develop worthiness to live wholehearted lives when we practice these gifts.

The book focuses on what it means to live with a whole heart. Brené Brown describes wholehearted living as:

“Engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means 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.”

Brené Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection)

Throughout the book, Brené Brown provides answers to questions such as “how do I live and love from a place of worthiness?” and “how can I embrace my imperfections?”

What are the Three ‘Gifts of Imperfection’?

The next area of focus in this The Gifts of Imperfection summary will be on what the three gifts of imperfection actually are. A summary of each ‘gift’ is provided here, as well as a few key points about their importance to our lives and developing a sense of worthiness.

Courage

According to Brené Brown’s research, courage is one of the most important qualities to have when living a wholehearted life.

We tend to think of people with courage as heroes that perform daring feats. However, Brené Brown redefines courage as speaking our hearts and our minds, and being honest and open about who we are. A wholehearted life requires the courage that comes from owning our story and experiences.

We need the courage to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable allows us to live our lives while embracing our own imperfections. This helps us live a life that is true to who we are.

a plant growing in the desert

While it is easy to see it as a sign of weakness or incompetence, asking for help is actually sign of courage. It is the act of being vulnerable and admitting that you have room for growth. This is an important part of developing a growth mindset – finding the growth opportunities in the struggles, obstacles, and setbacks.

If you haven’t read Mindset by Carol Dweck, check out our summary of the top 5 takeaways to learn more about growth mindset and how it can be used to live a wholehearted lifestyle.

It isn’t easy to admit that you have room for growth. This requires courage to be vulnerable and to brave any potential judgment that might come your way. It means knowing your heart, owning your story, and knowing that you are an imperfect person. And that makes you worthy of love and belong in your life!

Compassion

Brené Brown draws on American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön to flesh out the second gift of imperfection – compassion. She breaks down how practicing compassion requires courage and vulnerability.

She describes that she doesn’t believe we tend to naturally act with compassion when we are faced with embarrassment, pain or, trauma. Instead, we tend to jump on the defence and look for blame or judgement. We seldom use compassion to show others that we are there with them. It is hard for us to admit that we have been where they are before.

Pema Chödrön is quoted as saying “compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals.” This powerful quote explains that when others are in pain, avoiding the urge to ‘fix’ things or place blame is a powerful act of wholehearted living.

a heart drawn in the sand

The book also provides insight into how we can act with compassion when we are holding someone else accountable. Whether it is an employee, a friend, or a child, Brené Brown describes the power of acting with compassion. She proposes separating the behavior from the person and addressing what has happened rather than who they are. This act of compassion helps avoid instilling unnecessary feelings of shame, a powerful emotion.

Connection

The last ‘gift’ in this The Gifts of Imperfection summary is connection. Brené Brown describes connection as feeling seen, heard, and valued. She describes the energy when a person feels seen, heard, and valued, and the powerful impact it has on wellbeing.

Connection is particularly important for accepting that you are an imperfect person. When you feel seen, heard, and valued, there is less pressure to hustle to try to prove yourself. You will also feel less judged when you make mistakes. You will find it easier to find the courage to be vulnerable and ask for help.

two people holding hands

A modern misconception we have is that social media has helped us feel more connected than ever before. However, interactions online have started to take the place of real and meaningful connections with loved ones. These are the people that can help us feel seen, heard, and valued – and truly connected.

In addition to this, social media is a highlight reel that only shows the best of the best. Looking at this reel from the outside can make you feel that you are not doing enough. It can make you feel that you don’t belong, which is the opposite of connection! Taking a social media hiatus to focus on developing genuine connections with people is one way to prioritize wholehearted living.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Summary of the Three Gifts

We can summarize the three gifts of imperfection in the following quote from The Gifts of Imperfection:

“The willingness to tell our stories, feel the pain of others, and stay genuinely connected in this disconnected world is not something we can do halfheartedly.”

This quote tells us that we need:

  • the courage to be honest with ourselves and the experiences we have had;
  • to show compassion and be present with others who are in pain;
  • to form deep and meaningful connections that help us feel seen, heard, and valued.

For inspiration to find courage, compassion, and connection in your life, check out our Brené Brown definition poster set. These three definitions contain quotes from the Gifts of Imperfection.

brene brown quote posters

The Gifts of Imperfection Highlights

As a perfectionist, I found The Gifts of Imperfection to be one of the most transformative books I have read. I was prompted to consider perspectives that I had never considered about myself. The lessons and stories Brené Brown shares throughout have had a lasting impact on my life and how I understand and embrace myself for who I am.

The following are two key highlights that are discussed and developed in detail throughout the book. These two highlights have completely revolutionized the way I understand and balance my perfectionist tendencies.

The Difference Between Perfectionism and Healthy-Achieving

One thing I never truly understood about being a perfectionist was how self-destructive it is. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown defines life paralysis as “all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others.”

This is something I have never been able to explain or put into words until I read this book.

I spend more time on tasks that take other people only seconds because I am so fixated on small details. I shy away from certain tasks because I worry I won’t be able to make them perfect. These are experiences that perfectionists can relate to. This book provides an explanation for this behavior, and gives a name for the experience of what it is like trying to reach such an impossibly high bar.

Brené Brown explains that healthy-achieving is more focused on the self. People who aim for healthy achievements are able to look for ways to improve. By contrast, perfectionists worry about what others will think when failure happens. Combining this with the growth mindset perspective that failure is an opportunity for feedback literally transformed the way I react to criticism and setbacks in my life.

a pair of shoes running up a set of stairs

This booked explained my need to overwork myself at a job I hated. It explained my obsessive need to make sure that every detail is perfect in every thing that I do. I now understand all that I miss out on by only sharing what I believe to be perfect thoughts and ideas.

After reading The Gifts of Imperfection I understand my strengths and how they are connected to my perfectionist tendencies. Leaning into who I am and embracing my imperfections helped me find my life passions and find ways to do what makes my soul happy in my job!

During my time as a teacher, I used the distinction between perfectionism and healthy-achieving to help my students understand how to use grades as feedback rather than achievement.

I still battle perfectionism everyday, but The Gifts of Imperfection has helped me understand my strengths and areas for growth in a way I never have before.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Being the perfectionist that I am, I am often not kind to myself. I take defeat very poorly, and have a hard time understanding that the struggles I face are often part of many people’s lives. After reading The Gifts of Imperfection, I gained an appreciation for self-compassion. I learned how I can use self-compassion to embrace my imperfections rather than scrutinize them.

Brené Brown refers to the self-compassion work of Dr. Kristin Neff, and shares a link to her self-compassion test. Completing this test helps break down three components of self-compassion:

  • self-kindness: being kind to ourselves when we fail and struggle.
  • common humanity: feelings of personal inadequacy do not happen to you and you alone – they are part of what it means to be human.
  • mindfulness: balancing negative emotions so that they are not overemphasized or ignored.

After taking this test, my results did not surprise me at all! I battle all three of these in all that I do. However, knowing these three elements are what make up self-compassion help me look for these opportunities and use a growth mindset when faced with setbacks throughout the day.

This book also helped me understand the importance of regularly repeating affirmations for self-love. Acknowledging that we are imperfect beings, and embracing who we are means that we have to tell ourselves a different story. We have to rewrite our negative self-talk and start listening to the voice of self-compassion.

a balanced stack of stones

The Gifts Of Imperfection Summary: Overall Impression

When I think back through my personal growth journey, I can say without a doubt that it started with The Gifts Of Imperfection. Understanding the role that courage, compassion, and connection play in living a wholehearted lifestyle have helped me understand, love, and embrace myself for all of my imperfections.

The book is also jam packed with such relatable and quotable ideas. I still find various powerful The Gifts Of Imperfection quotes stuck in my mind, years after reading the book. And they are still as powerful and inspiring as the first time I read them!

If you or someone you know struggles with perfectionism, or lacks self-compassion, The Gifts Of Imperfection is an absolute must read, and comes highly recommended!

Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family on social media! This book could help them start learning to embrace themselves for who they are!


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