{ Book Review } The Gifts of Imperfection

I got the idea to read this book because I had seen some other reviews on friends’ blogs about it. The fact that the book is about imperfections was a huge drawn for me, obviously. One day at Target, it was on sale so I grabbed it before my trip last Christmas.

I read the majority of this book over my Christmas vacation, but I get easily burnt out on self-helpy type books, so I had to put this down for a while. I just got the urge to finally finish up the last bit last week. Besides that though, it was very short and easy to read.

The Gifts of Imperfection

To me, this book was marketed like a typical “self-help” book, but it wasn’t. At first, I was a little frustrated that the book offered lots of dialogue about her research but little application as to how to change things for yourself. After I realized that the book was more about her research and was informational, I liked the book a lot more.

The book is broken down into ten “guideposts” for wholehearted living. The chapters are short and easy to read. Although the book is about accepting imperfections – something that is hard to do – the style of the book was never hard to read or a “downer” as some self-help books can be. I like Brown’s writing style and feel she is very authentic, which I can appreciate especially given the subject matter.

There were a lot of important takeaways from this book for me. My favorite guidepost was #7: Cultivating Play & Rest. This guidepost emphasized the importance of letting yourself do things because you just like doing them and giving yourself proper rest – probably my biggest struggle right now. A quote from that chapter that really hit me hard was,

“In today’s culture – where our self-worth is tied to our net worth, and we base our worthiness on our level of productivity – spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact, for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen (p. 100).”

Guidepost 9 also resonated with me, which was about Cultivating Meaningful Work. This chapter emphasized how we all need work that gives us a sense of purpose, but that work will look different for everyone. She also noted that most of the time, the work that means the most to us does not pay the bills. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make it any less “real” than our day jobs.

This section made me think of blogging, and how that is my “fulfilling work.” And it definitely doesn’t pay the bills. In the past, I have had shame issues with believing that my blogging was “enough.” She notes, “Overcoming self-doubt is all about believing we’re enough and letting go of what the world says we’re supposed to be and supposed to call ourselves (p. 115).”

I didn’t like how many definitions were in the book. Being an English major, I can appreciate definitions. It’s good to understand things. But sometimes she would literally be like, “I did research, and in order to understand, I had to create a definition, so here it is.” This is when I realized the book was more research-based than self-help-based. She also said “in my research” or “in my other book” a lot, which got pretty old.

At the end of each chapter, there was a section called “Dig Deep.” I suppose if you used this section to expand upon in a journal or something, it would be useful, but it really never did anything for me.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to take a critical look at why we don’t accept ourselves, are hard on ourselves, or has perfectionism struggles (which is all of us, if you ask me). It’s short enough that you could easily read it in a few sittings. I also think it would be a good book to read with a small group of people or a friend. I’ll definitely read more of Brown’s books in the future.

Questions for You:

  • Does reading about imperfection interest you? Why or why not?
  • If you read this book, did you view it as self-help or research-based? What was your favorite guidepost?