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

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

by Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection isn’t a guidebook on how to achieve happiness; rather, it is a book about all the things that get in the way of true, lasting happiness, joy, and belonging. It explores the concepts of courage, compassion, and connection to understand the reasons behind perfectionism and insecurity. Most importantly, it promotes self-acceptance and self-love, and it will teach you how to be vulnerable and strong at the same time.

We have compiled all the advice in this book into a series of habits you can practice from the comfort of your own home! Pick one or two and start practicing them today—you’ll notice an immediate positive shift toward happiness.

Summary Notes

Courage, Compassion, and Connection

"Honour your struggle by sharing it with someone who has earned the right to hear it"

It takes a lot of courage to open up to someone about your bad experiences and emotions. The fear of judgment causes you to hide your true self resulting in feelings of diffidence and unworthiness. Although your instincts may be to bury your story and put up a wall to protect yourself from further pain, this is self-destructive. 

Confronting shameful experiences and owning our mistakes help us get over the shame. It's important to understand that embarrassing moments are a part of your life but they don't define who you are! When you embrace your true self, you cultivate courage, compassion, and happiness for yourself and others. 

The only tricky part about compassion and connection is that we can’t rely on just anyone. When we’re looking for compassion, we need someone who is deeply rooted, able to bend, understand and empathize with us. Above all, someone who can accept all our imperfections and embrace us for our strengths and struggles.

Actions to take

Practice Compassion By Setting Boundaries

When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we begin to feel used and mistreated. This can even cause us to go into a cycle of blaming and shaming (whether ourselves or others). More importantly, we will not be able to solve the original problem.

It is therefore important to find a balance between compassion and accountability. You can be compassionate and still hold people accountable for their mistakes. It does not make you mean, it actually allows you to be more compassionate. 

Setting boundaries will also help others to know what is acceptable and what is not. People need to be held accountable so they learn to comply with responsibilities and own their mistakes. Otherwise, they'll continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Hiding your resentment for the sake of being kind only makes you more judgmental and frustrated on the inside, although sweeter on the outside. If you truly want to practice compassion, you need to be serious about boundaries. Being compassionate doesn't mean that we condone someone's actions - it just means that we understand them. You should neither be harsh or unforgiving nor naive or gullible.

It's a delicate balancing act, but it's one worth striving for.

Actions to take

Cultivate Shame Resilience: Let Go of Shame

We, humans, have an irreducible and innate need to experience love and belonging, and shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of it. Shame convinces us that owning our story will make people think less of us. We fear being defined by an experience that, in reality, is only a sliver of who we are. 

Guilt and shame are universal emotions that lurk in all aspects of our life including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, addiction, sex, aging, and religion. To feel these emotions is to be human. However, understanding the difference between the two is critically important as one revolves around actions while the other targets our personality. 

Guilt says, "I did something bad" and motivates us to apologize, amend or replace the negatives with the positive ones. On the other hand, shame says, "I am bad" and pushes us towards the vicious cycle of self-doubt, insecurities, and hopelessness. 

To win over shame we need to bury it as soon as it builds up. Remember, shame festers and grows when kept locked up and loses power when it is addressed.

Actions to take

Perfectionism Prevents Progress

"Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing preventing us from taking flight."

Perfectionism, though perceived as something related to healthy striving and self-improvement, is, in reality, a destructive and addictive belief system. It says if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.

However, this fuels the debilitating belief that "I am what I achieve". Perfectionism, at its core, is only about earning others' approval and acceptance. It thus hampers our success by not letting us put out anything that can be imperfect or disappointing to others. This deprives us of new opportunities and experiences, paralyzing our life.

Moreover, it is dangerous as it is about perception - we want to be perceived as perfect, but there is no real way to control perception regardless of how much we try.

Actions to take

Cultivate a Resilient Spirit

"She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful."

No one goes through life without experiencing setbacks. Resilience - the ability to overcome adversity keeps a person mindful even under stress and trauma. It helps you bounce back from failure and helps you become stronger as a result. 

The ability to set realistic goals, the perseverance and tenacity to pursue them, and not getting discouraged by setbacks is what make a person resilient. You need to adapt and tolerate disappointments. A problem-solving attitude and the courage to seek help when needed are all it takes to go through the hardships of life.

Believing in oneself is another key component of resilience. The feeling of not being good enough or sufficient gives birth to hopelessness. You should be critically aware of your capabilities and talents to debunk this thought and cultivate hope. With hope and resilience, you are better equipped to deal with whatever life throws your way.

Actions to take

Practice Gratitude and Cultivate Joy

More often than not, practicing gratitude is the tool that helps generate joy. When you take the time to appreciate the good things in your life, it shifts your focus from negative to positive, causing a ripple effect on your overall mood and outlook and you start to feel happier and joyful.

Cultivate everlasting gratitude by practicing it. One way to do this is to take time each day to reflect on the things you're thankful for. This could be something as simple as a nice conversation you had with a friend, a good meal you ate, your health, a roof over your head, your family, your friends, or just anything that adds beauty to your life. 

It's important to be grateful for both the good and bad moments as it is the bad ones that make you appreciate and acknowledge the good in your life. Be grateful for what you have, even if it's not what you wanted. 

Sometimes, the fear of loss and feelings of uncertainty can cause anxiety and come in the way of gratitude. Learning about and practicing spirituality can help you connect with something larger than yourself and trust that everything will work out in the end. Additionally, try to be mindful of other people's efforts and acknowledge them. This will foster a sense of connection to build stronger relationships.

Actions to take

Cultivate Creativity: Let go of Comparison

"Comparison is the thief of our happiness"

In today's world, it's easy to take our eyes off our path to check out what others are doing and if they’re ahead or behind us. From clothes to careers to cars, we consciously or subconsciously compare everything we have with others. 

The interesting fact about comparison is that it is all about conformity and competition. We never compare our houses to the mansions across the town. We compare them with the ones in the neighborhood.  It is a paradox of “fit in and stand out!” - be like everyone else, but better. 

Comparison steals our satisfaction by putting us in a constant battle with others. You need to cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity to let go of this.

Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, can help us overcome comparison. It will instill a sense of contentment that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And, without comparison, concepts like ahead or behind and best or worst lose their meaning. Remember that creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected, and the only unique contribution that you will ever make in this world will be born of your creativity.

Actions to take

Rest & Play

“The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression.”

Exhaustion has become a status symbol of hard work and sleep is now considered a luxury. As a result, the world is becoming dangerously tired. Often we persuade ourselves to work pushing off our limits by saying something that sounds like, “One more hour of work! You can catch up on your sleep this weekend” or “Napping is for slackers” or “Push through. You can handle it”.  All this is nothing but self-sabotage.

Your body needs rest and your mind needs to play for its healthy functioning. It fosters cognitive skills, imagination, creativity, and memory. These de-stressing activities bring back newness and excitement to your job which In the long run, is the only path to finding lasting joy and enthusiasm in our work.

Actions to take

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