The Gifts of Imperfection is from Brené Brown – author, researcher, and personal growth magnate (and TED talk star) – and describes some of her own personal growth and reflections on self-acceptance, past guideposts of authenticity, resilience, creativity (among others). These encourage and enable self-reflection by the reader along a similar path to recognize and celebrate (not just accept) one’s own vulnerability and whole self.
The book itself is not long – just 126 pages (not including references) – but takes a while to read, in order to absorb and reflect on the material. I think most people will find food for thought here, and while such self-assessment is never easy, and perhaps something we avoid when the questions and answers are tough, Brown helps by making the steps gradual and by her openness about her own challenges in recognizing and owning herself.
There were many take-aways for me in this book, and no one “A-ha!” moment. Brown covers a gamut of important, challenging introspections, including gratitude and joy, self-compassion and perfectionism, creativity and comparison, and self-doubt. Each short chapter presents a combination of her research and her own self exploration and ends with suggestions about how to DIG (getting Deliberate, Inspired, and Going) Deep.
While I enjoyed this book, the style of the writing is probably the least appealing element for me. A blend of folksy and perky phrases and stories that seem better suited as TED-talk scripts, the style is both down-to-earth and confessional, but not what one might call “professional”. Throughout reading, I could almost hear Brown’s drawl speaking the words out loud, as though that’s how they were intended to be delivered. However, as Brown herself points out several times, she’s not writing so that I will like or agree with her or with anything she says. She’s writing because she wants to – she likes doing it, and more importantly she likes sharing and giving the benefit of her learnings to others. In a way, this is the main thesis of and take-away from the book:
“…believing we’re enough and letting go of what the world says we’re supposed to be.”
As you can see from my copious flags, there were many points that had meaning for me throughout this book, and I revisit them regularly as reminders or as supports or defences when self-doubt or other fears start to creep around the edges of my days. Despite the style, those folksy and perky phrases have purposes – short reminders of the importance of compassion for ourselves, self-care elements of both play and rest, creativity and meaningful work, and love and belonging.
This book was a gift, literally and figuratively. Literally, as it was received at Christmas in 2020 from my wonderful coach. Figuratively, as it has provoked thoughts and provided wisdom at a time when I could really use those things. And now, as I turn a significant corner in my own working life (more on that soon), it holds different but still important messages for me.
Another Brown book I’d recommend is Rising Strong – an excellent book about learning and recovering from setbacks and coming back stronger than ever (along the same lines as The Obstacle is the Way). Same folksy style, which made it quite enjoyable as an audiobook. I’ll likely revisit this one this year in book form (alongside my own Rise Strong playlist on Spotify) and add some flags and bookmarks to that one as I rise and come back.
Who is Robyn?
My career as a research project manager is rewarding, dynamic, challenging, and fun. I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in communication, organization, and common sense approaches in research management and leadership, and to enabling others to learn and grow in this exciting career.